On November 12, 2015, the President issued an Executive Order terminating the Liberia sanctions program that the United States has maintained since July 22, 2004, these sanctions having been implemented due to the actions of the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor.  The Liberia sanctions program was a limited set of targeted sanctions, so its termination will not have a major impact on trade with or investment in Liberia.  Rather, this action will unblock the property of several specific individuals and entities that were included under the identifier “[LIBERIA]” on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list maintained by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

The Liberia sanctions program was initiated by Executive Order 13,348, in concert with UN Security Council Resolutions 1521 (Dec. 22, 2003) and 1532 (Mar. 12, 2004).  Pursuant to those authorities, the US Government blocked all property of persons determined to have been immediate family members of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, as well as senior government officials and close allies and associates of the former Liberian regime that he led.  These sanctions were imposed to address what the US Government described as the unlawful depletion of Liberian resources and their removal from Liberia by the Taylor regime.

According to the recently-issued Executive Order, the termination of the Liberia sanctions program was based on the “significant advances” Liberia has made to promote democracy and the “orderly development of its political, administrative, and economic institutions, including presidential elections in 2005 and 2011, which were internationally recognized as freely held,” along with the conviction and imprisonment of former President Taylor and the diminished ability of those connected with him to “undermine Liberia's progress.”

While this new Executive Order essentially ends the US sanctions relating to Liberia, the termination “shall not affect any action taken or proceeding pending not finally concluded or determined as of the effective date of this order, any action or proceeding based on any act committed prior to the effective date, or any rights or duties that matured or penalties that were incurred prior to the effective date of this order.”  In other words, any conduct that occurred prior to November 12, 2015 that was inconsistent with the sanctions is still subject to possible enforcement action.  In addition, any ongoing enforcement actions and past penalties are not invalidated. 

As part of the termination of this sanctions program, OFAC should soon be removing the Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor Sanctions Regulations that it had promulgated at 31 C.F.R. Part 593.  The other primary trade controls that had been imposed on Liberia in connection with the actions of former President Taylor had already largely been lifted.  In Resolution 1689 of June 20, 2006, the UN Security Council lifted its ban on the importation of round logs and timber products from Liberia, and OFAC took conforming action to authorize importation of certain round log and timber products.  Similarly, in Resolution 1753 of April 27, 2007, the UN Security Council lifted its ban on diamond imports from Liberia.  Since May 2007, when Liberia became an approved Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) participant, rough diamond imports have been allowed, provided they complied with the KPCS and OFAC’s Rough Diamonds Controls Regulations, at 31 C.F.R. Part 592.  As mentioned above, the primary immediate effect of this Executive Order is to remove certain entries from the SDN list.