August 20, 2015 / 10:16 PM / 4 years ago

UN council blacklists Belgian branch of CAR diamond firm

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 20 (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council blacklisted on Thursday the Belgian branch of Central African Republic’s diamond trading company and three people linked to the country’s more than three-year-old conflict.

The blacklisted diamond trading house is Kardiam, which U.N. sanctions experts say is the Antwerp, Belgium-based operation of the Central African Republic’s diamond-trading company Badica. Under U.N. sanctions, the firm’s assets are to be frozen and business with it will be illegal.

The Security Council sanctions committee published the announcement of the new designations on its website.

Central African Republic descended into chaos in March 2013 when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, triggering reprisals by “anti-balaka” Christian militias who drove tens of thousands of Muslims from the south in a de facto partition.

The three individuals facing travel bans and asset freezes are Alfred Yekatom, an anti-balaka commander who goes by the nom de guerre of “Rambo”, Habib Soussou, another anti-balaka commander, and Oumar Younous, a former Seleka general and diamond smuggler, the sanctions committee announcement said.

Central African Republic was a major exporter of diamonds until May 2013, when the Kimberley Process banned shipment of its rough diamonds. The Kimberley Process is a group of 81 countries, including all the major diamond producers, formed to prevent so-called blood diamonds from funding conflict.

A U.N. mission in Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA, was deployed to shore up the precarious stability established under a transitional government. A U.N. sanctions regime for Central African Republic was set up in December 2013.

In May 2014, the committee imposed its first targeted sanctions by blacklisting former President François Bozize and two other men - Nourredine Adam, an original leader of Seleka, and Levy Yakete, an anti-balaka Christian militia leader. Yakete was de-listed after he reportedly died in November.

The sanctions announced on Thursday are the first to be imposed since then. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau, editing by G Crosse)

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