Embargoes and sanctions on Sierra Leone

Embargoes on Sierra Leone and how to apply for an export licence.

This guidance was withdrawn on

The sanctions against Sierra Leone were withdrawn in 2011. See current arms embargoes and other restrictions.


This guide contains information about embargoes and sanctions on Sierra Leone, and provides information for exporters. You can find more general information here on sanctions, embargoes and restrictions, and a list of all the countries where there are current restrictions.

Most governments control the export of goods for various reasons depending on the nature and destination of the proposed export. Exports of strategic goods and technology are controlled for several reasons including:

  • concerns about internal repression, regional instability and other human rights violations
  • concerns about the development of weapons of mass destruction
  • foreign policy and international treaty commitments, including as a result of the imposition of European Union (EU) or United Nations (UN) trade sanctions or arms embargoes
  • national and collective security of the UK and its allies

The United Nations imposed embargo on Sierra Leone was lifted on 29 September 2010. The European Union also lifted EU-imposed sanctions in November 2010. The UK’s national implementing legislation on Sierra Leone is however still in force. Work is underway to repeal this at the earliest opportunity.

Each case will be considered against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. UK exporters should follow normal export licensing procedures, by determining if their goods are controlled - either because their goods are listed on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists - the consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items. or as a result of End-Use Controls - and then apply for an export licence for licensable goods via SPIRE.

This guide outlines relevant information about the arms embargo on Sierra Leone only.

Export control updates

If you intend to export to Sierra Leone, you should keep yourself well informed of the current situation through the media and other information channels.

To keep informed of latest updated about arms embargoes and changes to strategic export control legislation, please subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters.

Extent of the arms embargo on Sierra Leone

An arms embargo is a ban on the export of ‘arms and related material’ - ie military ammunition, weapons and goods - imposed by either the UN, the EU, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe or at a UK national level.

The UK interprets an arms embargo as covering all goods and items on the UK Military List (which forms part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists), unless stated otherwise.

Some goods which are not on the UK Military List might also need an export licence. Read the guide on Military End Use Control.

Applying for an export licence to Sierra Leone

If you are an exporter, you can apply for an export licence for your goods. All applications to supply arms to the government of Sierra Leone, or to UN peace keeping forces operating there, would be considered by the government on a case-by-case basis in line with the provisions of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. Read the guide on assessment of export licence applications: criteria and policy.

For details on different export licences available see the guide on licences: export, trade control and transhipment.

Depending on the nature of your export, you might be able to register to use an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) which authorises ‘acts to promote’ the supply or delivery of UK Military List goods to the government of Sierra Leone under certain circumstances. Before registering to use this licence you should ensure you read, understand and can fulfil all the stated terms and conditions. For more information see the guide on the OGEL (Government of Sierra Leone).

When applying for a licence, you should be aware of the current licence processing times by destination. You can view licensing statistics on the ECO Reports and Statistics website.

In applying and using any licence, exporters should be aware of their responsibilities. For more information, see the guide on compliance and enforcement of export controls.

If you are unsure if your goods are controlled, you should read the guide about strategic exports: when to request an export licence.

Sierra Leone arms embargo key legislation

The arms embargo on Sierra Leone has been imposed by UN and EU laws, and implemented into UK legislation by statutory instruments.

UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs)

In 1997, a military coup took place in Sierra Leone. In response, the UN initially imposed an arms embargo on Sierra Leone in October 1997. This embargo was lifted in 1998.

A new arms embargo was imposed via UNSCR 1171 (1998)which applied to the forces controlled by military commanders who had played a leading role in government and to the Revolutionary United Front. The UN lifted this embargo on Sierra Leone on 29 September 2010 via the adoption of UNSCR 1940 (2010).

EU legislation

Subsequent to the UN arms embargo imposed in May 1997, the EU imposed its own arms embargo on Sierra Leone in June 1998 via Council Common Position 98/409/CFSP.

Following the lifting of the UN imposed embargo, the EU lifted EU-imposed sanctions in November 2010 via Council Decision 2010/677/CFSP.

You can find Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) legislation on the Europa website.

UK legislation

The UK’s implementing legislation is still in force and work is now underway to repeal the relevant legislation at the earliest opportunity.

The relevant UK statutory instruments implemented in UK law are:

For more information, see the guide on the Export Control Order 2008.

You can access copies of any UK legislation on the website.

Other restrictions on Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is also subject to other sanctions, including a travel ban.

Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It is also subject to the ECOWAS Convention on the Import, Export and Manufacture of Light Weapons. For more information, see the guide on the arms embargo on West African States.

Further information

UK Trade & Investment Enquiry Line

020 7215 8000

BIS ECO Helpline

020 7215 4594

Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters

Contact details for the ECO on the BIS website

A to Z countries listing on the UK Trade & Investment website

Financial sanctions guidance on the HM Treasury website

ECO performance reports and statistics on the ECO Reports and Statistics website

Security Council resolutions on the UN website

CFSP legislation on the Europa website

Published 10 September 2012