The human rights situation has vastly improved since Sierra Leone’s devastating civil war was officially declared over in January 2002. However, implementation of the rule of law remains weak and questions remain about the government’s willingness to guarantee economic, social, and cultural rights. The mismanagement and corruption of public funds, coupled with high unemployment among young adults, a drastic increase in basic commodity prices, and continued insecurity within the sub-region, render Sierra Leone vulnerable to future instability.
Sierra Leone's civil war was characterized by egregious human rights abuses on all sides but especially by rebel forces. A confluence of factors helped end the war, including the deployment of a 17,000-member United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping force known as UNAMSIL, a U.N. arms embargo against neighboring Liberia, and the commitment of British troops to stop a rebel advance against the capital, Freetown, in 2000. Despite the disarmament of some 47,000 combatants, and the successful completion of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2002 and local elections in 2004, the deep rooted issues that gave rise to the conflict—endemic corruption, weak rule of law, crushing poverty, and the inequitable distribution of the country's vast natural resources—remain largely unaddressed by the government.