Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


The United Nations

The current crisis in Sierra Leone is a brutal reminder to the delegations now meeting in Rome of the urgent need for an effective international criminal court to provide justice for the appalling violations of human rights in that country and elsewhere. Since April this year, rebel forces in the east, north and, more recently, the west of Sierra Leone have engaged in a terror campaign involving the systematic laceration, mutilation or severing of limbs of non-combatants, including children and the elderly.

The Organization of African Unity, ECOWAS, and ECOMOG

The United Kingdom, European Union and United States

The European Union and the United States strongly condemn these horrific actions and urge all parties to call an immediate end to the senseless slaughter, mutilation, and torture of the civilian population and show full respect for human rights.106

In June, the U.S. and E.U. sent a joint high-level assessment mission to the region led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Julia Taft which resulted in financial pledges for humanitarian assistance in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. These calls for an end to atrocities against civilians and financial commitments for humanitarian assistance should be combined with long-term support from the U.S. and the E.U. that promotes human rights and the rule of law.

did not preclude any possible option that might lead to peace. ECOWAS, with the support of the international community, must explore every political avenue and determine the best way to proceed.”109

The U.S. elaborated that the RUF and former junta leadership must first, however, “unambiguously and honestly renounce” atrocities against civilians before talks could begin.

82 Human Rights Watch interview, relief organization representative, Freetown, June 24, 1998.

83 Fifth Report of the Secretary General on the Situation in Sierra Leone, S/1998/486, 9 June 1998.

84 Lawyers and international observers in Freetown have called into question the respect for due process in the ongoing trials of fifty-nine civilians being tried on various charges related to collaboration with the AFRC/RUF. Whether or not these fifty-nine are given a fair trial may send a strong message to AFRC/RUF members considering laying down their arms and enrolling in an eventual DDR program.

85 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1181 (1998), S/RES/1181 (1998), 13 July 1998.

86 Fifth Report of the Secretary General on the Situation in Sierra Leone, S/1998/486, June 9, 1998.

87 Ibid.

88 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1181 (1998), S/RES/1181 (1998), 13 July 1998.

89 Sergio Vieira de Mello, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Olara Otunnu, the special representative of the secretary-general for children in armed conflict, and Soren Jensen Peterson, the assistant high commissioner for refugees, have all recently visited the region. Mr. Vieira de Mello and Mr. Otunnu were joined by Carol Bellamy, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Mary Robinson, United Nations high commissioner for human rights, and Sadako Ogata, United Nations high commissioner for refugees, in making the joint declaration on June 18, 1998.

90 "UNDP approves USD 2.5 million Awareness Plan,” For di People, Freetown newspaper, June 24, 1998.

91 Petroleum for humanitarian purposes was permitted.

92 U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau for Humanitarian Response (BHR) and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Situation Report #1, January 28, 1998.

93 Integrated Regional Information Network, Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, IRIN-West Africa Update 169, March 19, 1998.

94 “More ECOMOG Troops Due,” page 1, Daily Mail, Freetown newspaper, June 23, 1998.

95 Integrated Regional Information Network, Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup, July 24, 1998.

96 Human Rights Watch interview, New York, July 15, 1998.

97 ECOMOG succeeded in Liberia in stopping the bloodshed and ethnic violence on several occasions, and human rights benefits clearly flowed from the intervention. However, ECOMOG did not integrate human rights into its activities, which has been a serious shortcoming. ECOMOG allied itself with other warring factions, which clearly undermined its credibility. It was responsible for extensive looting, harassment and detention of civilians. There were also serious concerns about the civilian toll and violations of medical neutrality by ECOMOG air strikes in Liberia.

98 Human Rights Watch interviews with aid organizations, Freetown, Sierra Leone, June 22-25, 1998.

99 Fifth Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in Sierra Leone, S/1998/486, June 9, 1998.

100 Human Rights Watch interview with Sierra Leone Deputy Minister of Defense, Freetown, Sierra Leone, June 25, 1998.

101 Press conference led by Brig. Gen. Maxwell Khobe, Wilburforce military base, June 25, 1998, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

102 See Human Rights Watch, “Liberia: Waging War to Keep the Peace.”

103 Human Rights Watch interview with aid organization that participated in the mission, Freetown, June 23, 1998.

104 Human Rights Watch interviews with several members of the assessment mission, Freetown, Sierra Leone, June 23, 24, and 25, 1998.

105 Human Rights Watch interview, Koundou Lengo Bengo Refugee Camp, Guéckedou, Republic of Guinea, June 5, 1998.

106 U.S. Department of State, “Sierra Leone: Rebel Atrocities Against Civilians,” May 21, 1998.

107 In a further effort to support ECOMOG and retake power, the Kabbah government engaged Sandline, a private security firm. Sandline claims that it imported between twenty-eight and thirty-eight tons of small arms and ammunition to ECOMOG with the consent of the British government. The arms were impounded by ECOMOG forces and never used. However, a scandal ensued because the shipment could constitute a violation of a U.N. or a U.K. arms embargo against Sierra Leone. U.N. legal analysts subsequently determined that the U.N. embargo had not been broken. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook ordered an investigation into whether anyone in the Foreign Office had knowledge of or gave consent to such a shipment. The investigation is ongoing.

108 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with U.S. Department of State official, May 25, 1998.

109 Hearing on Sierra Leone before the House Subcommittee on Africa, June 8, 1998, Statement of Johnnie Carson, principal deputy assistant secretary for African affairs.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page

This Web page was created using a Trial Version of HTML Transit 3.0.