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Sierra Leone: New Regime, but Continued Human Rights Violations

Despite Promises, the Use and Abuse of Child Soldiers Continues in Sierra Leone

In a report released in July 1998, Sowing Terror: Atrocities Against Civilians in Sierra Leone, Human Rights Watch documented horrific abuses of human rights and humanitarian law, including the use of child soldiers.

Members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the rebel alliance in Sierra Leone, have continued to commit gross human rights violations -- including the use of child soldiers -- since February 1998, when they were ousted from power in February 1998 by the Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). In the period of February through June 1998 alone, the AFRC/RUF abducted an unknown number of civilians, probably in the thousands, including a substantial percentage of children for use as combatants, forced laborers, or sexual slaves.

In addition, despite promises of the Sierra Leone government to demobilize all combatants under the age of 18, recent reports indicate that the Civilian Defense Forces (CDFs) continue to recruit children on a large scale.

The report calls upon all sides of the conflict to stop the recruitment of children under the age of 18 and to demobilize all child combatants. "Demobilizing soldiers in this conflict is key," said Dr. Peter Takirambudde, Executive Director for Africa at Human Rights Watch, "and the U.N. is going to have to pay particular attention to human rights in order for that process to be successful." He called on the U.N. to set aside more resources for monitoring the human rights situation throughout Sierra Leone, as well as providing technical assistance and training to the Sierra Leonean government and local human rights groups.

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