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Civilians the Real Target in Sierra Leone

Human Rights Watch today condemned the recent killings and hostage-taking of United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, while noting that civilians had been enduring similar abuses by the rebels for several years.  
A peace agreement signed in July 1999 was supposed to end the nine year civil war in Sierra Leone, but it included an amnesty for the vast numbers of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed during the conflict. Most of those crimes were committed by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Human Rights Watch opposed the amnesty because we feared that impunity for such atrocities would only breed more atrocities. Events of this week have only confirmed our fears.  
For the people of Sierra Leone, the civil war has never really ended," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The U.N. peacekeepers have suffered a terrible blow. But even after the peace agreement, people in villages all over the country have been subjected to rape, execution, torture, amputation and abduction by the rebels."  

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