Human Rights Watch called today for a tightening of the United Nations arms embargo on Sierra Leonean rebels, and highlighted reports of weapons shipments to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels over the past year.
In a briefing paper released today, the New York-based international monitoring group identified persistent reports that the RUF has flouted a U.N. arms embargo that has been in place since 1997, reportedly with help from neighboring Liberia, which is also subject to an arms embargo, and Burkina Faso.
"The crisis in Sierra Leone can't be solved without addressing the question of weapons supply for the rebels," said Lisa Misol of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. "With peace unraveling in Sierra Leone, rebels can be expected to activate their arms supply channels unless the U.N. takes firm steps to stop them."
Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. Security Council to authorize U.N. forces to monitor Sierra Leone's borders (especially the Liberian border), roads, and airstrips in rebel-controlled areas and to halt any weapons shipments they detect.
Human Rights Watch also urged the Security Council to order an official inquiry into illegal arms flows to the RUF rebels, including the role of the trade in diamonds from rebel-held areas in Sierra Leone, in order to identify the illicit channels of supply, expose embargo violators, and devise strategies to halt these flows. Such an effort should draw on prior U.N. experience, including a recent U.N. investigation that exposed sanctions-busting in Angola.