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Letter to U.N. Security Council Members on Protection of Civilians, Justice, Diamonds, and Arms in Sierra Leone

Excellency,

The changed circumstances on the ground in Sierra Leone demand that the U.N. Security Council take immediate steps to strengthen the U.N. role in that country. The attached document outlines our analysis and recommendations in greater detail. Specifically, Human Rights Watch would like to call your attention to the following issues:

Protection of Civilians: While the current U.N. mandate authorizes UNAMSIL to take all necessary measures to protect civilians within its areas of deployment, UNAMSIL troops have on several occasions reportedly abandoned civilians to their fate without making any attempt to defend them from RUF attack. Human Rights Watch asks the Security Council to strengthen UNAMSIL's mandate requiring it to take all necessary measures to protect civilians within its areas of deployment.

Justice: Human Rights Watch believes that justice for Sierra Leone would be best served by the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal for Sierra Leone. Whether this is the case or a tribunal is established under Sierra Leonean law, any tribunal must meet minimum standards of due process and fairness. In the attached memo, Human Rights Watch has advanced twelve principles that it believes are necessary for any credible and legitimate justice effort. Additionally, the process established must focus on human rights crimes committed by all sides of the conflict, and not only on the responsibility of RUF rebel leader Foday Sankoh.

Diamonds and Arms: Human Rights Watch supports a U.N. mandatory ban on direct and indirect imports of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone and the call for U.N. member states to adopt national measures implementing the diamond embargo and making violators subject to stiff penalty. Additionally, to effectively stem the flow of diamonds from and arms to rebel-held areas the U.N. must order an inquiry into illegal arms flows to the RUF rebels, modeled after the U.N. International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda), also known as UNICOI, and drawing on the recent experience of the U.N. sanctions committee on Angola, which has investigated sanctions-busting in Angola.

We thank you for your kind attention to these important issues.

Sincerely,

Peter Takirambudde
Executive Director, Africa Division

Joanna Weschler
U.N. Representative

cc: Members of the United Nations General Assembly

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