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U.N. Must Address West Africa’s “Downward Spiral”

Prioritize Protection of Civilians in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia

(New York) - The U.N. Security Council should hold governments in West Africa accountable for their support of abusive regimes and rebel groups, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper presented to the Security Council today. Members of the Security Council are scheduled to begin an eight-day trip to the region on June 28.

The ten-page briefing paper, “The Regional Crisis and Human Rights Abuses in West Africa,” charts a range of regional problems that contribute to the deteriorating human rights situation, including:

  • the current crisis in Liberia,
  • the proliferation of arms and mercenaries,
  • regional refugee flows, and
  • illicit state support to Liberian rebel groups from Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.

The briefing paper says that regional governments and rebel groups have committed serious abuses against civilians in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. Most of eastern Liberia is reportedly under rebel control and has been inaccessible to humanitarian agencies since at least March. Liberia’s Charles Taylor was indicted by the Sierra Leone Special Court on June 4 for his role in abuses in Sierra Leone.

“Just a month ago, Côte d’Ivoire was the big concern, today it’s Liberia,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division. “This downward spiral in the region must be stopped, which means addressing the main human rights abusers throughout the region and improving protection of civilians.”

Human Rights Watch urged the Security Council to further investigate the ways in which human rights abuses fuel conflicts throughout the region, and to hold perpetrators accountable.

Takirambudde stressed that states and rebel groups are responsible for abuses, and called on the Security Council to take steps to cut off their supplies of weapons and financing.

The briefing paper highlights abuses in the war in Côte d’Ivoire, and described the country as on a “precipice.” Human Rights Watch called for immediate implementation of the human rights component of the U.N. mission in Côte d’Ivoire. Human Rights Watch also called on the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel faction to release all abducted civilians, and for all the warring parties to ensure the protection of civilians in Liberia.

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