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The devastating eleven-year armed conflict in Sierra Leone was characterized by extreme brutality and widespread human rights abuses against civilians. The majority of the crimes were perpetrated by rebels from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). However, government forces and their allies, notably the Civil Defense Forces (CDF), also committed serious crimes, albeit on a smaller scale and of a different nature than those by rebel groups. During the conflict, tens of thousands of civilians were killed and up to one-quarter of the population was displaced.

During the war, which lasted from 1991 until 2002, rebels, and to a lesser extent government forces, consistently failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Hundreds of civilians suffered from the signature rebel atrocity of limb amputation while thousands of girls and women were subjected to sexual violence. All sides recruited and used child combatants.  

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Key Documents:


Youth, Poverty and Blood

"We'll Kill You If You Cry": Sexual Violence in the Sierra Leone Conflict

Other Documents:

Combating War Crimes in Africa

Small Arms and Conflict in West Africa

The Regional Crisis and Human Rights Abuses in West Africa

Sierra Leone: Sexual Violence Widespread in War

Sierra Leone: New Government Must Address War Legacies

Sierra Leone: Human Rights Watch Interviews: Victims and Witnesses

Letter to U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committees on Liberia and Sierra Leone Regarding Sanctions and Arms Shipments

Sexual Violence within the Sierra Leone Conflict

New Evidence of Atrocities in Sierra Leone and Guinea

Precious Stones Don't Kill, Guns Do: Enforce Arms Embargoes

World-Class Crimes

New Testimony of Rape Committed by Sierra Leone Rebels

Fresh Reports of RUF Terror Tactics

Sierra Leone Government Troops Torture and Reportedly Execute RUF Rebel Suspects

Civilians the Real Target in Sierra Leone

Rebel Abuses Near Sierra Leone Capital

Sierra Leone Rebel Abuses Spreading

Sierra Leone Rebels Violating Peace Accord

Letter to Sierra Leonean Rebel Group the Revolutionary United Front on Peace Accord Violations

Murders, Tortures and Crimes Against Citizens Go Unfettered in Sierra Leone

Annan Must Reject Amnesty for Sierra Leone Crimes

Shocking War Crimes in Sierra Leone

Rebel Atrocities Against Civilians In Sierra Leone

Human Rights Watch Condemns Atrocities in Sierra Leone

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