The international community has consistently focused on finding a political solution to the conflict in Liberia, but often at the expense of the long-term objectives that would ensure peace. The international determination to hold elections, at almost any cost, clearly demonstrated this desire to achieve a resolution to the conflict regardless of other considerations, such as demobilization or refugee repatriation. The "bridging" projects that were sponsored by the U.N. and other international organizations in the transitional period from war to peace contained virtually no human rights components. Furthermore, now that the election has been held in Liberia, what little international attention was focused in the lead-up to the election has notably diminished at the time when Liberia's democratic forces need it most.

Although the humanitarian support for the population remains a vital service that the international community provides, longer-term objectives must be pursued in international programs for the reconstruction of Liberian society. These include the integration of human rights concerns into international programs and an unwavering commitment on the part of the international community to the respect for and enforcement of the rule of law in Liberia. To support these goals, the international community should be willing to condition continued aid to Liberia on the respect for human rights. Unless the international community utilizes this opportunity to promote respect for human rights in Liberia, the situation may very easily deteriorate.

United Nations

Like other international actors in Liberia, the U.N. has done much less than it could have to report on, advocate for, and prevent human rights abuses, or even to enforce the arms embargo it imposed. In 1993, the U.N. Security Council created the U.N. Observer Mission (UNOMIL) to help supervise and monitor the Cotonou peace agreement in conjunction with ECOMOG. UNOMIL's mandate was to report on cease-fire violations and violations of humanitarian law. In late 1995, UNOMIL's responsibilities were expanded to include "investigat[ing] and report[ing] to the Secretary-General on violations of human rights..." One Liberian human rights activist observed: "UNOMIL's human rights component is only on paper. The U.N.'s approach consistently marginalized human rights hoping that when the conflict was resolved that the human rights problems would quietly fall into place."

Although UNOMIL's initial human rights efforts were marginal throughout, the human rights component of the mission eventually grew from one position to three. The effectiveness of the three human rights officers in Liberia was limited by a lack of resources, the insecurity in the country, the marginalization of the human rights unit within UNOMIL and the larger U.N., and the willingness of the international community to dispense with human rights concerns in the search for transient political solutions. The twenty-first progress report of the secretary-general on UNOMIL referred to seven ongoing investigations of possible human rights violations. The results from theseinvestigations were never released publicly, including the reports from the October 1996 Sinje massacre investigation.34

Moreover, UNOMIL never actively took on the task of providing international scrutiny of the misconduct of ECOMOG troops-a role that, given the circumstances, only UNOMIL could have played. UNOMIL should have monitored the ECOMOG mission, since the two were supposed to deploy together and the conduct of ECOMOG contingents required this oversight. In the twenty-second progress report of the secretary-general on UNOMIL, the U.N. stated that "some ECOMOG soldiers may have mistreated former fighters during weapons recovery operations," and that ECOMOG indicated that it would conduct investigations.35 No investigative findings from either UNOMIL or ECOMOG have been released and it is not clear whether any investigation was conducted. If it was, both the UN and ECOMOG should release their reports publicly. A Liberian human rights organization, the Justice and Peace Commission, reported in June 1997 that a man was beaten to death in Bong County by ECOMOG troops for possession of a weapon. These allegations were widespread within Liberia, however, no reference to any UNOMIL human rights investigation appears in the secretary-general's progress reports. The failure of UNOMIL to investigate these incidents and to release these reports raises questions as to whether the U.N. has played a part in covering up human rights violations committed by ECOMOG soldiers.

Another U.N. body in Liberia is the U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Office (HACO). The U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) established HACO in November 1995 to: coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to conduct the demobilization and initial reintegration programs for former combatants into civilian life. Most U.N. staff in Liberia concede that HACO's coordination role was never effective. However, HACO is still seeking to obtain donor funding to continue its coordination role until the end of the year. With regard to the latter responsibility, HACO was extremely involved in the demobilization process, but time constraints in the run-up to the election prevented a full demobilization program to be carried out (see section on Demobilization of Soldiers).

Now that the election has taken place, UNOMIL has fulfilled its mandate and the staff has departed. Nine UNOMIL military observers remained to assist in sorting and classifying the 10,000 weapons and 1.24 million pieces of ammunition that were secured during the demobilization process, currently in joint ECOMOG/UNOMIL custody. Negotiations are currently underway with the Liberian government for the custody and disposal of the weapons.

As of this writing, the U.N. also reached agreement with President Taylor for the creation of a small U.N. political office, to serve as a focal point for post-conflict peace-building activities of the United Nations in Liberia and have overall authority for coordination of the United Nations system in the country. The proposed role for this U.N. office, under the auspices of the U.N. Department of Political Affairs, will be to provide advisory and technical assistance to the government in defining post-conflict priorities (including in the area of human rights), to mobilize international funds for Liberia, and to coordinate and liaise between the government and the international community. This office would have an extendable six-month mandate. As of this writing, the details of this peace-building unit and its starting date were still being finalized. The stated terms of reference of this unit were a welcome addition to the U.N. presence in Liberia and would provide the U.N. with an opportunity to call for human rights considerations to be fully incorporated into the government's rebuilding process. The unit's proposed coordination role would need to be further clarified. With both HACO and UNOMIL seeking to play a coordination role for theU.N. in Liberia, it was somewhat unclear exactly which agency would be tasked with overall coordination and why there would be a need for two overseeing U.N. bodies in a country the size of Liberia.

As the presence of UNOMIL diminishes, that of the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) and UNHCR will increase.36 Already, UNDP has begun to put forward program plans in a number of areas pertaining to reintegration of the internally displaced and governance (See section on the Internally Displaced). UNDP has a broadly defined mandate to promote sustainable development. UNDP's work has largely been limited to non-emergency situations in which it works closely with governments to implement development programs. UNDP has traditionally not interpreted its role as formally including human rights work, either in a monitoring and reporting capacity nor has it taken active measures to incorporate human rights into its programs as a matter of course.37

In a situation such as exists in Liberia, in the aftermath of seven years of war and massive human rights abuses, UNDP will be challenged to stretch its traditional capacity to address the operational challenges posed by the situation. If UNDP does not incorporate a strong human rights component into its programs, the U.N. effort in Liberia could fail to contribute to a durable and lasting rebuilding effort. Adama Guindo, UNDP's resident representative has expressed a commitment to finding ways to support projects with human rights implications. Human Rights Watch/Africa hopes that UNDP will soon articulate what steps it is planning to take in order to accomplish this goal.


Since the outbreak of fighting in Liberia, the West African peacekeeping force ECOMOG has consistently played a role-as a groundbreaking example of regional initiative at times and a troublesome contributor to the violence and lawlessness at others. As a new government takes office, ECOMOG will be phased out and it will cease to hold a de facto monopoly on the use of force.

One last role for ECOMOG is the training of the new military and police forces. According to the peace accords, ECOWAS will assist in the restructuring of security forces. At the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers meeting on August 26-27, 1997, ECOMOG's stay was recently extended in order for the regional peacekeeping force to "help consolidate and strengthen security in the country, and to assist with the restructuring and training of the Armed Forces of Liberia, as well as the police and security services."38

Due to ECOMOG's history in Liberia, which involved looting and arming certain factions, this is an area of major concern.39 Although Gen. Victor Malu's appointment as the force commander of ECOMOG has led to a much higher level of professionalism, reports of abuse by ECOMOG troops continue. These include reports of arrest and detention without trial, of civilians as well as former combatants, since ECOMOG also functioned as the civil authority within the country. ECOMOG's actions in cordon and search operations during the demobilization processraised concerns over the serious human rights violations that were reported. ECOMOG has engaged in arrests and detention without due process, and beatings and torture of those in their custody, leading to deaths, in at least two cases, of men suspected of hoarding weapons. ECOMOG has also shown itself very willing to detain civilians, despite the fact that it is supposed to hand over suspects to the Ministry of Justice to be charged. Also of concern is the overwhelming predominance of the Nigerian military in ECOMOG. Since the Nigerian military government currently in power has engaged in egregious abuses of human rights within Nigeria, it is difficult to have confidence in the ability of this national army to adequately train another nation's military to respect the rule of law.40

European Union and its Member States

The European Union (E.U.), through the European Commission's Aid Coordination Office in Liberia, has continued to provide the country with assistance through the transition period. The E.U. has focused not only on the immediate humanitarian needs of Liberians, but is also planning to concentrate its efforts around the process of post-war reconstruction. More specifically, it has invested in reviving public utilities, assisted with the retraining of ex-combatants, supported the repatriation of refugees, and assisted in the electoral process. The E.U. plans to provide support to Liberia's rebuilding efforts. Future activities will include assisting in the development of a vigorous civil society, building schools, and focusing on government projects. The E.U. has rolled over its funds for the last seven years for Liberia and so a large amount of money is available. Human rights should be made a condition of continued aid. The E.U. office in Monrovia told Human Rights Watch/Africa that the E.U. will seek responsible governance in Liberia, including respect for human rights, as a condition for the provision of its planned assistance, with an emphasis on capacity building in all the programs it sponsors, including those assisting in the development of a strong civil society. However, the development of an effective monitoring mechanism remains the challenge to this policy. Without an adequate means of monitoring and reporting on the government's human rights record, the E.U. cannot effectively implement this policy. The U.N. and local human rights organizations have a role to fill in this area.

United States

The United States (U.S.) has remained a significant contributor in Liberia , providing close to U.S.$100 million in assistance in 1997. This includes approximately U.S.$30 million to ECOMOG, U.S.$30-50 million in humanitarian assistance, and U.S.$9 million for elections. This does not reflect U.S. contributions to U.N. activities in Liberia. Having assisted with the training of five hundred police by the International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) for the July 19 elections, the U.S. has committed to continue assisting with the rebuilding of the Liberian National Police and the judiciary, also through ICITAP. Assistance may be provided for the rebuilding of the military if the government scales it down to a border patrol-type force of around five thousand. In September 1997, following the appointment of Joe Tate as police commissioner, the U.S. suspended its police training program based on human rights considerations (See section on the Police).

The U.S., through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has developed a plan to participate in Liberia's redevelopment that is conditioned on a number of factors. The plan includes a governance component that calls for the Liberian government to respect human rights, among other provisions. Specifically, State Department personnel have made reference to freedom of the press, freedom of association, including respect for opposition gatherings, and a transparent justice system. The U.S. will also seek to have human rights education integrated into the school curriculum. State Department personnel also recognize the need to support local nongovernmental organizations, and have stated a commitment to assist them develop.

Although the U.S. has deferred to regional attempts to resolve the Liberian conflict, the rebuilding of Liberian society should include active support from the U.S., given its past role in Liberia. Moreover, in the past, the U.S. has downplayed human rights considerations in its policy toward Liberia. It is important that in this rebuilding period, that respect for human rights remains a condition of continued U.S. aid.

34 U.N. Secretary General, "Twenty-First Progress Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia," U.N. Doc. S/1997/90, January 29, 1997, para. 25-30. 35 U.N. Secretary General, "Twenty-Second Progress Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia," U.N. Doc. S/1997/237, March 19, 1997, para. 37. 36 For an assessment of UNHCR's role, see the section above on Refugees and the efforts of UNHCR. 37 See Human Rights Watch/Africa, Failing the Internally Displaced: The UNDP Displaced Persons Program in Kenya (New York: Human Rights Watch, June 1997). 38 "Final Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia," U.N. Doc. S/1997/712, September 12, 1997. 39 See Africa Watch (now Human Rights Watch/Africa), "Waging War to Keep the Peace: The ECOMOG Intervention and Human Rights," News from Africa Watch, vol. 5, no. 6, June 1993; Human Rights Watch/Africa, "Liberia: Human Rights Abuses by the Liberian Peace Council and the Need for International Oversight," News from Africa Watch, vol. 6, no. 3, May 1994; Binaifer Nowrojee, "Joining Forces: United Nations and Regional Peacekeeping-Lessons From Liberia," Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 8, Spring 1995. 40 See Human Rights Watch/Africa, "Permanent Transition: Current Violations of Human Rights in Nigeria," A Human Rights Watch/Africa Short Report, vol. 8, no.3, September, 1996.