ON-GOING UK SUPPORT VITAL FOR UN PEACE-KEEPING MISSION

UN troops must be adequate to fulfil their mandate to protect civilians. This requires the diplomatic commitment of the international community, in which the UK's role is crucial. That commitment must continue as long as the danger to Sierra Leone's civilians lasts.

Research conducted this year in Sierra Leone by Amnesty International showed that mutilations, rapes and killings continued despite the July 1999 peace agreement but were reduced in areas where UN troops were deployed.

Abuses against civilians by rebel forces during Sierra Leone's internal armed conflict have been among the worst known: killings, cutting off limbs - most frequently arms - rape and other forms of sexual abuse and abductions. Amnesty International has documented the murder and mutilation of thousands of unarmed civilians.

Men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights suffered mutilation and crude amputation of hands, arms, legs, lips or ears. Villagers were reportedly rounded up and locked in houses which were then set alight. Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls were raped; men who refused to rape members of their own families had their limbs amputated as punishment. Children's rights were ripped from their mothers' backs and killed with machetes. Militias supporting the government decapitated captives and burned others alive after dousing them with petrol or placing tyres around them.

Mark Lattimer, Communications Director at Amnesty International UK, said:

'Political leaders from all parties in the UK should heed the UN Secretary General's call for UN members not to abandon the people of Sierra Leone. This is especially relevant for Britain due to its historical links with the country and its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.'

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