Liberia: Atrocities Continue as the World Turns a Blind Eye

The call follows a recent Amnesty International visit to Liberia which found that men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights in areas where UN peace-keeping troops have yet to be deployed continue to be killed, raped, beaten, used as forced labour and driven from their homes.

The human rights organisation has also called for the setting up urgently of an investigation into the human rights atrocities and recommendations for a tribunal as is now being considered in Iraq.

Amnesty International said: 'We recently found that civilians in Liberia continue to live in fear of increasingly undisciplined and desperate groups of armed fighters from all three parties to the conflict.

'Those continuing to attack civilians are now represented by senior ministers in the National Transitional Government of Liberia who are very slow to condemn commanders on the ground and make them end these abuses.

'Security Council commitments on the protection of civilians must be translated urgently into concrete action in Liberia.'

It is clear that the presence of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) troops has deterred attacks on civilians. In areas where they have yet to deploy, however, such as in Bong and Nimba Counties, civilians remain without protection. On 22 December the Security Council is scheduled to consider the UN Secretary-General's report on progress towards both the implementation of the peace agreement and Security Council Resolution 1509 (2003) which established the UNMIL.

Resolution 1509 (2003) provided for 'an adequate human rights presence, capacity and expertise within UNMIL to carry out human rights promotion, protection and monitoring activities.' Continuing human rights abuses must be reported publicly to demonstrate to combatants that their actions are being closely watched and recorded and to strengthen the message that perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Amnesty International said: 'The Security Council must request speedy establishment of a strong, fully resourced human rights component within UNMIL which will, as a matter of urgency, monitor the human rights situation, report publicly and undertake credible and robust activities to protect civilians.'

As it considers the UN Secretary-General's report, the Security Council must also focus on ending impunity for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international law. The UN Secretary-General, the Security Council and the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights have repeatedly said that those committing such crimes in Liberia will be held individually accountable.

Currently however there is no sense of urgency to take measures towards ending impunity. The Chairman of the National Transitional Government has stated publicly that he favours a blanket amnesty which, according to the peace agreement, may be considered. Others argue that the political and security situation is still too fragile to pursue the perpetrators of human rights abuses and bring them to justice.

Amnesty International said: 'In Resolution 1509 the Security Council stressed the need to bring those responsible for human rights violations and atrocities against the Liberian people to justice. This now needs to be given some substance.

'We are calling on the Security Council to support the establishment, as soon as possible, of an international, independent investigation to establish accountability and recommend an appropriate court to try those alleged to be responsible.'

For further information, please refer to 'Liberia: 'The goal is peace, to sleep without hearing gunshots, to send our Children's rights to school; that is what we want'' available at www.amnesty.org published by Amnesty International on 11 December 2003.

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