SAFEGUARDS NEEDED FOR UK ARMS

Arms should not be made available to any forces which include as combatants Children's rights under the age of 18.

Protection of Sierra Leonean civilians from further human rights abuse and long-term stability must be the Government's overriding consideration. Human rights observance is fundamental to achieving long-term stability in the country.

Further to its announcement yesterday that it plans to train and arm the Sierra Leonean army, the Government should ensure that the SLA or other pro-government combatants are fully trained in relevant international law. The Kamajor militia, allied to the Sierra Leone government, includes many child soldiers.

The Government should also take steps to ensure that no weapons reach rebel forces in Sierra Leone.

Given the appalling human rights violations that have taken place in Sierra Leone over the past decade, people suspected of supporting the RUF could be at risk of human rights abuse in coming months. There have been recent reports that Sierra Leonean government soldiers have tortured and executed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters.

Despite the many civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa, arms exports to the region nearly doubled in 1999. The proliferation of small arms such as assault rifles and sub-machine guns has been largely ignored by the international community.

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