UK PROGRAMME OF ACTION NEEDED

Welcoming reports that President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has agreed to a British request to disarm and demobilise all Children's rights (under-18s) from pro-government forces, Amnesty International today called on the government to link its proposed £20 million programme to train and arm the Sierra Leonean Army to a programme of action to protect human rights.

This programme of action should build into Britain's proposed £20 million aid:

· stringent safeguards to prevent further use or recruitment of Children's rights as soldiers, with priority given to the rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers into society, with resources being made available to relevant agencies;

· robust mechanisms to monitor the distribution and use of British arms to ensure that this equipment is not used to commit human rights violations, is not used by forces operating outside of effective government control, and does not reach rebel forces;

· firm guarantees from the Sierra Leonean government that British arms will not be provided to pro-government forces that have committed human rights violations;

· full training in international human rights standards for the Sierra Leonean Army and other pro-government combatants as part of the UK's Military Advisory and Training Team work, with input from human rights groups as required;

· the establishment of mechanisms to protect people suspected of supporting rebel forces from revenge punishments and serious human rights violations.

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

'In Sierra Leone there are risks and opportunities for the UK government. It has an opportunity to prevent child soldiering and guarantee that undisciplined and unaccountable fighters do not end up with British weapons.

'Yet arming the Sierra Leonean Army carries great risks, and urgent action to protect Sierra Leonean civilians from further human rights abuse is vital for long-term stability in the country'.

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