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New Allegations Of Human Rights Abuses Against Liberian Government - 2002-07-24

A book published in Ghana this week makes new allegations of human rights abuses reportedly committed by the government of Liberian President Charles Taylor. The book has drawn an angry reaction from the Liberian government.

The book, titled Liberia: Human Rights Violations 1997-2002, details 68 cases of abuse ranging from executions and beatings to the rape of girls as young as 12 by members of Liberia's armed forces.

The book was compiled by the Media Foundation for West Africa, a group based in Accra, Ghana, that advocates press freedom and human rights. It says the alleged abuses took place from 1997, when former rebel leader Charles Taylor was elected president, to the present.

The book is the latest in a series of allegations against the Taylor government's human rights record. It came days after the U-S based advocacy group Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the U-N Security Council describing alleged human rights abuses in Liberia.

Critics of the Taylor government's human rights record this year have also included the London-based Amnesty International and the U-S government.

Officials with the Media Foundation of West Africa say they hope the book will add to the voices calling for positive change in Liberia. The foundation's Gilbert Tietaah led the research.

He says, "Dictators, no matter how perverted they are, are apprehensive when the spotlight of attention is drawn to them. We thought that doing this had its own deterrent value because if Charles Taylor and the government realize that somebody is keeping count, then they will probably want to be more attentive to the concerns that are being raised. Certainly, we hoped that by raising the issues to the platform of international public opinion, we would be helping to echo or resonate the issues because they have been persistent."

Human rights groups say the number of alleged violations in Liberia has increased since February, when President Taylor declared a state of emergency as a result of advances by rebels with the group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, or LURD.

Liberia's information minister, Reginald Goodridge, on Wednesday angrily criticized the book, calling it -- in his words - nonsense and garbage. The official said the allegations are part what he said is a larger attempt by Mr. Taylor's opponents to destabilize the Liberian government.