News / Africa

Rights Group: Liberia Fails to Stop Cross-Border Mercenary Attacks

TEXT SIZE - +
Anne Look
Human Rights Watch says mercenaries in eastern Liberia are running deadly cross-border raids into Ivory Coast and recruiting child soldiers.  The international rights group reports Liberia has failed to investigate and prosecute Liberian and Ivorian fighters who set up camp in Liberia after committing atrocities during the 2011 post-election crisis in Ivory Coast.

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at International Criminal Court (file photo)Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at International Criminal Court (file photo)
x
Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at International Criminal Court (file photo)
Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at International Criminal Court (file photo)
As former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo awaits his first hearing on charges of crimes against humanity this month at the Hague, Human Rights Watch says pro-Gbagbo mercenaries continue to run deadly raids into western Ivory Coast.

Gbagbo lost a November 2010 presidential election, but refused to step down, sparking a nationwide conflict that killed 3,000 people.  Ivorian militiamen and Liberian mercenaries who fought on the Gbagbo side took refuge in eastern Liberia.

Human Rights Watch says those fighters, motivated by revenge and disputes over land rights, have waged four cross-border attacks in the past year that have killed at least 40 people, including children.  A new HRW report says the attackers are targeting ethnic communities believed to support current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

HRW Ivory Coast researcher, Matthew Wells, said Human Rights Watch interviewed members of a core group of 100 to 150 fighters who are planning and carrying out the attacks.  

"The mercenaries and militiamen made clear that their ambitions are much larger and that they plan to conduct additional attacks throughout the rest of this year and beyond," Wells said.

Wells said their level of organization was particularly concerning.

"They have set up around gold mines along the border of Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia.  They are using the money from gold mining to fund recruitment and mobilization to conduct additional cross-border attacks into Cote d'Ivoire.  They also told us they are receiving money from individuals in Ghana, which is where much of the pro-Gbagbo military and political elite remain to again finance these attacks," Wells said.  

Human Rights Watch said mercenaries are recruiting Liberian children as young as 14 into their ranks.

Since the Ivory Coast conflict ended in April 2011, Liberian authorities have detained more than 100 Liberians and Ivorians suspected of mercenary activity.  But Human Rights Watch says many have been released.  In an investigation published in December 2011, the U.N. Panel of Experts on Ivory Coast said many more fighters were thought to have entered Liberia and evaded authorities.

Human Rights Watch says among those released by Liberian authorities have been two commanders suspected by both the United Nations and Human Rights Watch of war crimes and human-rights abuses during the 2011 crisis.

Wells said the cross-border raids are a threat to regional stability, and Liberia needs to "get its head out the sand."

"These people are often just crossing in the middle of the night attacking a village and then going back to Liberia so the solution really has to come more from the Liberia side than from the Ivorian side because all of this planning is being done in Liberia," Wells said.

Dense vegetation and the sheer expanse of Liberia's 700-kilometer border with Ivory Coast make it difficult to patrol.

Human Rights Watch says on at least one occasion, Liberian authorities tried to intervene to stop a cross-border attack.  The group says  Liberian security forces arrested 76 Ivorian and Liberian fighters, but the men were later released for lack of evidence.

Human Rights Watch says Liberian authorities have routinely failed to follow through on investigations and prosecutions of suspected mercenaries, despite provisions in the nation's penal code that would allow them to do so.

Liberia's Information Minister, Lewis Brown, said he disagrees with the report's findings.  He said the government is well aware of the risks these armed groups pose to Ivory Coast and Liberia, and is taking appropriate action.  

"There is a high level of commitment and engagement from either side to rid our border, our vast border, of the presence of non-state actors," Brown said.

The minister said Liberian and Ivorian forces as well as the U.N. peacekeeping missions to both countries would "very shortly" begin participating in joint exercises to further secure the border area.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid