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UN Report Accuses Both Sides in Liberian Conflict of Gross Human Rights Violations - 2003-08-08


A United Nations report accuses both government and rebel forces in Liberia of committing gross violations of human rights against civilians. The U.N. is calling for punishment of the perpetrators.

The report says all the warring parties have committed the worst forms of atrocities, especially on women and children.

The acting U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, says since the outbreak of the conflict in 1989, more than 250,000 people have been killed. He says at least half of the dead have been civilians.

"Several hundreds killed this year," he said. "Deliberate rape of women, abduction of children, torture. And then, of course, there is the 1.5 million people who were displaced internally and across the borders. So, we have really, what I can only describe as a nightmare scenario at the end of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century."

The report says torture has been widespread throughout the conflict, and rape of women has become a weapon of war.

The report says one child out of every 10 may have been recruited into the war effort. It finds Liberian children have suffered all forms of atrocities, sexual violence, disruption of schooling and forced displacement.

Mr. Ramcharan says the crimes committed against the people of Liberia must not go unpunished.

"The international community has clearly spoken out that crimes against humanity are not pardonable at the national level," said Mr. Ramcharan. "I think that one of the lessons we have learned is that it is important that the leading perpetrators of criminal violations of human rights and humanitarian law be brought to justice."

The U.N. report says a thorough investigation of the atrocities must be part of national reconciliation in Liberia.