Amnesty International, says Liberia's security forces have committed gross human rights abuses since the imposition of emergency rule two months ago.

In a statement released today (Tuesday), the London-based organization reported an increase in the number of human rights violations -- including rape and torture during security raids in local communities, crowded shopping areas and displacement camps.

Amnesty said the government has failed to protect civilians from security forces. It also accused President Charles Taylor of imposing the state of emergency in order to crack down on civil liberties.

But Liberian Defense Minister Daniel Chea told VOA the government rejects the allegations. Defense Minister Chea said in an interview with VOA that Amnesty International has not taken into account the threat posed by the rebel group, Liberians Unitred for Reconciliation and Democracy -- or LURD.

President Taylor imposed emergency rule on February eighth, to help stop a rebel advance that had approached the capital, Monrovia. He denies any abuse of human rights and accuses rebels of terrorizing the local population.

Forces loyal to Mr. Taylor have been fighting rebel factions in the north of the country since 1999. Those factions opposed the president during the bloody civil war in Liberia from 1989 to 1997.

(Ramirez CR, prev)