UN rights chief says human rights violations in Liberia must not go unpunished

8 August 2003

In a strongly worded emergency report spotlighting the dire situation in war-ravaged Liberia, the Acting United Nations rights chief said today that Liberian government and rebel leaders should not be allowed to escape responsibility for ''gross violations of human rights.''

"The situation of human rights in Liberia has been and remains grave and grievous to public conscience around the globe," said Bertrand Ramcharan, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights. "The law must be allowed to take its course in respect of the mighty and the insolent - whether they be on the government or rebel side."

His remarks came in an emergency report to the UN's Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights on what he called "international crimes and other gross violations of human rights committed in Liberia." An accompanying letter to the Chairperson and Members of the Commission stressed that since the rights body's Spring session, "the situation [in Liberia] has deteriorated in a shocking manner."

According to the emergency report, over 250,000 persons have lost their lives in the conflict since it began. At least half of the dead have been civilian non-combatants. More than 1.3 million people have been uprooted from their homes.

After fighting between forces loyal to President Charles Taylor and major rebel movements, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL) intensified in and around the capital Monrovia in late June, several hundreds more have lost their lives and civilians have been deliberately targeted, Mr. Ramcharan writes.

"Torture has been widespread throughout the conflict and persists," he added. "Hundreds of women and girls have been raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence." The report says that rape has been used as a weapon of war and that children have been abducted and forced to fight on both sides.


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