Global Policy Forum

Presentation to the Arria Formula Briefing - West Africa - Amnesty


Amnesty International
June 16, 2004

Amnesty International welcomes the second visit by the Security Council to West Africa. In its comprehensive report on its last visit to the region, the Council concluded that international action was needed to address the persistent problems of lack of observance of human rights, the treatment of refugees, the use of child soldiers and the proliferation of small arms. Council members emphasized that the principle of no impunity must be upheld and warned they would take serious measures against governments and groups that consistently abuse human rights or violate international humanitarian law. I would now like to highlight some of our main concerns on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cí´te d'Ivoire. A written briefing, with detailed recommendations about matters the Council could raise during its mission is available, together with recent Amnesty International documents on the countries concerned.


Implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has been difficult and the deployment of the full complement of 15,000 UN peace-keeping troops has been slow. Civilians have remained at risk of serious human rights abuses, especially in areas where troops of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) have yet to deploy. The parties to the conflict are now represented in the NTGL and must be pressed to fulfil commitments in the peace agreement to respect and promote human rights. Human rights officers should be deployed throughout the country, and the Council should request from UNMIL regular, public reports on the human rights situation.

We hope that the Council will pay particular attention to the progress of DDRR of the estimated 20, 000 children associated with fighting forces, including the special needs of girls and victims of sexual violence.

So far, there has been little political will to bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international law, committed by all parties, to justice. We urge the Council to raise the issue of impunity with the government and emphasize that there can be no amnesty for such crimes which the peace agreement unfortunately proposes as a possibility.

An international arrest warrant was issued by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for former Liberian President Charles Taylor. He was, however, allowed to travel to Nigeria, in violation of Nigeria's obligations under international law, with implicit guarantees that he would neither be prosecuted in Nigeria nor surrendered to the Special Court. We welcome the Special Court's 31 May ruling denying Charles Taylor immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity and war crimes and urge the Council to ensure that the necessary steps are now taken to bring him before the Special Court.

Although the Council has imposed sanctions prohibiting the sale or supply of arms to anyone in Liberia, including the LURD and MODEL, the practice has continued. Security is slowly returning to Liberia, but there should be no premature lifting of these sanctions. In this respect, we note the Council's conclusion of 10 June 2004 that the peace process remains too fragile to lift existing embargoes at this stage. Governments in West Africa should be urged to implement effectively both UN sanctions and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons.


Further consolidation of the peace process has resulted in improvement in the human rights situation. There is also significant progress in addressing impunity now that the first trials of the Special Court for Sierra Leone started on 3 June 2004.

We urge the Council to call on all states, including those in West Africa, to cooperate fully with the Special Court for Sierra Leone, including by entering into legal agreements with the Special Court and surrendering those indicted.

The Special Court will try only a small number of people; others responsible for serious crimes throughout the conflict continue to benefit from the general amnesty in the Lomé peace agreement and subsequently passed into law. We urge the Council to request the repeal of this legislation.

Progress has been made in rehabilitating the national justice system, but serious problems persist in the effective administration of justice: there is a lack of magistrates and criminal suspects continue to be held in police custody beyond legal limits. The trial of some 90 former combatants charged with capital offences in March 2002 has been repeatedly postponed, and defendants have not had legal representation. The international community must continue its help to strengthen the national justice system.

The Sierra Leone Parliament finally passed legislation to establish the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone. We hope the Council will urge the government to ensure that it is fully independent, impartial and receives adequate resources.


The human rights situation has deteriorated since early 2004. The disproportionate use of force to suppress a banned demonstration on 25 March 2004 further undermined the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Accords. The strong reaction of President Gbagbo's supporters to the UN Commission of Inquiry report of April about these events caused a further deterioration of the situation, and strengthened the outbursts of xenophobia directed against the international community. We are particularly worried by recent reports that the Young Patriots have imposed restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNOCI personnel, notably in Daloa on June 10th and that the government failed to intervene. We urge the Council to stress with the Government the need to accept and implement the recommendations made by this commission. Furthermore, we stress the need for the establishment, as soon as possible, of the international commission of inquiry requested by all Cí´te d'Ivoire parties under the Linas-Marcoussis Accords'.

Amnesty International is concerned about extrajudicial executions, arbitrary and deliberate killings committed by both parties, "disappearances", torture and ill-treatment including rape, the recruitment of child soldiers and the harassment of journalists and human rights defenders. All these abuses occur against a background of impunity. Hardly any of the alleged perpetrators of these abuses have been brought to trial. We urge the Council to press for all those responsible for serious human rights abuses to be brought to justice, as provided for in the Linas-Marcoussis Accords and in resolution 1464. The Council should ensure that the UN peace-keeping mission will be able to fully implement its mandate, provided in resolution 1528, including to help investigate human rights violations and contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights, especially of women and girls.

A further deterioration of the situation can be expected unless the international community continues to exercise strong pressure on all parties to the conflict for them to respect human rights. There is also a need to protect the hundreds of thousands of refugees for whom, we recommend, an action plan should be formulated.

In conclusion, we wish the Council a successful visit and hope that the Council will include meetings with human rights organizations and women's organizations in their schedule.



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