Global Policy Forum

Sierra Leone IDP Update:

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) News
June 12, 2000

The total number of people displaced in Sierra Leone since the resumption of fighting in May now stands at approximately 64,450. That figure is expected to climb dramatically, even as the number of international NGOs operating in the country continues to fall. Registration of IDPs is ongoing in a number of areas. There are also said to be large-scale IDP movements in the northern and eastern provinces, but inaccessibil-ity makes it impossible to confirm these reports.

Of particular concern are the large-scale popula-tion movement out of Makeni, Magburaka and Lunsar and the number of IDPs moving towards the camps in Freetown, which are already full to beyond-capacity.

Meanwhile, the NGO Human Rights Watch has accused rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone of commit-ting numerous rapes and abductions of women and girls after restarting its offensive against the Government last month. The group interviewed women from Makeni, Port Loko, Lunsar and the Yelibuya Peninsula who gave detailed accounts of rape, gang rape and the rape of children as young as ten. According to the group, the vic-tims were often taken to rebel bases or command centers, suggesting that these crimes against women and children were sanctioned by the leadership of the RUF.

No woman in an RUF area is safe, according to Peter Takirambudde, the Executive Director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "Women in RUF-controlled areas are at constant risk of being abducted and raped. Once again this underlines the need for the protection of ci-vilians to be the first priority of international and government troops in Sierra Leone." Human Rights Watch maintains that since early May, eyewitnesses and survivors who fled the rebel advances talk of widespread rape, killings and mutilations by RUF forces.

In order to combat the reported atrocities, Hu-man Rights Watch called on the UN Security Council to provide UNAMSIL with the mandate and means to protect civilians in Sierra Leone. The group also called on the council to order immediate investigations of current and past abuses against civilians by the RUF and other forces. Information gathered would be used to prosecute those alleged to be responsible for such heinous violations of human rights and the laws for war. Finally, Human Rights Watch re-quests that the SC move rapidly to establish a criminal tribunal to try the war criminals of Si-erra Leone.

  • Link to Human Rights Watch report
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