Sierra Leone: Mutilations and Killings Continue

Francisco Lopez (
Wed, 11 Dec 1996 13:19:36 -0500 (EST)

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Service 237/96
AI INDEX: AFR 51/08/96
10 DECEMBER 1996


Less than a week after a peace agreement was signed by the Government of
Sierra Leone and the armed opposition Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to
end a bloody internal conflict, more than 150 civilians have been brutally
mutilated and killed in the north of the country, Amnesty International
said today.

~There should be an immediate monitoring of human rights in Sierra
Leone as only then there may be some hope of bringing such atrocities to
an end,~ the organization said.

Amnesty International is calling for a human rights verification
commission, with the support and participation of the international
community, to be immediately established. It should include international
human rights observers with the expertise and credibility necessary to
monitor human rights effectively while the peace agreement is being

Failure to do this could seriously undermine the efforts which have
been made during 1996 to bring peace and an end to human rights violations
in Sierra Leone and which resulted in the signing of a peace accord on 30

Days after the peace accord was signed, the villages of Kubehuna and
Magbenka, in Tonkolili District, Northern Province, were attacked by armed
men. The villagers, forced to flee their villages because of the
conflict, had begun to return to their homes. According to eye-witnesses,
the attackers entered the villages and began firing at civilians or
attacking them with machetes. Some villagers -- mostly women and children
-- died after being forced to enter a house which was then set alight.
Other victims had arms and legs cut off. As in previous similar killings,
the identity of the perpetrators of the atrocities in Kubehuna and
Magbenka was unclear: survivors were unable to say whether it was
government soldiers or rebel forces who attacked them.

This latest atrocity is consistent with the torture, ill-treatment
and killings of unarmed civilians which have characterized the conflict in
Sierra Leone since it began in 1991, but particularly since 1994 when it
developed into a campaign of violence directed against civilians. The
identity and motives of those carrying out attacks on civilians became
increasingly difficult to establish.

On 30 November the Sierra Leone Government and the RUF signed a
peace agreement in Cote d~Ivoire. The agreement called for the immediate
cessation of hostilities, the demobilization and disarmament of the RUF
and its integration into the national army. A neutral monitoring group,
with the participation of the international community, is to be
established to monitor breaches of the cease-fire provided by the peace

The latest atrocity in Tonkolili District emphasizes the urgent need
for monitoring of the cease-fire to be accompanied by a human rights
verification commission to monitor adherence to the human rights standards
referred to in the peace agreement, including those guaranteeing right to
life and the right not to be tortured and ill-treated.

In September 1996 Amnesty International published a report, Sierra
Leone: Towards a future founded on human rights, which made concrete
recommendations to the Government of Sierra Leone, to the RUF and to the
international community to build on commitments to respect human rights.
As well as effective monitoring of human rights, it called for effective
control to be exerted over both government soldiers and RUF forces.

Amnesty International also stressed the importance of clarifying the
truth about human rights abuses -- by both government soldiers and rebel
forces -- during the conflict. True reconciliation cannot be achieved if
the right of victims and their families to truth and justice are ignored.
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