Civilians under attacks in Liberia: How much longer should the massacre continue?

25/07/2003
Urgent Appeal

The FIDH is highly concerned about the dramatic humanitarian crisis in Liberia. The continuing fighting between the LURD rebels -Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy-, the Model rebels -Movement for Democracy in Liberia- and Taylor’s government forces has caused the death of more than 600 people in less than five days, and sources report that more than one million people, out of the three million inhabitants in the country, are currently displaced. The extremely poor health situation in the capital, Monrovia, has led to outbreaks of serious diseases, including cholera, measles and malaria.

Despite the cease fire signed in Accra, Ghana, on 17 June 2003, and although the LURD leader called in its troops to stop the offensive on Monrovia on 20 and 22 July, the fights between the warring parties have strongly revived, and mortar shells and shootings are still brought down on civilian populations.

On 22 July, the Model rebels refused to sign the peace agreement submitted by mediators from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which rejected the idea that rebels movements and government leaders be part of the transitional government.

The FIDH calls for the immediate deployment of peacekeeping forces, to guarantee a cease-fire between belligerents as well as to guarantee the protection of the civilian population. Moreover the FIDH, recalling the declarations of the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, considers that this intervention has to be approved by the UN Security Council in order to specify its legal framework and mandate.

The FIDH recalls its unfailing commitment to democratic principles and steadily condemns the methods of accession to power, which are performed outside of any constitutional legality. Moreover, the FIDH strongly condemns all attacks on civilians and recalls that the civil population shall not in any way suffer from fighting between all the belligerents. The FIDH, recalling Kofi Annan’s statement on 21 July, "reminds all those who may be responsible for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that they will be held, individually and collectively, accountable for their actions". The FIDH recalls that an international arrest warrant on Charles Taylor was issued on 4 June by the International Court in Sierra Leone for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in this country.

The FIDH urges:
All of the belligerents:
- to respect international human rights and humanitarian provisions, notably concerning the protection of civilian populations.
- to immediately impose a real ceasefire.
- to provide security for humanitarian workers so that they can assist the population throughout the whole country
- to participate in the ongoing peace talks in the region, under the auspices of the ECOWAS, aiming at setting up a transitional government and, in any case, stressing the urgent need to guarantee a safe return for refugees and internally displaced people.

The UN Security Council
- to adopt a resolution under Chapter VII allowing States or regional organization, in particular the ECOWAS, to send peacekeeping operations, whose mandate includes the protection of civilians and guarantee the protection of human rights.
- to immediately set up an International Mission to investigate the human rights and humanitarian violations committed by all the belligerents during the coup de force and to shed light on the individual criminal responsibilities.
- If relevant, the Security Council should "refer to the Prosecutor of the International criminal court (ICC) all crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court which appeared to have been committed requesting the Prosecutor to investigate the situation for the purpose of determining whether one or more specific persons should be charged with the commission of such crimes", according to Article 14 of the ICC Statute.

The international community
- To provide humanitarian assistance to alleviate the growing suffering of the Liberian people.

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