The international community must react to avoid chaos in Liberia

12/06/2003
Urgent Appeal

The FIDH is highly preoccupied by the present humanitarian crisis in Liberia, as a consequence of the escalating fighting between the LURD rebels -Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy - and the Taylor’s government forces. The international community must react immediately to avoid a situation of real chaos in the country, and by enlargement in the sub region.

Though peace talks were taking place in Ghana, the fights between the belligerents revived since June 5, 2003. LURD, battling to oust President Charles Taylor, which occupies much of northern Liberia, has been fighting its way into the western outskirts of Monrovia for the past week, and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), the other rebel movement, occupies the southeast of the country. In response to this offensive, Taylor’s forces brought in heavy artillery on Monday to try to dislodge the LURD fighters from Monrovia suburb. Agreeing sources report hundreds of dead bodies along the battlefield.

At the same time an international warrant of arrest on Charles Taylor was issued on June 4 by the International Court for war crimes in Sierra Leone. The president of Liberia is accused of "bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law within the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996". The FIDH welcomed this decision to indict acting Liberian Head of State for crimes against humanity and war crimes (http://www.fidh.org/communiq/2003/sl0406f.htm).

Indeed, "escalating clashes between rebels and government forces in Liberia have severely impacted the already-desperate people living in and around Monrovia", has declared the UN Secretary general. The rebel onslaught on the capital, Monrovia, has sending more than 100,000 displaced people fleeing for safety to the city center. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) fears "a dire humanitarian situation": thousands of displaced people have sought refuge in schools and the national sports stadium; no electricity or piped water in the city; food shortage.
The FIDH recalls its unfailing attachment to the democratic principles and steadily condemns the methods of accession to power, which are performed out of any constitutional legality. Moreover, the FIDH recalls that the civil population shall in any way suffer from the fights between all the belligerents and asserts that any individual who commit serious crimes against civilians will be held nationally and internationally responsible and judged. Pursued that political negotiation and justice are the only way to find peace agreement for Liberia and secure better humanitarian situation for the civilian population, the FIDH urges:

All the belligerents:
to respect international human rights and humanitarian provisions, notably concerning the protection of the civil population.
to impose a real ceasefire in order to avoid a bloody showdown for the capital Monrovia.
to provide security for humanitarian workers in order them to assist the population in all the country to participate to the ongoing peace talks in Ghana with aim to set up a transitional government and, in any case, to stress on the urgent need to guarantee a safe return for refugees and internally displaced people and the need to fight against impunity.

The UN Security Council to immediately set up an International Mission to investigate on 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. To perform its duty, the Mission should have the mandate to protect all witnesses. A report on this Mission should be provided to the Security Council.
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 use all political and diplomatic pressure to force Charles Taylor to surrender to the International Court for war crimes in Sierra Leone to provide humanitarian assistance to alleviate the growing suffering of the Liberian people.

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