News that U. The four West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Cote d'Ivoire—home to an estimated combined population of nearly 35 million people in an area slightly larger than Texas—have much in common, including their borders, their wars, their political intrigues, and their massively uprooted populations.
The current emergency in Liberia is the latest stop in what one international relief group grimly described as a "merry-go-round of violence" in West Africa for 14 years running. Liberia's descent into civil war in late spilled into Sierra Leone in , triggering a brutal year armed insurgency there that remained closely linked to Liberia's conflict. Combatants from Sierra Leone and Liberia inevitably attacked border communities in neighboring Guinea in , pushing the violence into that otherwise peaceful country.
Civil war finally engulfed Cote d'Ivoire in late after a decade of rising political and social tensions there. Now the region's bloodshed has returned to Liberia, from whence it began. The violence is interwoven," an analyst for an international humanitarian organization explained. The recognized borders don't mean anything to many of the hardcore combatants.
When a country finally achieves a peace treaty, the guys who make a living through the barrel of their guns seep across the border to the next country. The effect on civilians has been devastating. Fresh violence in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire has forced an estimated one million West Africans to flee in search of safety during the past 12 months alone. Fourteen years of warfare and pervasive human rights abuses against civilian populations throughout the region have cost up to a quarter-million lives and left at least 1.
Sierra Leone TRC - Volume Three B, Chapter Two
Some relief officials assert that the number of people currently uprooted might be as high as 1. The long regional nightmare has left four of the world's most impoverished and least developed countries even more destitute. Despite the grim picture, some recent developments have sparked hope of a turnaround in West Africa and have placed pressure on the Bush Administration to do its part to nurture stability by placing American troops in Liberia. The British government inserted its military forces into Sierra Leone in , ending that country's civil war.
France sent soldiers to Cote d'Ivoire during the past year to produce a fragile political settlement. And Guinea, though struggling, has thus far avoided the violent government overthrow that many international observers had predicted for it in recent years. In the wake of U. President George W.
Deploying American troops to end the civil war in Liberia "will redound to America's credit throughout Africa," Princeton Lyman, former U. And it will solidify allied cooperation and burden-sharing in Africa…". Following is a review of the overlapping political and humanitarian situations in Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Sierra Leone as the region and its traumatized people attempt to crawl back to some semblance of peace and security. Much of West Africa's violence reaches back to the eruption of civil war in Liberia in late The region had no major refugee problems until that time.
Liberians believed that their country—partially founded by freed American slaves—enjoyed a "special relationship" with the United States that would protect Liberia from the bloodshed prevalent elsewhere on the continent. As the Liberian war quickly spiraled out of control in the early s with ethnic massacres perpetrated by as many as 11 armed groups formed largely along ethnic lines, more than half of the country's three million people fled their homes.
The main rebel force, led by Charles Taylor, controlled much of the countryside but failed to seize the capital, Monrovia. West African peacekeeping troops—primarily from Nigeria—protected the capital and became active belligerents in the war. As the military situation reached a stalemate in the mids, all sides grudgingly agreed to a cease-fire and national elections. Voters elected Taylor as president in after he threatened to resume the war if defeated at the polling booth. By , nearly 90 percent of all Liberian refugees and displaced persons had returned home despite growing dismay at government corruption and human rights abuses.
The international community condemned Taylor's government for its continued participation in Sierra Leone's civil war and its smuggling of Sierra Leonean diamonds. A new rebel group known as Liberians United for Reconstruction and Development LURD , dominated by ethnic Mandingos and using Guinea as a base, launched attacks in remote northern Liberia in , provoking brutal countermeasures by Liberian government troops.
According to the source consulted, all these activities are supervised by executives of the company. Original in French, unofficial translation. A regional peace operation with variable geometry [ Violations of International Humanitarian Law A.
Deliberate and arbitrary killings Large numbers of civilians were killed by rebel forces from May, particularly in areas around Port Loko, Lunsar, Makeni and Magburaka. Torture, including mutilations and rape Many civilians had limbs deliberately amputated; others had the letters RUF carved into their flesh. Child combatants The resumption of hostilities in May halted demobilization of child combatants, leaving several thousand still to be released by rebel forces, and resulted in further recruitment. Towards repression and reconciliation A. Article 1: Competence of the Special Court The Special Court shall have the power to prosecute persons most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November Article 2: Crimes against humanity The Special Court shall have the power to prosecute persons who committed the following crimes as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population: Murder; Extermination; Enslavement; Deportation; Imprisonment; Torture; Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy and any other form of sexual violence; Persecution on political, racial, ethnic or religious grounds; Other inhumane acts.
Article 3: Violations of article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II The Special Court shall have the power to prosecute persons who committed or ordered the commission of serious violations of article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August for the Protection of War Victims, and of Additional Protocol II thereto of 8 June These violations shall include: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment; Collective punishments; Taking of hostages; Acts of terrorism; Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault; Pillage; The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples; Threats to commit any of the foregoing acts.
Article 4: Other serious violations of international humanitarian law The Special Court shall have the power to prosecute persons who committed the following serious violations of international humanitarian law: Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; Intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under the international law of armed conflict; Abduction and forced recruitment of children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups for the purpose of using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Article 5: Crimes under Sierra Leonean law [ The official position of any accused persons, whether as Head of State or Government or as a responsible government official, shall not relieve such person of criminal responsibility nor mitigate punishment. The fact that any of the acts referred to in articles 2 to 4 of the present Statute was committed by a subordinate does not relieve his or her superior of criminal responsibility if he or she knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such acts or had done so and the superior had failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof.
The fact that an accused person acted pursuant to an order of a Government or of a superior shall not relieve him or her of criminal responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Special Court determines that justice so requires. Article 8: Concurrent jurisdiction The Special Court and the national courts of Sierra Leone shall have concurrent jurisdiction.
The Special Court shall have primacy over the national courts of Sierra Leone. At any stage of the procedure, the Special Court may formally request a national court to defer to its competence in accordance with the present Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.
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Article 9: Non bis in idem No person shall be tried before a national court of Sierra Leone for acts for which he or she has already been tried by the Special Court. A person who has been tried by a national court for the acts referred to in articles 2 and 4 of the present Statute may be subsequently tried by the Special Court if: The act for which he or she was tried was characterized as an ordinary crime; or The national court proceedings were not impartial or independent, were designed to shield the accused from international criminal responsibility or the case was not diligently prosecuted.
In considering the penalty to be imposed on a person convicted of a crime under the present Statute, the Special Court shall take into account the extent to which any penalty imposed by a national court on the same person for the same act has already been served. Article Amnesty An amnesty granted to any person falling within the jurisdiction of the Special Court in respect of the crimes referred to in articles 2 to 4 of the present Statute shall not be a bar to prosecution.
A sensitization campaign in the Northern Province was launched at Makeni on 2 August Nevertheless, they express concern over the independence of the Commission and the relationship between it and the Special Court. On 1 August , the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed a letter to potential donors with a preliminary budget and information on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In the meantime, the selection process of international commissioners has made progress. The High Commissioner will soon forward her recommendations to the selection panel.
Regarding the national commissioners, the Advisory Committee to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General met recently and submitted a shortlist of nominees for his consideration. When sufficient contributions have been received to permit the operation of the Trust Fund, the Secretariat will dispatch a planning mission to Sierra Leone to discuss with the Government the practical arrangements for the establishment of the Special Court.
The Government, for its part, has continued to express its full support for the Court. However, on 20 August the Government sent a letter to the Legal Counsel of the United Nations in which it requested that the temporal jurisdiction of the Court be extended to cover the period since March , when the conflict started. The draft statute and the draft agreement had provided that the temporal jurisdiction would begin on 30 November This reservation is recalled by the Security Council in a preambular paragraph of resolution Discussion 1. Should the conflict be divided into different parts depending on the nature of the armed groups?
Even at the risk of having different qualifications depending on the actors?
What would be the consequences, under IHL, of qualifying the same conflict as international in some respects and non-international in other respects? Is it possible and desirable for people to benefit from a specific status if they are in the hands of one party to the conflict but not if they are in the hands of a different party?
In each of the situations enumerated in question 1, what would be the status of possible detainees? Is hostage-taking a violation of IHL? If the members of two different groups are held for example by the RUF, can they have different statuses? What if the fighting takes place in part or entirely outside Liberian territory in Guinea, for example? How would you qualify fighting involving the governmental forces of Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea outside their territory: - if their attacks are aimed at rebel forces of the country were the fighting takes place, for example between the Guinean government and the RUF on the territory of Sierra Leone?
What is the position of mercenaries in IHL? In the IHL of non-international armed conflicts? Is the use of mercenaries authorized or not under international law for a State, the United Nations, rebel forces? What would be their status if they were captured? Are they bound by the rules of IHL? Are the staff of private security agencies hired, for example, to protect mining operations, mercenaries? If they use armed force to fulfil their mission? In terms of criminal and international responsibility, who can be held responsible for acts committed by mercenaries: the State and members of the government that used the mercenaries, such as Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom, the leaders of companies employing mercenaries, the mining companies who used the mercenaries?
How could this affect IHL qualification of the conflict, applicable law, State responsibility, etc. What would be the consequences of doing so? In case of capture?
The New Humanitarianism: Britain and Sierra Leone, 1997-2003
Could the SAS members be qualified as spies? What rules of IHL are applicable to spies? Are they applicable if the conflict is qualified as non-international? GC IV, Art. Are they also criminalized?
Can we talk about crimes against humanity? About genocide? Are the facts described criminalized in the same way in the law of international armed conflicts and that of non-international armed conflicts? Is this distinction of importance for the qualification of crimes against humanity and genocide? What measures should be taken before launching an attack? Is dropping pamphlets sufficient? Can the rebels be held partially accountable?
What is the age limit for recruitment into the armed forces? Are there any specific provisions in IHL that protect all children? Is there a ban on killing a child even if it is carrying weapons? And if the child is part of an armed group and openly carrying weapons? P I, Art. Does Red Cross personnel benefit from additional protection in comparison to other humanitarian workers?
This will involve some form of UN-endorsed commitment to an international effort that may need to last five years or more, in order to help Sierra Leone re-establish good governance and reconstruct its shattered society. Without such a political effort, even military victory over the RUF would be pointless since the resulting power-vacuum would soon be filled by more violence from government and pro-government forces, new rebels and predatory neighbours.
The specific recommendations that follow will be difficult to implement. If the international community does not make a substantial commitment to help Sierra Leone resolve both its military and political problems now, however, it is all too easy to foresee the contagion of violence spreading out of control in West Africa much as has happened in Central Africa. The landmark guilty verdict today against former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor is a warning to those most responsible for atrocity crimes that they can be held accountable. The verdict is a fresh lesson to all those in power that they do not enjoy impunity and a sign of hope in Sierra Leone that those most responsible for the heinous crimes of the eleven-year civil war are being brought to book.
Nevertheless, Liberians are still waiting for Taylor and others to be tried for atrocities committed in the civil war in their country. The verdict has been a long time coming. Taylor was indicted in March on multiple counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law. He was accused of helping to plan, order and encourage acts including murder, terrorising civilians, mutilation, rape, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers.
The charges stemmed from his support for Sierra Leone rebel groups as commander of the National Patriotic Front for Liberia from and after becoming president in He was granted exile in Nigeria but extradited in March to Freetown, at the request of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and after he violated the terms of his exile by meddling in Liberian politics. This verdict ends the work of the court, which also convicted eight other individuals.
Its mandate was to prosecute only those most responsible for the crimes within its jurisdiction.