Deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians and torture by all parties to the conflict in Liberia continued unabated until the signing of a peace agreement in August. Reports of human rights abuses continued to emerge in the months after the peace agreement. Journalists were beaten by members of the police, the regional peace-keeping force and at least one opposition group. On 19 August 1995 a new peace agreement was signed in Abuja, Nigeria. Since it began in 1989, the civil war had cost an estimated 150,000 lives and uprooted over 700,000 people from their homes. The agreement provided for a cease-fire, disarmament and elections within 12 months. Unlike several previous peace agreements, it brought the leaders of three warring factions into the Council of State, a joint presidency. The chairman of the Council was a civilian, Professor Wilton Sankawolo, and it comprised two other civilian members. The agreement was signed by leaders of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) the national army which has often acted as an armed group independent of government control; the Liberia Peace Council (LPC), an armed group operating with AFL support; the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), whose cross-border attack started the war and which at times has controlled most of Liberia; both factions of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K and two other armed factions. It was also signed by a representative of the Liberian National Conference, a body organized by Liberian citizens to discuss the peace process. A major difference from previous peace agreements was that the AFL's role was limited to its Chief of Staff assuming the role of Minister of Defence. According to the agreement, the AFL would be disarmed, like other armed groups. Also, as its members were predominantly of the Krahn ethnic group, it was to be reformed by the incorporation of members of other ethnic groups. However, public statements made by the Army Chief of Staff after the Abuja agreement implied that the AFL would not be required to disarm and would immediately resume responsibility for national security, although the Council of State proposed that it should be restructured. The agreement was brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), whose 10,000-strong peace-keeping force, ECOMOG, had been stationed in Liberia since 1990. The Abuja agreement provided for a Status of Forces Agreement between the government of Liberia and ECOWAS to determine the status of ECOMOG, something which had been lacking in previous agreements. Representatives of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the UN attended the signing of the agreement. The UN Observer Mission in Liberia, unomil, sent to Liberia in 1993 to monitor an earlier peace agreement, had threatened to withdraw completely by September if no progress had been made towards peace. However, as a result of the August peace agreement, unomil's presence in Liberia was expanded to 94 personnel and extended until beyond the end of the year. The UN Secretary-General indicated his intention to broaden unomil's scope and he reported in October that a human rights officer had been appointed with responsibility for investigating and reporting on human rights violations. The peace agreement, like previous ones, did not contain specific human rights safeguards, and provided for an amnesty which could include those responsible for human rights abuses. In the months leading up to the peace agreement, control of Liberia continued to be hotly contested. The Transitional Government exercised authority only in areas controlled by ECOMOG forces, which held the capital, Monrovia, and the coastal strip to Buchanan, some 55 miles east of Monrovia. This represented less than 15 per cent of Liberia's territory. In early August two armed factions, the NPFL and the LPC, agreed to allow ECOMOG to extend its presence into Bong County in central Liberia and Rivercess and Sinoe Counties in the southeast, which meant that normal commercial activities and relief supplies could be resumed. The rest of the country was controlled by various armed factions, with some areas being taken and retaken by rival groups. There were peace negotiations in April between the two ULIMO factions ULIMO-J, headed by General Roosevelt Johnson and dominated by members of the Krahn ethnic group, and ULIMO-K, headed by Alhaji G. V. Kromah and dominated by members of the Mandingo ethnic group. However, fighting broke out again between the two factions in May in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties. There was also fighting between the NPFL and ULIMO-K in Lofa County, between the NPFL and ULIMO-J in Bong and Margibi Counties, and between the NPFL and LPC in Grand Bassa and Maryland Counties. After the peace agreement, fighting resumed between the ULIMO factions, between ULIMO-K and the NPFL, and between the NPFL and the LPC. In June the conflict between the LPC and NPFL spread to Côte d'Ivoire. Dozens of people were killed, including Ivorians, and between 16,000 and 35,000 refugees fled into Côte d'Ivoire to escape from the fighting. In July Charles Julue, a senior commander under former President Doe, and six other officers were each sentenced to seven years' imprisonment after being found guilty of treason by a court-martial. They had led a coup attempt in Monrovia in September 1994 which was thwarted by ECOMOG (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Four other military officers were acquitted by the court-martial for lack of evidence, but they continued to be held at the end of the year. Human rights abuses continued on an extensive scale until the peace agreement. Fighters from all the warring factions tortured and deliberately killed unarmed civilians suspected of opposing them, often solely because of their ethnic origin, as they seized control of territory or raided another group's territory. There were frequent skirmishes between the two ULIMO factions and between the NPFL and LPC which resulted in human rights abuses, most notably deliberate and arbitrary killings, and torture including rape. These incidents led civilians to leave the areas of fighting for fear that they might become victims of such abuses. It was often impossible to confirm reports of abuses, and generally not possible to determine who was responsible. For example, UN Children's Fund (unicef) representatives reported a massacre on 9 April in Yosi, a village near Buchanan. They stated that at least 62 people, including women and children, had been rounded up and killed most had been hacked to death. The UNICEF workers could not determine who was responsible for the massacre; the area had been controlled by the NPFL but was contested by the LPC. Although UNOMIL observers visited Buchanan on 13 April, they were unable to add any more information. No investigation was known to have followed these reports. In June UNICEF workers in Buchanan reported that they had registered 652 cases of women who had been raped, mostly by members of the warring factions, within less than six months. LPC fighters, who since 1993 had operated with the support of the AFL, systematically swept through rural areas in southeastern Liberia in early 1995, robbing, torturing and intimidating people, and forcing them to take refuge in Buchanan or other places under ECOMOG control. Many of those fleeing to Buchanan in February were reported to have been bayoneted, shot or flogged by LPC fighters. At the time, large numbers of people, perhaps as many as 6,000, were reportedly being held by the LPC in the compounds of an agricultural company, where many were raped. In April ULIMO-K fighters were accused of committing abuses as they attacked and set ablaze three coastal towns Fassama, Zuana 1 and Zuana 2 in Grand Cape Mount County. Some inhabitants were held hostage and about 15 were killed; others who escaped spoke of rape, abductions and widespread looting. In May UNOMIL said it would investigate the massacre of civilians in the area and asked for representatives of ULIMO-J, ULIMO-K, and the AFL to assist in on-the-spot investigations. There was no further news of the scope or outcome of these investigations. In June clashes between ULIMO factions in Royesville left many civilians dead; survivors were raped and terrorized. After the peace agreement, it was reported that NPFL fighters had been responsible for the massacre of at least 75 civilians in the Tappeta area, Nimba County. Although he discounted the figure of those killed, Charles Taylor, leader of the NPFL, stated that some NPFL members had been arrested and would face court-martial for these acts. In November at least four LPC commanders were executed by firing-squad on the orders of a specially constituted court. According to reports, the executions followed a two-week investigation into human rights abuses. In December fighting broke out in Tubmanburg between ULIMO-J and ECOMOG forces when ULIMO-J alleged that ECOMOG had been supporting their rivals, ULIMO-K. UNOMIL observers commenting on the human rights situation confirmed that ULIMO-J had forced civilians out of the hospital where they had sought refuge from the fighting and had used them as "human shields" to protect their positions. Throughout the year journalists were ill-treated by government forces, ECOMOG and at least one opposition group. In April Benjamin Wilson, a journalist with The Eye, was beaten by police when he refused to give them photographs he had taken of damage at a refugee compound in Monrovia. In July Bill Jarkloh, a journalist with The News, was beaten unconscious by ULIMO-J fighters. He had been interviewing Roosevelt Johnson when fighters stormed the building and he tried to photograph the incident. Three of those involved in the attack were arrested by ECOMOG and then handed over to ULIMO-J high command. In September James Momoh, a journalist with The Inquirer, was beaten by ECOMOG soldiers when trying to photograph AFL soldiers at a check-point. An ECOMOG official stated that there would be an investigation, but no results had been reported by the end of the year. In September Amnesty International published Liberia: A new peace agreement an opportunity to introduce human rights protection. The report documented human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict as well as the failures of peace-keepers in Liberia to investigate or prevent the torture and deliberate and arbitrary killing of civilians. The report's recommendations, addressed to the government, the warring factions, ECOWAS, the UN and the international community, called for effective guarantees for human rights to be built into the peace process. In November Amnesty International called on authorities involved in investigating human rights abuses and other crimes not to demand the death penalty, to ensure that investigations were carried out by independent and impartial bodies and to ensure that suspects were given fair trials, in accordance with international standards.
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