UN troops accused of
'systematic' rape in Sierra Leone
Tim Butcher, Africa Correspondent
Rebels, government troops and United Nations
peacekeepers were all guilty of raping women on a systematic scale
throughout Sierra Leone's brutal civil war, a leading international
human rights group reported yesterday.
The mutilation of civilians was a
trademark feature of the 10-year civil war, but Human Rights
Watch said sexual abuse was much more common in the unstable West
"The war in Sierra Leone became infamous for the
amputation of hands and arms" Peter Takirambudde, the head of Human
Rights Watch's Africa division, said. "Rape may not be visible in
the same way, but it is every bit as devastating."
The 75-page report, We'll Kill You If You Cry, makes
harrowing reading, with accounts of children being forced to rape
grandmothers, fathers made to watch daughters being raped and other
instances of serious sexual assault.
After surveying victims from all areas of Sierra
Leone it concluded that sexual crimes were used to try to destroy
family links, making soldiers less reluctant to take part in
It said most of the crimes were committed by rebels
from the Revolutionary United Front and smaller splinter groups.
But it found evidence of sexual atrocities being
committed by troops from the regional intervention force, Ecomog,
and the UN peacekeeping mission.
Women were used by all sides as chattels, kidnapped
from their homes often in rural areas and forced to act as sex
slaves for the troops as well as domestic maids responsible for
cooking and household chores.
"To date there has been no accountability for the
thousands of crimes of sexual violence or other appalling human
rights abuses committed during the war in Sierra Leone," the report
A UN war crimes tribunal set up to investigate such
allegations has been slow to start work and not many in Sierra Leone
hold out much hope that it will bring more than a few perpetrators
In another damning assessment of the African crisis,
a UN report on the fighting in the north east of the Congo has found
evidence of cannibalism, torture and mutilation, with indigenous
pygmies suffering badly.