- The UN has launched an investigation into the extent of sexual violence during the 14-year civil war in Liberia. Rape and sexual slavery is believed to have been one of the most common war crimes during the conflict and this extensive sexual violence will be probably be treated by the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The UN today reports that human rights monitors already have started travelling around Liberia documenting crimes of sexual violence during the country's civil war in a project backed by the UN's development agency, UNDP. The preliminary findings are giving a painful picture of the extent of sexual violence during the war.
- Some 40 percent of the 600 people interviewed so far said they suffered some form of sexual abuse during the war that ended in August last year, according to UNDP.
But the investigation is just in its beginnings. Over three months, 22 monitors are to interview some 4,000 Liberians and give the results from those interviews to the country's soon-to-be established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the UN agency announced on Tuesday.
So far, the monitors have already disclosed what seems to be a systematic sexual terror against the civilian population by the many armed forces. The atrocities documented by now include "rape, gang rape, the rape of children, the insertion of foreign objects into genital areas and being stripped and put on public display," the UN reports. Victims were being referred to trauma counsellors, psychologists and health workers after their interviews.
UNDP officer Awa Dabo said the goal of the project is to advocate for the country's many victims of sexual violence. "We have young girls who have been infected with AIDS, she said. "We have women who became pregnant and have been ostracised by their families and their communities. We are finding that men were also victims of sexual violence," Ms Dabo added.
The monitoring project is being implemented by the National Human Rights Centre of Liberia. It is financed by the UNDP and World Vision, a non-governmental organisation. "The international community is providing funds to assist the ex-combatants. They will get money, medical treatment, skills training and food for their reintegration into society," said Ms Dabo.
- The question remains, what specialized assistance is needed for their victims? she asks. Ms Dabo adds that her project's monitors were only gathering data on abuses that occurred between December 1989 and August 2003, when the peace agreement was signed.
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