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Liberia: Rape, AIDS, sexual abuse legacy of war

Forty per cent of Liberian civilians in a U.N. survey said they had been sexually abused during 14 years of civil war, the United Nations Development Programme said.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2004 13:59 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

Forty per cent of Liberian civilians in a U.N. survey said they had been sexually abused during 14 years of civil war, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said on Wednesday.

The 600 people interviewed by the UNDP unveiled a catalogue of abuses and resulting physical and emotional scars in an initial survey done as part of preparations for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the war-torn West African nation.

"The abuses range from rape, including gang rape, rape of children and the insertion of foreign objects to being stripped and put on public display," the UNDP said.

More than 200,000 people were killed during the fighting in Liberia between December 1989 and August 2003, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

"We have young girls who have been infected with AIDS. We have women who became pregnant and have been ostracised by their families," said UNDP Human Rights Officer Awa Dabo.

Liberian fighters on all sides are typically ill-disciplined drugged-up gangs of youths with a reputation for looting, rape and murder. Civilians tend to flee and hide at the first distant crackle of gunfire as they know they will be targeted.

"We are finding that men were also victims of sexual violence. And the psychological and social scars for them are just as serious," Dabo said.

The UNDP said it planned to interview thousands more Liberians ahead of the soon-to-be constituted Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"Initial findings among the 600 people interviewed... indicate that some 40 percent of the civilian population has fallen victim to some form of sexual abuse," the UNDP said.

Some 11,000 U.N. peacekeepers have arrived in Liberia since former president Charles Taylor flew into exile last August a peace deal was struck between the government and two rebel groups.

A Liberian human rights group last week accused forces loyal to Taylor of killing hundreds of civilians, including women, children and elderly people in a 2002 massacre.

Liberia's Human Rights Commission has also said it was clear both Taylor's supporters and the rebels fighting to oust him committed atrocities during the long-running conflict.

First Published: Mar 08, 2004 13:59 IST