Help War-Time Sexual Abuse Victims, Sierra Leone Government Told
November 2, 2007
Sierra Leone's government "has failed to effectively address the physical, psychological, and economic" needs of thousands of women and girls who were sexually assaulted during the country's brutal 1991-2001 civil war, Amnesty International said Thursday. A report by the London-based rights group estimates 250,000 females were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict.
"Every effort should be made to start providing reparations to victims of sexual violence within the next few months," said Amnesty, adding that "specific forms of reparations such as a public apology by the government could be implemented much sooner." "Acknowledgement by the government in the form of a public apology that recognizes victims' suffering is an important part of the healing process," it said.
Amnesty's investigations into the matter found that repeated rape and sexual abuse had resulted in STDs including HIV/AIDS, miscarriages, and unwanted pregnancies. Shame has prevented many females from returning to their homes or sharing their stories out of fear of being ostracized.
A 2004 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report urged the government to apologize and acknowledge the suffering brought on by the abuses, but it has "disturbingly" failed to do so, Amnesty said.
"Without justice, recognition of the crimes or effective programs to ensure their rehabilitation, without help to rebuild their lives or steps being taken to ensure that they are protected from future crimes, the suffering of the women and girls continues," the report said.
A special UN-supported tribunal on war crimes in June convicted and jailed three ex-rebel chiefs for rape and assault in addition to other crimes, though Amnesty said this is inadequate, noting "thousands of others have escaped justice."
Agence France Presse