18 December 1998


Press Release
SC/6613



SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS IN OPEN SESSION TO CONSIDER SITUATION IN SIERRA LEONE

19981218
Peacekeeping Under-Secretary-General Introduces Secretary-General's Report; Chairman of Sanctions Committee Briefs Council on December Assessment Mission

The Chairman of the Security Council Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone, Hans Dahlgren (Sweden), told the Council this morning that sanctions were not being effectively implemented and the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone continued to deteriorate.

Briefing the Council in an open meeting on his four-day assessment mission to Sierra Leone and Liberia, Mr. Dahlgren said it was hard to find words strong enough to describe the atrocities committed by rebel forces. They had cut off body parts of victims with large knives and burned alive men, women and children. Referring to treason trials conducted by the Government against supporters of the illegal coup of May 1997, Mr. Dahlgren said he had pleaded with the authorities not to make further use of the death penalty, both for reasons of principle and to further national reconciliation.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, introduced a 16 December report of the Secretary-General that recommends the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) for six months, when its current mandate expires on 13 January 1999. He said that since the drafting of the report, elements of the former junta had advanced southwards from the north-west of the country, attacking villages, killing and mutilating civilians and looting and destroying property. Thousands of people had been displaced and had fled to Freetown, the capital, for safety.

A number of delegates expressed satisfaction with Mr. Dahlgren's report and said that chairmen of the sanctions committees should play a more active role in monitoring the implementation of sanctions. The representative of Portugal said the Council should adopt some guidelines regarding the role of the chairpersons of the sanctions committees.

The representative of the Gambia said there should be greater resources provided for peace-building efforts in Sierra Leone. Without such resources, the Government's programme of reconciliation could not be achieved. Echoing


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that statement, the representative of the United Kingdom said the international community should give greater support to the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) and donor countries should come forward to help peace-building activities. He added that it was time to draw conclusions from the situation in Sierra Leone and ensure that post-conflict situations did not dissolve into conflict situations. The question of how best to contribute to post-conflict peace-building should be examined.

Regarding a proposal to conduct a joint patrol of the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia, the representatives of the United States and Japan said there were still questions, such as what steps would have to be taken to facilitate such activity and who would participate. The representative of Japan added that there was nothing in UNOMSIL's mandate about participating in a joint border patrol and the present strength of the mission would not support such activity.

Despite the difficulties faced in Sierra Leone, the representative of France said the Secretariat report had indicated that there was an encouraging evolution, making it possible to envisage a rapprochement between the three countries -- Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The prerequisite for dialogue would be a cessation of hostilities by the rebels and a solution would require support for regional initiatives.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Kenya, Costa Rica, Brazil, Slovenia, Gabon, China and the Russian Federation.

The meeting, which began at 9:55 a.m., was adjourned at 11:25 a.m.


Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Sierra Leone. It had before it the third progress report of the Secretary- General (document S/1998/1176), in which he recommends extending the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) for a further six months, until 13 July, and elaborates his plans for a modest expansion of the Mission's civilian staff, aimed at addressing the growing demands on the ground and assisting in efforts to normalize the situation.

The Secretary-General states that it is premature at this stage to proceed with further deployments of military observers, as authorized by Security Council resolution 1181 (1998), owing to the uncertain security situation in parts of the country and the delays to which the Government's disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme have been subjected. Yet, in view of the prospect that rebel fighters might begin surrendering as a result of the military operations directed against them in the east and the north, and the Government's willingness to accept their surrender under certain conditions, UNOMSIL will stand ready to deploy the additional observers rapidly, as and when they may be required.

The report further states that the enormity of the human rights abuses the rebels have perpetrated on the people of Sierra Leone and the large scope of human rights tasks to be performed have emphasized the need for a strong human rights component. The deployment of five additional human rights officers in the provinces, in addition to the five now operating in the country, would do much to assist the Government to maintain and improve its commitment to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Member States are urged to consider contributing bilaterally to UNOMSIL's human rights activities in Sierra Leone.

Bearing in mind that UNOMSIL could also help the Government develop more fully a dialogue with the rebels in keeping with a dual-track approach -- military and diplomatic -- the Secretary-General intends to deploy three additional public information officers to develop radio programmes and other information activities aimed at persuading rebels in the countryside to surrender and pursue the goal of national reconciliation. The additional public information staff could also help explain the role of the Mission and the international community. An additional political officer in the Office of the Special Representative would assist in coordinating these activities.

The Secretary-General states that, despite the progress made by the Government in consolidating its authority, he is disturbed at the continuing attacks inflicted by the rebels on civilians in the north and the atrocities and abductions that accompany such attacks. He condemns these serious violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law and again calls on the Revolutionary United Front and the Armed Forces


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Revolutionary Council to desist from attacks against their unarmed compatriots, and to lay down their arms and surrender.

He welcomes the elaboration of the dual-track approach to the resolution of the conflict following the 31 October summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the London meeting of the International Contact Group of 5 November. The United Nations Mission will work with the Government to pursue this approach. The Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG), the Civil Defence Force and the reinducted Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces personnel have done much to defend the Government and people of Sierra Leone against rebel attacks, and should continue to do so. At the same time, the Government should encourage the rebels to lay down their arms and surrender, in order to avoid more bloodshed.

The report notes that Sierra Leoneans are willing to reconcile themselves with the rebels, on condition that the rebels accept the authority of the Government, lay down their arms and surrender. The Mission will continue to facilitate such surrenders, provided this can be done under acceptable security conditions. Particularly encouraging was the outcome of the Extraordinary Summit Meeting of the Mano River Union on 12 November, at which Presidents Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, Charles Taylor of Liberia and Lansana Conte of Guinea agreed to continue to strengthen the Union and improve their mutual relations. The Secretary-General emphasizes the importance of this subregional approach, and expresses his readiness to assist in developing and implementing viable strategy in this regard.

The onset of the dry season, the report states, has opened the way for more effective action by ECOMOG, the Civil Defence Force and the reinducted military forces of Sierra Leone. In order to maintain the pressure they have exerted to split the rebel forces, the military forces assisting the Government need to continue to receive adequate logistical support. The Secretary-General expresses his appreciation to those governments which have already contributed to the relevant United Nations trust fund and he encourages others to make similar contributions, or to consider providing the necessary assistance bilaterally to ECOMOG or to individual ECOWAS countries.

The restoration of stability in the country will be a long and arduous process, and will continue to require military support, as well as other forms of assistance, the report states. In particular, the Government needs assistance in its efforts to establish a new professional armed force under civilian control, as well as an effective and well-motivated police force. The commitment of Sierra Leoneans to achieving peace through dialogue and national reconciliation will also be essential. The United Nations, through UNOMSIL -- which has proved its value to the Government and people of Sierra Leone as they pursue their recovery -- is ready to play its part in that process, the report states.


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Statements

BERNARD MIYET, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, introduced the Secretary-General's report. He said that since drafting of the report was completed, new events had occurred. Elements of the former junta had advanced southwards from the north-west of the country, attacking villages, killing and mutilating civilians and looting and destroying property. Thousands of people had been displaced and had fled to the capital, Freetown, for safety. However, ECOMOG had now stated that the rebels had been repulsed and that the roads leading to the capital were clear. Tension had also risen in other parts of the country owing to rebel activity, especially in the north-east and the east.

He said part of the mandate of UNOMSIL was to assist the Government in carrying out its programme to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate into society all Sierra Leonean fighters, including members of the former Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces who had surrendered to ECOMOG. In view of the uncertain security situation, most of those former soldiers had now been reinducted to fight alongside ECOMOG and the Civil Defence Force against the rebels. Since the security situation had not improved and there had been no progress in the disarming, demobilization and reintegration programme, only 40, out of the projected 70, military observers and a medical unit of 15 persons had been deployed. The observers, based in Freetown, Hastings, Lungi, Bo, Kenema and Makeni, had been co-deployed with ECOMOG brigades.

Referring to treason trials conducted by the Government against civilian and military supporters of the junta, he said he had appealed to Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to give every consideration, once the appeals process had been exhausted, to extending mercy to those who had been condemned to death. A total of 96 persons had now been tried in five separate courts in Freetown, of whom 77 had been sentenced to death. On 19 October, 24 military officers, condemned to death by a court martial, were executed by firing squad. All the civilian convicts were now appealing the verdict or sentence, including the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, Corporal Foday Sankoh, who was found guilty of treason on 23 October.

On the humanitarian situation, he said the efforts of the humanitarian community to maintain access to needy populations, especially in the north and east, had been disrupted further in the last few days by a spate of rebel attacks near Freetown. Travel outside the capital for United Nations and humanitarian personnel was now conducted only by air and on destinations where ECOMOG was present and confirmed safety upon arrival.

The 1999 consolidated inter-agency appeal for Sierra Leone for $28 million was launched yesterday, 17 December, in Geneva, he said. A total of 29 projects, ranging from immediate life-saving needs to longer-term ones, were planned.


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The Chairman of the Security Council Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee, HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden), reporting to the Council on his visit to Sierra Leone and Liberia, recalled that the purpose of the visit was not only to get information, but to make clear that those who imposed sanctions were also engaged in making sure they are enforced. His primary assignment was to study the implementation of the sanctions against the rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Those included an arms embargo on the non-governmental forces, as well as a travel ban for the members of the military junta.

Absolute facts were hard to come by, particularly regarding violations of sanctions, he said. However, one thing was indisputable -- the situation in Sierra Leone was tense. The country was still plagued by civil war and the rebels had proven a very tough target. Defeated in one part of the country, they have been able to remobilize and increase terror in others. The ECOMOG was doing a good job at promoting stability and extending the safety to the people of Sierra Leone, but logistical restraints remained and they had requested stronger international support.

It was hard to find words strong enough to describe the atrocities committed by the rebels, he said. The rebels simply cut off parts of the bodies of their victims with large knives. They burned alive men, women and children. More than 4,000 people had been summarily executed or mutilated since April. The humanitarian situation was also serious. Since parts of the country remained out of the reach of humanitarian organizations, the full scope of the situation was not known. During his visit, he had shared his view of the importance of showing respect for humanitarian law.

Of particular concern was the burden carried by the children of Sierra Leone, he added. Many had been abducted long ago into the ranks of the Revolutionary United Front and now, at the age of eight or ten, were some of the most fierce fighters in the war. A big challenge would be to integrate the surviving children into a society where identity is based on respect and common norms, not a rifle. Special attention should be given to the children in the international support for the reconstruction of Sierra Leone. He also pleaded with the Government of Sierra Leone to make a serious effort at national reconciliation.

He said attempts to reach out towards a peaceful solution being made by the Government should be encouraged. No effort should be spared to get the rebels to lay down their arms.

Regarding the carrying out of executions of those convicted of war crimes, he said that, in his capacity as Sweden's Ambassador to the United Nations, he pleaded with authorities not to make further use of the death penalty. They were ready to attempt to heed such plea.

Turning to sanctions, he said it was obvious that they were not fully implemented. Some of the resupplies seemed to come from looting and attacks


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within the country, but also from outside. The land borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia were difficult to monitor. There was a perception that support was coming from Liberia, but there was no tangible evidence. The President of Sierra Leone had indicated that the Liberian proposal for joint border control was a good starting point. It could be useful if the United Nations and the international community were to consider supporting such an operation. Every State must ensure respect for sanctions. There was no excuse for those who made a good living from the arms trade.

The President of the Council, JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain), said the situation in Sierra Leone, especially the problems faced by children, indicated the dire need to set up a programme for humanitarian assistance and to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said there were still difficulties that affected the humanitarian situation of the population of Sierra Leone, including violations of human rights, death sentences and summary executions. Yet, the report of the Secretariat indicated that there was an encouraging evolution, making it possible to envisage a rapprochement between the three countries -- Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The three Presidents had participated in the French-African Summit in Paris three weekends ago.

The prerequisite for dialogue would be a cessation of hostilities by the rebels, he continued. A solution would require support for regional initiatives. France was giving bilateral support to Guinea's participation in ECOMOG. The international community must continue to support the effectiveness of the embargo and address whether or not it should be strengthened.

NJUGUNA MAHUGU (Kenya) said he visited Angola in his capacity as Chairman of the sanctions committee for that country and he believed that it was an important exercise for chairmen of the various sanctions committees to visit the areas concerned. The dual-track approach to resolving the conflict in Sierra Leone required the concerted efforts of ECOMOG. Also, Sierra Leone's relationship with its neighbours needed to be nourished and better relations established to deal with various problems. Such improved regional relations had been successful in resolving other conflicts in Africa.

It was because of ECOMOG that constitutional elections were held in Sierra Leone and the Security Council must encourage ECOMOG to continue its work, he added. His delegation supported the extension of the mandate. The United Nations had done a very good job in its work in Sierra Leone.

BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said his country considered the situation in Sierra Leone very complex and concrete steps should be taken by the Government there to improve the national situation. Demilitarizing society was a very good idea and Sierra Leone should move along on that path.


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YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said Ambassador Dahlgren's briefing had given the Council basic valuable information for discussion. He expressed concern about the continuing rebel attacks and the plight of the people, children in particular. The Secretary-General's report, however, offered some encouragement.

The effectiveness of the sanctions regime might be helped by a joint border control between Sierra Leone and Liberia, he said. It would also encourage the concept of a subregional approach. He would like more information about such a patrol. For example, would it be carried out by the two countries with common borders, by ECOMOG or with ECOMOG participation? What would be the role of military observers along the border and how viable would such a role be? There was nothing in UNOMSIL'S mandate about participating in a joint border patrol and the present strength of the mission would not support such activity.

CELSO L.N. AMORIM (Brazil) said he appreciated the open forum in which the briefing was held and he hoped it would become a frequent Council practice. However, the picture of all the human rights violations and atrocities was discouraging. He agreed that the death penalty was not the best way to promote reconciliation.

He said the open forum discussion of sanctions as an instrument of the Council was important. Normally, there was a concern that such a discussion would serve as an attack on a sanctions regime. Sanctions were often an instrument of peace and sometimes the only way to maintain peace in a country.

A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said he agreed with other speakers that the situation on the ground in Sierra Leone was very discouraging. Reverend Jesse Jackson, the Presidential Special Envoy for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights in Africa, would continue to be involved in the situation. There were two specific questions on United Nations activities. On the proposal to have joint monitoring of the border between Liberia and Sierra Leone, what steps could be taken to help that process by the Council or by the Secretariat? Also, what was the assessment of force protection of United Nations personnel there and was there a need for redeployment of UNOMSIL personnel?

ANTONIO MONTIERO (Portugal) said he hoped the practice of holding open discussions of such issues would continue in the future. It was also important to stress the need for the chairmen of the various sanctions committees to play a more active role. The Council should adopt some guidelines regarding the role of the chairpersons of the sanctions committees. The implementation of sanctions was a very important issue and it was the responsibility of the entire Organization to enforce the sanctions. Mr. Dahlgren's statement contained very vivid depictions of appalling violence and it was important that there was no impunity for those perpetrating those crimes.


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There could be no military solution to the present conflict, he said. Only a political resolution was possible. In that regard, the appeal of death penalties for rebels was important. The situation of children in Sierra Leone was also of great concern and the Council should support the role of Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

DANILO TURK (Slovenia) said he valued the role of UNOMSIL and supported the extension of its mandate. Today's presentation had provided a useful insight into the situation. The practice of visits by the chairmen of the sanctions committees to areas where the sanctions were being imposed were useful, but further reflection on that practice was necessary. Mr. Dahlgren had emphasized the importance of all States supporting the sanctions regime. That basic point related to all sanctions regimes and should be considered by the Council.

Regarding the political situation in Sierra Leone, he said the Council had always insisted on a peaceful solution and nothing had happened to change that. He supported all efforts to reach a peaceful solution, including those of the Government, Reverend Jackson and the regional groups. The true path to a solution, however, was national reconciliation. He shared the concern about the plight of children and supported the proposals to remedy their situation. Referring to the executions carried out by the Government, he said the Council should give critical consideration to that issue.

ALFRED MOUNGARA-MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) said he was encouraged by the report of positive moves in Sierra Leone, but he was still concerned about the acts of rebellion and barbarism committed by the rebels. He was shocked by the reports of mutilation and burning of civilians.

The ECOMOG should be supported in its attempts to assist the Government of Sierra Leone, he said. Members of the former military junta were not contributing to dialogue and, for that reason, he supported an amnesty. Only a joint campaign against illegal arms could solve that problem. He encouraged those leaders who had attended the African/French Paris summit to assist Sierra Leone in combating the illegal arms trade.

BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said the importance of visits to the countries concerned by the chairmen of sanctions committees should be stressed. His delegation deplored the fact that the military situation in Sierra Leone was still very poor. Only ECOMOG had the ability to restore stability in the country and the impact of UNOMSIL could be better felt only when ECOMOG was accomplishing its mandate. However, without the necessary resources, there could be no real peace-building. Without resources, the Government's programme of reconciliation could not be achieved. Also, regional and subregional cooperation contributed to peace-building and should be supported.


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Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that such discussions should take place in an open meeting and more such meetings should be held in the future. Mr. Dahlgren's first-hand experience was particularly valuable and he supported the observations made on sanctions and on the general situation in Sierra Leone. The United Kingdom had a special interest in the situation there and it put its own resources to use in helping to bring stability to the country.

His country was particularly concerned about the continuing rebel activity and the campaign of terror and abuse of human rights, he said. The international community must give greater support to ECOMOG and donor countries should come forward to help peace-building activity. It was also time to draw conclusions from the situation in Sierra Leone and ensure that post-conflict situations did not dissolve into conflict situations. The question of how best to contribute to post-conflict peace-building should be examined.

LIU JIEYI (China) said this morning's meeting was important in enhancing the transparency of the Council. The visit to Sierra Leone of Sweden's Ambassador had elicited a positive response. He commended ECOMOG and UNOMSIL for their role in stabilizing the situation. He also commended the Government for adopting a dual approach to national reconciliation.

He said he was deeply disturbed by the arms traffic to rebels, as it not only violated Council resolutions, but caused harm to innocent people. He proposed that the Council and Liberia set in place an investigation to facilitate bringing an end to the illegal arms traffic. He supported the extension of UNOMSIL's mandate for six months. Regarding the expansion of the civilian staff, he proposed that the views of the civilians be consulted.

ANDREI GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said he supported the recommendations in the Secretary-General's report, in particular the extension of the mandate. He was satisfied that the Government of Sierra Leone was taking steps to move towards reconciliation. It made the activities of the rebels seem all the more horrendous. In the future, the international community would witness the final normalization of the situation in the country.

Response to Questions

Mr. DAHLGREN (Sweden), Chairman of the Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone, in response to a question on joint border surveillance, said the proposal needed to be elaborated by the two countries. There would be intense consultations on the issue between Sierra Leone and Liberia and the Council should follow those closely. It was important for ECOMOG or the Sierra Leone Government to establish control of the border and that had not yet been done.


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Also on joint border monitoring, Mr. MIYET, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, said it was essentially a question of security and there was a role for ECOMOG and the Government to play. The ECOMOG did not have the capacity to deploy its troops along the border and it could not send an assessment team if additional security was not provided. There were a number of difficulties facing border monitoring, including the thick jungle terrain. Concerning the safety of United Nations observers, he said security was a daily concern and it was regularly addressed by the leaders of the military forces and the field commanders. Actions would be taken to deal with renewed activities around Freetown. All observers had not been deployed due to security concerns, and travel would take place only by air around the capital. "We are aware of these important risks and we are dealing with those problems on the ground", he said.

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