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Amnesty: Two-thirds of Liberians suffered sexual violence during '99-'03 war

from CBC News (Canada)

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) - Some two-thirds of Liberia's population may have suffered sexual abuse during the west African nation's 1999-2003 civil war, with women and girls the main targets but men and boys also falling prey, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Fighters often drugged by their commanders used sexual violence to shame and subjugate communities in Liberia, where rape carries a deep stigma, and Amnesty International estimated that 60 to 70 per cent of Liberia's three million people suffered sexual abuse during the war.

"Women and girls have described being repeatedly raped during the same incident. Others have been raped on several different occasions during Liberia's successive - and almost continuous - armed conflicts since December 1989," the London-based rights group said in a report.

Amnesty said "findings indicated that some men and boys had also been subjected to sexual violence" in the latest round of fighting, but the group didn't provide any figures.

"Rape and other forms of sexual violence have become endemic in Liberia," Amnesty said.

Rebels battled ex-president Charles Taylor's forces from 1999 until 2003, when an insurgent siege of the capital, Monrovia, and international pressure forced Taylor from office and paved the way for a peace deal.

"While it is impossible to establish with any degree of accuracy the exact numbers of women and girls - of all ages - who have been affected by sexual violence, it has been pervasive throughout the conflict," said Amnesty.

Taylor first launched Liberia into conflict in 1989, leading an insurgency that resulted in an eventual stalemate and his 1997 election as president. But civil war broke out again in 1999, when rebels took up arms against Taylor.

A peace deal was signed following Taylor's departure in August 2003, and a 15,000-strong UN force now secures the peace. Some 70,000 fighters - including thousands of children - have been disarmed.

Elections are set for October 2005, with a postwar government led by a popular businessman, Gyude Bryant, governing until then.


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