Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (THE RULES OF WAR GOVERNING NON-INTERNATIONAL ARMED CONFLICT) requires that rebel forces and government forces alike take steps minimizing harm to civilians. The presence of foreign forces from the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) does not change the relevance of Common Article 3 to the conduct of the rebel and government forces. As a human rights organization, Africa Watch does not take a position on the presence of ECOWAS military forces (known as ECOMOG) but we are concerned about allegations of abuses by these forces. We have received credible reports that ECOMOG has rocketed some civilian areas of Monrovia and its suburbs, and that ECOMOG soldiers have looted and stolen. Africa Watch has not been able to conduct its own investigation to substantiate these reports.

However, in light of frequent reports from various sources, Africa Watch is calling upon ECOWAS to confine ECOMOG's role strictly to a peacekeeping function and to take measures to prevent and to punish abuses against civilians, and conduct that violates humanitarian law. Africa Watch has received reliable and credible reports that the remnants of the Liberian army are fighting alongside ECOMOG against the NPFL. According to a Liberian civilian who recently came to the U.S. from Monrovia, Liberian army soldiers are being used as guides to assist ECOMOG in flushing out NPFL rebels. This witness estimates that approximately 2,000 Liberian troops and about another 1,000 civilians -- most of whom are family members of the Krahn soldiers or Mandingos -- are housed at Doe's executive mansion. They emerge, heavily armed, from the mansion to raid areas within Monrovia for food.

Africa Watch is concerned about such reports of collaboration between the ECOMOG forces and the brutal and discredited soldiers from the Liberian army, whose participation in gross abuses of human rights is well known. We are also concerned about the participation of INPFL soldiers in ECOMOG operations. The INPFL, like the Liberian army, has consistently violated, and continues to violate human rights. There should be no place for such forces in the ECOMOG "peacekeeping" force. Article 3 requires that persons taking no active part in hostilities, or combatants, who have laid down their arms, wounded, or sick, shall be treated humanely "without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria." Summary executions, cruel treatment, the taking of hostages, and humiliating and degrading treatment are strictly prohibited, and the wounded and sick are to be collected and cared for.

Human Rights Watch October 1990 Report


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