Liberia: Annan calls on government to bring perpetrators to justice

ABIDJAN, 12 March (IRIN) - While strongly condemning the brutal killing in Liberia of three humanitarian workers, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday called on the government to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In a statement issued in New York by a UN spokesman, Annan, demanded that the government determine the exact circumstances under which the incident took place. He also called on "all parties to the conflict in Liberia to reinforce measures taken to ensure the protection of civilians, including relief workers".

In a related development, the United Nations Country Team in Liberia on Wednesday extended its deepest sympathy to the families and colleagues of the three. A release from the office of the UN Resident Coordinator noted that in an effort to bring emergency aid and protection to individuals caught in the ongoing conflict in Liberia, humanitarian aid workers from the United Nations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements, NGOs and religious organisations routinely put their own lives at risk.

"The deaths of our three colleagues from ADRA are a painful reminder for us of the very real dangers that humanitarian workers face on the ground on a daily basis," it added.

Recent fighting in Toe Town on the border with Cote d'Ivoire, claimed the lives of an unknown number of civilians, including three aid workers from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) who had gone to the area to visit one of their projects.

The three were Kaare Lund, ADRA director for Norway, Emmanuel Sharpolu, the agency's director for Liberia and a driver, Musa Kita. The three men had been reported missing since 28 February. Their deaths were confirmed last week by ADRA.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also reported on Friday that following the 28 February attack on Toe Town, an estimated 3,000 returnees, Ivorian refugees and third-country nationals [West African migrants] had fled the town, where the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had set up a transit centre for people displaced by fighting in western Cote d'Ivoire.

Meanwhile, the Liberian government in a release on Wednesday expressed its condolence to the international humanitarian and relief community in Liberia especially ADRA following the deaths of the three.

It blamed the attacks on the defunct United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) rebel movement and the Liberia Peace Council (LPC), saying they were being armed to fight alongside the government of the Cote d'Ivoire.

"The perpetration of massacres in parts of Cote d'Ivoire where these mercenaries now operate should come as no surprise to persons familiar with the history of the Liberian civil crisis and the modus operandi of these groups and their leaders," it said.

"Accordingly the government of Liberia demands the immediate investigation and the prosecution of these unlawful combatants for murder and other atrocitious acts committed in contravention of international law. These actions are necessary to create a disincentive and mitigate the threats posed to the peace, security and stability of the sub region by armed non-state actors," it added.


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