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Sierra Leone: ICRC calls on former junta and allied rebel forces to respect civilians

05-06-1998 News Release 98/22

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is extremely concerned about the atrocities committed against civilians in recent weeks by the forces of the former junta and allied rebels ousted by ECOMOG in February 1998. The ICRC strongly condemns these practices, which are serious violations of international humanitarian law and will have a devastating impact on rural communities in Sierra Leone.

More than 1,000 wounded civilians have received treatment in the country's hospitals since April. Most of them were mutilated or had deep and multiple lacerations of the upper limbs and face.

To date more than 140 people have been treated following partial or total amputation of one or both arms. The mutilations were perpetrated during attacks on villages. On the basis of first-hand accounts by survivors, the ICRC estimates that hundreds of civilians have been killed in these attacks, and that only one wounded person out of four actually manages to reach a health centre.

The ICRC is about to dispatch a surgical team to Sierra Leone to back up local medical facilities, which are overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with these types of injury.

It calls on the forces involved to put an immediate end to such brutal acts and to show due respect for civilians.