- The newly elected government of Sierra Leone has been urged to commit itself to ensuring justice and full reparations for the tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean women who have been victims of sexual violence during the civil war.
National and international activists - including those from Amnesty International - held a mass rally in the Northern province town of Makeni to drum up support for the victims.
In a 35-page report entitled "getting reparations right for survivors of sexual violence," Amnesty International revealed how women are still reeling with stigma and suffering of the after-effects of the sexual violence.
Amnesty's researcher on Sierra Leone, Tania Bernath, wonders why Sierra Leonean government has failed to fully address what she called the "unimaginable and well-documented brutality of violations committed against up to one third of the country's women and girls."
"For the women of Sierra Leone, the story is not over. They need appropriate healthcare and access to justice, work, economic opportunities and educational opportunities to help them to begin to re-build their lives," she says.
Bernath says those responsible war crimes such as rape, sexual slavery, sexual violence, crimes against humanity and torture have violated the international law must be brought to justice and the survivors receive full and effective reparations.
Amnesty also blames Sierra Leonean government's deliberate failure to for not establishing a Special Fund for War Victims, which was provided for by the Lomé Peace Accord in 1999, despite repeated calls from civil society.
"The delay in setting up a special fund for war victims of Sierra Leone's devastating conflict has undoubtedly resulted in further suffering -- especially for the women of Sierra Leone," said Bernath. "Survivors of sexual violence have been denied rehabilitation -- extending their suffering and compounding their physical and psychological problems."
Despite the return to peace in the country six years ago after going through years of devastating conflict, yet women continue to suffer, although several women's rights bills have been passed. Bernath said lack of justice and effective remedies has to a certain extent set the stage for further violence against women.
The rights body applauds the conviction of three former warlords on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence. Amnesty said thousands of others have escaped justice.
Amnesty called on the Sierra Leonean government to urgently revoke the Lomé Accord's amnesty clause that bars prosecution of anyone accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes between 1991 and 1999 as well as precludes victims from seeking reparations from perpetrators in Sierra Leone's national courts.
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