UN officials call for protection of women children amid chaos in Liberia

In an urgent appeal to the leaders of all the parties involved in the Liberian conflict to end the violence immediately, both Olara Otunnu, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, and the Regional Director for West and Central Africa of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Rima Salah, said they were troubled by the “unacceptable” treatment of women and children.“We are deeply concerned by the dramatic deterioration of the situation in Monrovia and by the unacceptable mobilization of children and women, in violation of all agreed international norms and standards” the two officials said on Monday following a special meeting in Dakar, Senegal, with Ould Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s top envoy for West Africa, and Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).Stressing that some of the actions against children and women constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the child protection leaders said that besides forced recruitment into the armed groups, Liberian children and youth have suffered all forms of atrocities, sexual violence, disruption of schooling and forced displacement.“Children must be protected against all harm,” they said, urging all the parties to apply fully and respect the international instruments concerning the protection of war-affected children. “A key priority is the release of abductees, including forcibly recruited child soldiers.” An estimated one out of every 10 Liberian children may have been recruited at some time into the war effort both in Liberia and in neighbouring countries, contributing to the culture of violence in the region.

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