UN says no amnesty for war crimes after 8 October

The deputy head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said on Wednesday that he had warned the country's warring factions that violations of the August peace agreement would not be tolerated and there would be no amnesty for war crimes committed after 8 October.

The UN deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General to Liberia, Souren Seraydarian, told a news conference: "We want to make it very clear that violations of the Accra peace accord will not be tolerated."

Seraydarian said the warning had been delivered at a meeting of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) on Tuesday, attended by UN Force Commander General Daniel Opande, which discussed ceasefire violations.

The JMC includes representatives of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) rebel groups, the armed forces of the former government of Charles Taylor and UNMIL. It is mandated to oversee the ceasefire between the warring factions.

Seraydarian warned the belligerents that there would be no amnesty for crimes against humanity committed after October 8 when Liberia ratified the convention on the International Criminal Court.

"The Accra agreement calls for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.. which is absolutely necessary to maintain peace in the country. However, there will no amnesty for war crimes, for crimes against international humanitarian laws...to which Liberia is a signatory".

He added: "General Opande made it clear to the JMC that if there is a ceasefire violation which leads to violations of international humanitarian law, rape, looting, killing of civilians, those responsible can be brought to the international court."

Last week, heavy skirmishes took place between the remnants of Taylor's army and MODEL rebels in Nimba county, northern Liberia, causing at least 10,000 persons to flea their homes and seek refuge in the town of Saclepea.

Seraydarian told reporters that UNMIL had decided to increase in patrols in northern Liberia to prevent further skirmishes.

He said UNMIL which has only 5,000 troops at the moment, hoped to deploy its soldiers throughout Liberia by February. The force expects to reach its full strength of 15,000 peacekeepers in March.