UN calls on S Leone govt to protect rights
New York -The UN Security Council called on Sierra Leone on Wednesday to ensure troops and police do not use excessive force and respect human rights, following a controversial government arms purchase.
A council statement stressed "the importance for Sierra Leone's national authorities to respond proportionately to threats to the security of all citizens in Sierra Leone."
"The council calls upon the government to ensure that its security forces remain committed to upholding human rights and applicable international law," it said.
Sierra Leone, torn by a bloody civil war from 1991 to 2002 in which tens of thousands of people were killed, is at the centre of new attention with a presidential election in November and political tensions already rising.
The council noted the government's explanation that the assault weapons, sent to a police paramilitary unit, would be used to help African Union and UN missions.
The UN representative in Sierra Leone, Michael von der Schulenburg, said on March 22 that the weapons shipment, which included machine guns and grenade launchers, were "of great concern."
Schulenburg said it was unclear why the police would need them in light of the progress made in restoring security in the west African country.
In its statement, the council emphasised the importance of the November elections to consolidate peace and security in Sierra Leone.
It said steady progress had been made in a number of areas including post-war reconciliation but called on "all political parties to engage constructively in an honest and open dialogue aimed at furthering national cohesion.
"The council calls on the government of Sierra Leone, all political parties as well as other stakeholders to intensify their efforts to foster an environment that is conducive to the holding of peaceful, transparent, free and fair elections," it said.