U.N. Investigation Blames Liberian Government for Massacre
NEW YORK (AP) _ A United Nations investigation has blamed Liberian government troops for a June massacre of more than 400 refugees.
Many survivors of the massacre in Harbel, 40 miles from Monrovia, the Liberian capital, initially blamed guerrillas loyal to rebel leader Charles Taylor, who denied any role in the incident.
But some began suspecting government troops after it was learned that two government soldiers escaped the killings unharmed.
According to a copy of the investigation’s findings obtained on Saturday by The Associated Press, the massacre ″was planned and executed by units of the armed forces of Liberia.″ The report has not yet been made public.
The Sept. 10 report said that Taylor’s National Patriotic Front, the rebel United Liberation Movement for Liberia, and the six-nation West African force backing interim President Amos Sawyer’s government had no direct role in the massacre.
But it said that the United Liberation Movement for Liberia, which has also fought Taylor’s troops, ″may have on their individual initiative participated with the (government) soldiers in the massacre operation.″
The report recommends that three soldiers, including the commander of government troops in Harbel, be prosecuted for their role in the June 6 massacre. Others could be implicated as additional information is discovered, it said.
The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution in June saying those responsible should be brought to justice.
The investigation showed that many survivors of the massacre do not know if their relatives are still alive. Conditions in the camp remain poor, and many residents are starving, it said.
Ninety percent of the victims were children and women who were shot, hacked and bludgeoned to death. Estimates of the death toll ranged from 461 to 547 of the camp’s nearly 3,000 refugees.
The report was compiled by a three-member panel appointed on Aug. 4 by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to investigate the incident.
The investigators interviewed 38 survivors and witnesses and compiled evidence from 50 other sources, the report said. It did not elaborate.
The results of an earlier investigation by U.N. Special Representative Trevor Gordon-Somers were never released. Diplomats have said the results of the earlier investigation were kept secret so that peacekeeping efforts would not be harmed.
A July 25 cease-fire between Liberia’s government and two warring factions has mostly held up, and new elections are scheduled next year.
Liberia was founded by freed American slaves in 1822. Its civil war broke out 3 1/2 years ago when Taylor tried to topple the government.
The fighting disintegrated into tribal warfare, and an estimated 150,000 people have died. The government forces, backed by a West African military coalition led by Nigeria, are fighting Taylor’s National Patriotic Front.
All of the factions have been accused of atrocities.
Liberia’s armed forces massacred 600 people in a Lutheran church in Monrovia in 1990.