Rightists ask Taylor to rid security of foreigners

Monrovia- Liberia (PANA) -- A local human rights group Monday called on President Charles Taylor "to expel foreign nationals" from his elite bodyguard squad, the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU).
In a statement published in Monrovia, The Liberia Watch for Human Rights said it was referring particularly to Sierra Leoneans who are "former or still active RUF (Revolutionary United Front) fighters.
" The group said expelling the foreign security men would be in compliance with the requirement of the UN, which imposed sanctions on Liberia for allegedly fuelling the war in Sierra Leone by guns-for-diamond trade with the rebels.
The statement said even though the government claims it has complied with the UN requirement to expel Sierra Leonean rebels from Liberia, "the circle of compliance would remain incomplete until President Taylor expels" the Sierra Leoneans from the dreaded ATU.
Many Liberians, in muffled tones, have also been expressing concerns about the presence in the state security apparatus, especially the ATU, of men with 'foreign accent'.
The group asked Taylor to set free "all Liberians, including children and women, who have been economically and politically imprisoned" because the hardship in the country was occasioned by the posture adopted by his government.
The rights campaigners called on Taylor to demonstrate commitment to the rule of law, social justice, human rights and a free press, which he often claimed to be his priorities.
They said, to achieve total reconciliation and reunification in the country, Taylor must "be sincere with himself by dropping the charges (of treason) against all opposition politicians and former faction leaders.
" Some 14 exiled opposition politicians and former faction leaders have been charged with supporting insurgents fighting the government in the north of the country.
But the accused have denied the charges and described them as a ploy by Taylor to keep them out of the country and the unfolding political process.
The human rights group also called on Taylor to grant executive clemency to 13 convicts the government charged had plotted to overthrow it in 1998.
The 13 men are all ethnic Krahn as the late President Samuel Doe against whom Taylor rebelled in what turned out to be seven years of civil war that claimed over 200,000 lives and damaged billions in property.
Several groups have appealed for the release of the men, with some terming them as "political prisoners.
" "President Taylor is the only one who holds the key to lasting peace, economic growth, reconciliation and reunification of all Liberians as well as political stability in the sub- region," the human rights group said.

02 july 2001 20:03:00

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