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Sierra Leone report due soon, bishop says

 


Sierra Leone report due soon, bishop says

March 29, 2004

By Linda Bloom*

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist bishop who has led Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission said its report and recommendations would be published soon.

Bishop Joseph C. Humper spoke about the commission's work during the March 22-25 meeting of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. He serves as vice president of the board.

Created by the 1999 Lome Peace Agreement and established by an act of parliament in 2000, the commission's mandate was to create an impartial historical record of human rights violations and abuses during the 1991-99 armed conflict in Sierra Leone. About 50,000 people died in the conflict, and many others were left maimed or mutilated.

Humper told board directors that the commission decided to consider violations dating back to 1961, the year Sierra Leone gained its independence. Its focus, he said, was a bit different from South Africa's well-known truth commission.

"South Africans struggled with apartheid," he explained. "Sierra Leone is struggling with social injustice … man's inhumanity to man."

More than 70 people were recruited and trained to take statements of witnesses from various parts of the country, and public hearings began in April 2003. With limited resources, commission members have managed to collect 10,000 statements from both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations.

Their final report, being prepared for publication, includes an executive summary with findings and recommendations. Separate documents will focus on how the civil conflict affected children, women and men. "We were specifically asked to pay attention to women and children," the bishop said.

A child-friendly volume about the commission's findings will be used as a textbook in schools, according to Humper.

He said the Sierra Leone government is required to implement the report and its findings. When the commission is disbanded, a human rights commission will be formed to follow up on its work.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York. News media can contact Linda Bloom at (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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