V. SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS DURING THE CIVIL WAR
Prevalence of Sexual Violence during the War
Throughout the ten-year civil war, thousands of Sierra Leonean women and girls were subjected to widespread and systematic sexual violence, including rape and sexual slavery. A survey of 991 female heads of households in communities of displaced persons carried out by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in 2002 found that approximately one of every eight household members (13 percent) had been subjected to one or more incidents of conflict-related sexual violence; among the actual respondents to the survey, the prevalence rate of conflict-related sexual violence was 9 percent (94 out of 991).99 Based on this prevalence rate, as many as 50,000 to 64,000 internally displaced women may have been subjected to sexual violence as a result of the war.100 Adding extrapolated data for other types of victim, PHR calculated that as many as 215,000 to 257,000 Sierra Leonean women and girls may have been subjected to sexual violence in the conflict period.101 Although these figures are necessarily no more than estimates, they do give an indication of the widespread nature of sexual violence during the war.
Human Rights Watch has primarily documented sexual violence committed during the latter stages of the war when the organization had a full-time presence in the country, beginning April 1999. This does not mean that sexual violence was at its worse during this period. Since that time, Human Rights Watch extensively documented crimes of sexual violence during the January 1999 invasion of Freetown as well as ongoing human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch has also received numerous reports of sexual violence dating from earlier in the war.
Survivors of sexual violence mostly reported being raped by rebel forces, but were at times not able to identify which rebel faction the perpetrators belonged to or whether-especially given the frequent collaboration between soldiers and rebels-the perpetrators were indeed rebels or rather soldiers from the Sierra Leone Army (SLA). In addition, survivors explained that they often deliberately did not want to look at their rapists out of fear and because they did not want to make eye contact. For example, D.T., a twenty-five-year-old woman raped by four rebels, including one child combatant, said that she would not be able to recognize any of the perpetrators, as she was too afraid to look at them (see below at p. 36).102 A. B., a thirty-year-old who was raped by two rebels, also said that:
When you are with these people [rebels], you do not ask questions. I did not even look into their faces. Many of them rubbed black chalk on their face and when you looked at them would say, "What are you staring at?"103
The RUF committed crimes of sexual violence-often of extreme brutality-from the very beginning of the war when they invaded Sierra Leone from Liberia in March 1991. RUF rebels committed crimes of sexual violence in the course of their military operations, during which thousands of women and girls were abducted and forced to "marry" rebel "husbands." These abducted women and girls were repeatedly raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence throughout the duration of their captivity, which in many cases lasted years. During captivity, these women and girls were also made to carry out forced labor, including carrying heavy loads, cooking, cleaning, etc. Many women and girls have given birth to children fathered by rebels. Especially during the early years of the war, the RUF were assisted by Liberian forces, who also committed rape and other sexual violence.
The AFRC committed crimes of sexual violence from May 1997, using the same tactics as the RUF. Sexual violence by the RUF and the AFRC continued to be committed after the signing of the Lomé Peace Agreement on July 7, 1999, and they were joined in this by the West Side Boys, a splinter group of the AFRC formed after the signing of the Agreement. An unknown number of abducted girls and women still remain under the control of their rebel "husbands" who did not want or feel able to relinquish the "families" they had founded in the bush; in many cases the abductees' own families would not have welcomed them back.
Sexual violence peaked during the rebels' military operations, which occurred countrywide as the rebels sought to capture more territory. After capturing a town or a village, the combatants rewarded themselves by looting and by raping women and girls, many of whom they later abducted. Crimes of sexual violence committed during and following military operations, such as "Operation No Living Thing" and "Operation Pay Yourself" that took place in 1998, have been documented by Human Rights Watch.104 Human Rights Watch has also extensively documented the January 1999 invasion of Freetown by the RUF/AFRC, during which sexual violence was systematically committed against women and girls on a massive scale. The sexual violence committed during January 1999 serves as an illustration of the widespread nature of sexual violence committed by the rebel forces. Among the perpetrators were child combatants, and many of the victims were also children. Members of the Small Boys Units (SBUs) within the rebel forces were known to be particularly cruel and committed egregious human rights abuses.
Although there are no exact figures for the number of women and girls subjected to sexual violence during the January 1999 invasion, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Sierra Leone chapter of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE Sierra Leone), a nongovernmental organization that has been treating survivors of sexual violence since 1999, provided medical treatment and counseling to 1,862 female survivors of sexual violence who had been raped and/or abducted during the invasion. According to MSF, 55 percent of these survivors reported having been gang raped and 200 had become pregnant.105
As the RUF/AFRC rebels controlled most of the countryside apart from pockets of government-controlled areas in the south and some key towns, including Bumbuna and Freetown, at different times throughout the war, women and girls living in these rebel-held areas were also subjected to sexual violence when the rebels went on patrol or simply sought to assert their domination over the population. Women and girls in government-controlled areas also lived in fear of rebel hit-and-run attacks, during which many women and girls were subjected to sexual violence and abducted. Women and girls residing in Freetown were "spared" until the January 1999 invasion by the RUF/AFRC.
Human Rights Watch has not documented any cases of sexual violence by the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) prior to the time of the 1997 AFRC coup. According to the survey conducted by Physicians for Human Rights, of seventy-five women and girls who reported having been raped and identified the rapists' affiliation, only three said they were raped by SLA soldiers.106 This may in part be due to the fact that survivors would have often found it difficult to distinguish between the rebel factions and the SLA. With the "sobel" phenomenon, the SLA soldiers would disguise themselves as rebels (the rebels were also known to disguise themselves as members of the SLA or the ECOMOG peacekeeping force).
Human Rights Watch has documented only a few cases of sexual violence committed by the pro-government Civil Defence Forces (CDF). The CDF movement consists of groups of traditional hunters and young men organized into militia. They were initially only deployed by the government in their own chiefdoms, in order to ensure their loyalty and discipline and make the best use of their superior bush knowledge.107 The government provided training, weapons and food to the units. The relatively small number of identified cases of sexual violence perpetrated by the CDF may be related to the CDF's internal rules that stipulate that warriors cannot have sexual intercourse before going to battle, as they would lose some of their protective powers that are bestowed on them during their initiation ceremonies. These powers are meant to make the fighters invincible and immortal. During the initiation ceremonies, the fighters are also instructed not to harm civilians, and required to take an oath to that effect. Thus, it is likely that the pro-government forces did not actually commit sexual violence on a widespread and systematic basis; however, the low number of identified cases may also be partially due to Human Rights Watch's human resource constraints, faced with the overwhelming number of abuses committed by the rebel forces. Research on the CDF was mainly conducted in the south where the Kamajors, the largest and most powerful group of the CDF, are based. In recent years, as the Kamajors have been moved away from their villages of origin and the influence of their traditional chiefs, they have become increasingly undisciplined and cases of rape by Kamajors have become more common.
Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of sexual violence by UNAMSIL peacekeepers, including the rape of a twelve-year-old girl in Bo by a soldier of the Guinean peacekeeping contingent in March 2001 and the gang rape of a woman by two Ukrainian peacekeepers in April 2002 near Kenema (see below). There appears to be reluctance on the part of UNAMSIL to investigate and take disciplinary measures against the perpetrators. Reports of rape by ECOMOG peacekeepers, the majority of whom were Nigerian, were rare.
Both ECOMOG and UNAMSIL peacekeepers have sexually exploited women and solicited child prostitutes.
Sexual Violence Committed by the Rebel Forces
"Virgination"-Targeting Young Girls
The rebel forces subjected women and girls of all ages, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic classes to individual and gang rape. Although the rebel forces raped indiscriminately irrespective of age, the rebels favored girls and young women whom they believed to be virgins. This was evident not only by their actions, but was also explicitly stated by them as they chose their victims. As in many countries, Sierra Leonean society places a high value on virginity. Girls who have been "virginated" and are therefore no longer virgins, are considered less eligible for marriage. M.B., a fifteen-year-old girl from Freetown, described how RUF/AFRC rebels deliberately sought out virgins for violation during the January 1999 invasion of Freetown:
We were hiding in the mosque when two rebels dressed in civilian [clothing] entered. It was dark but they shone their flashlights looking for girls and said, "We are coming for young girls ... for virgins, even if they tie their heads like old grandmothers, we will find them." They also said that if the people did not hand over the young girls, they would open fire on all of us.108
Some victims explained that female rebels physically checked girls to see whether they were virgins.109 M.W., a thirty-eight-year old nurse who was captured by the RUF/AFRC during the January 1999 invasion of Freetown and forced to treat wounded rebels and civilians, said that the youngest rape victim she treated was "a little nine-year-old from Calaba Town [an area of Freetown]. Her perineum was bleeding and had been badly torn. Every day we gave her sit baths and she eventually recovered."110 The consequences of sexual violence for virgins can be particularly severe as these testimonies highlight, although mature women also reported experiencing similar consequences.111
R.T. was about sixteen when she was brutally raped vaginally and anally by ten RUF rebels in the forest near Koidu in Kono district in January 1997. R.T. developed vasico-vaginal fistula (VVF) and vasico-rectal fistula (VRF) from her brutal gang rape:
I was hiding in the bush with my parents and two older women when the RUF found our hiding place. I was the only young woman and the RUF accused me of having an SLA husband. I was still a virgin. I had only just started my periods and recently gone through secret society. There were ten rebels, including four child soldiers, armed with two RPGs [rocket propelled grenades] and AK-47s. The rebels did not use their real names and wore ski masks so only their eyes were visible. The rebels said that they wanted to take me away. My mother pleaded with them, saying that I was her only child and to leave me with her. The rebels said that "If we do not take your daughter, we will either rape or kill her." The rebels ordered my parents and the two other women to move away. Then they told me to undress. I was raped by the ten rebels, one after the other. They lined up, waiting for their turn and watched while I was being raped vaginally and in my anus. One of the child combatants was about twelve years. The three other child soldiers were about fifteen. The rebels threatened to kill me if I cried.
My parents, who could hear what was happening, cried but could do nothing to protect me. I was bleeding a lot from my vagina and anus and was in so much pain. My mother washed me in warm water and salt but I bled for three days. I can no longer control my bladder or bowels as I was torn below. We stayed in the bush until ECOMOG took over Koidu. When we came out of the bush, even adults would run away from me and refused to eat with me because I smelled so badly. I had an operation in 2000 but it did not work. Before I got a catheter in 2001, I had no friends, as I smelled too bad. I am still in pain and have a problem with vaginal discharge. I also have nightmares and feel discouraged.112
This extreme sexual violence is illustrated also by the following testimony by F.B., who describes the resultant deaths of eight young girls in one Liberian refugee camp alone (no doubt many others died from similar treatment during the war). F.B.'s testimony also illustrates the RUF's connection to Liberia and the role of Liberian mercenaries in the RUF movement. F.B. was a ten-year-old girl living in Mano village in Kailahun district near the Liberian border when the RUF accused civilians in her village of helping the SLA. Her family decided to flee to Liberia in November 1991, but was fired upon by the rebels as they fled. At least fifteen civilians were killed, including her father and several women with babies on their backs:
Only six of my family survived; my mother, one brother, two sisters, one uncle, and me. After hiding and fleeing through the bush for three days, Mohammed, my uncle, found someone with a boat to help us cross over to Liberia. We crossed into Vahun where there was a sort of refugee camp. We were there for two weeks and terrible things happened. We thought we had escaped from the rebels but we found many of them there. They controlled the camp. Even though food was being air dropped, the rebels took it all. They took everything we had, our money, salt, and all our food. The rebels were mixed Sierra Leoneans and Liberians.
About a week after arriving, the rebels came into our house in the evening and took my fifteen-year-old sister away. My mother stayed up the whole night. The next day my uncle went from hut to hut looking for her. He called her name and heard her groaning inside a hut. He picked her up and carried her home. When my mom saw her she burst out crying. I was only ten and didn't know anything about man business. My sister was crying all the time and couldn't walk. She cried, "Oh mother, I'm going to die." My mother just held her and told her it would be O.K. My uncle exchanged five gallons of palm oil so we could get some salt, which my mother later mixed with water and had my sister sit in. She was bleeding a lot. She told me they had tied her mouth and raped her many times, but I didn't know what rape was.
After that my uncle shaved my head, gave me trousers and made me look like a boy. When I was walking around a camp I saw a few girls aged under twelve years old, lying on the ground with their legs spread open and blood coming out between their legs. Some had their dresses pulled up and others had cloth stuffed in their mouths. During the two weeks I was in Vahun I saw eight girls like this. Sometimes their family would come and wrap them in white so I knew they had died. Other times no one picked them up and they stayed there for days until someone buried them. There were so many girls who had lost their parents and were there alone, so no one would come for them.
I saw the rebels catching young and even older women. Once they caught an old woman. She said, "No, leave me. I'm too old for this business." But they made fun of her saying, "Oh look, we have caught a young Bundu [initiate into secret society] girl here." Other times I heard women screaming in the middle of the night. Everyday people were dying-from hunger, illness, and this rape. After that I had dreams about a dead person coming to hurt me.
The only reason we stayed that long was because people were still moving across the border and we figured things were even worse in Sierra Leone. Besides, the rebels stopped us from going back home, and we did not know anyone in Liberia so we would have died of hunger.113
M.M. was only eleven when she was abducted, together with her aunt and her aunt's four children, when Koidu was attacked during the dry season114 in 1994. M.M. had not yet experienced her first period or been initiated into secret society:
I was raped by seven child combatants, who were aged between fifteen and sixteen years old, on the way to Kailahun. I was raped in my vagina and anally. Other rebels and also civilians saw me being raped but the civilians were too afraid to protect me. My aunt put native herbs on my genital area but I bled for five days. The RUF had medicine but would not give it to us civilians. My aunt carried me on her back, as I could not walk because of the pain. It took us five days to reach Kailahun. A rebel commander wanted my aunt to be his wife but she refused so he killed her. In Kailahun, I was not raped again. Since my rape, I have only experienced irregular periods and my belly is always swollen like I am pregnant.115
M.F. was abducted from Koinadugu town in Koinadugu district in September 1998 when the RUF/AFRC attacked the town. She was only thirteen at the time and was brutally raped both vaginally and anally by five RUF rebels. During the same attack, the RUF killed over thirty older women:
I was only thirteen and a virgin. They forced me to go down on my hands and knees with my bottom in the air and raped me both vaginally and anally. Five rebels raped me on that first day. My clothes were bloodied and it hurt to urinate and defecate afterwards. The rebels who raped me promised to take me to Freetown and give me money and dresses. They gave me nothing after they used me. I was given to one of them, Mohammed, as his wife. We stayed in Koinadugu town for four days. I was with my parents but could not tell them about the rapes although my mother heard me being raped.
The RUF said they came to kill civilians who were ungrateful and talked bad about the RUF. The RUF cut my grandmother with a knife and beat her with a pestle. She died. The RUF told the older women to go to the mosque to attend a ceremony. More than thirty women, some of whom had children, went to the mosque. The RUF set fire to the mosque. Another old woman was rolled into a mat and the mat was set on fire.116
Rape Victims Subjected to Multiple Human Rights Abuses
Rapes were often preceded by or followed by other human rights abuses against the victim, her family members and/or her community. Hardly any family was unscathed by abuse during the war. The PHR report highlighted that 94 percent of the 991 female-headed households surveyed had experienced at least one serious human rights abuse during the ten-year period.117 M.P., who was twenty-four years old when the RUF attacked Jaiweii village in Kailahun district in May 1991, testified:
I was captured together with my husband, my three young children and other civilians as we were fleeing from the RUF when they entered Jaiweii. Two rebels asked to have sex with me but when I refused, they beat me with the butt of their guns. My legs were bruised and I lost my three front teeth. Then the two rebels raped me in front of my children and other civilians. Many other women were raped in public places. I also heard of a woman from Kalu village near Jaiweii being raped only one week after having given birth. The RUF stayed in Jaiweii village for four months and I was raped by three other wicked rebels throughout this period.
The rebels, who spoke Liberian English, said they were fighting for the SLPP to be in power. When the RUF first entered Jaiweii, they accused my husband of giving information to the SLA, so they tied his hands behind his back and beat him mercilessly. They kept him tied up and continued to beat him. After six days, he died and they threatened to kill me if I cried. The RUF also shot three other men whom they accused of giving information to the SLA. My three children all died because they became sick and there was no medicine. The older one who was five years died one week before the two younger ones who died on the same day. They were only three and seventeen months old.118
M.P. added that the RUF had said that they could do whatever they want with women whom they "owned." A.J., a fourteen-year-old student, was abducted by the RUF from Pujehun and was held by them from February to May 1994. She was first tortured, caged, and then brutally raped:
On February 3, 1994 at around 8:00 p.m., the RUF attacked Pujehun. There was lots of firing because the SLA was deployed here. As we were fleeing, we ran straight into a group of over one hundred RUF. They were dressed in civilian clothes and nearly all had guns. Among those rebels was one named Maliki, who was actually from Pujehun. RUF Commander Bai Bureh started to select several people from our group. As he was doing the selecting, Maliki told him to choose me because if they let me go, I would go back to Pujehun and tell the SLA that he was there. They chose eight of us, four young men and four young women, including three of my cousins. They told the rest of the civilians to go back into the bush and said that if they found them the next day they would be killed. We were taken to their camp.
Two weeks later, the four young men managed to escape. When the rebels found out, they blamed us for what happened. They said the boys were really SLA solders that were there to get information on the RUF. I was then tortured by a Liberian RUF commander named C.O. Rackin. He said I was "bright and bold" and must have known how they escaped. He interrogated me, asking me if the boys were SLA's. During the interrogation he cut me in twenty-one places with a knife including a deep cut on my left breast. He drew a small, small circle in the dirt and told me to step inside and walk around in it. Any part of my body left outside he stabbed with a knife.
Then a commander called Momoh Rogers, who was the battalion commander, ordered that my cousin and I be put in a wooden cage smaller than one square meter. He said that if our brothers who had gone to tell the SLA came to attack, it would be very easy for them to kill us. The cage was what the village people used to store their husk rice in and it had almost no ventilation. We were only let out to defecate. They told me I had to pee on myself in the box. They poured water into the cracks but it was never enough and was dirty. Sometimes they dropped cassava and boiled bananas into the cage, feeding us like we were animals. The stab wounds I had got infected and I got sores all over my body. They were painful and smelled very badly.
After about two weeks in the cage, one of Patrick's bodyguards took me to C.O. Patrick's house. When I saw him, I told him about the sores on my feet and breasts. I told him I was in pain and asked for treatment. C.O. Patrick told me to shut up and ordered me to go into the house. He turned to his bodyguard and said that if I refused, I was to be taken behind the house and executed. When we got inside, Patrick told me to lie down on the floor. Then he forced himself upon me. I was a virgin. He was violent and rough. Then he told me to turn over and give him my behind. But I told him I could not lie down because my breast was so swollen. So he brought a chair and told me to stand up and lean onto the chair. Then he stood behind me and tried to shove his penis into my vagina. The first time he did this I fell over onto my chest, which was so painful. I started bleeding from my chest wound. Then he told me to get up and said if I did not hold the chair firmly he was going to kill me. He took a long time doing that thing to me. I was crying from the pain of my breast and because it was painful, being the first time. He told me to shut up. As he was sexing me he accused my brothers of being spies and said he was going to kill me and that he was only waiting for the others to come from the frontline to do it.
C.O. Patrick asked if I had done sex before and I told him "No, I am a school-going girl." Then he said, "Well, tonight you are going to have sex, because you are going to be killed and you should do it before you die." I was terrified. I started crying. All I could think of was my death and all that guy could do was do that thing to me. After he was satisfied, I was taken back to the cage.119
A.M. was eighteen when she fled Freetown with her two children, two sisters, and brother after the 1997 AFRC coup. Not only was she first forced to watch the execution of three male civilians by Nigerian ECOMOG soldiers in Fadugu, Koinadugu district, but also the rebel execution of her brother and sister. The RUF tried to get her to eat her brother's liver and heart. Her sister's head was also placed on her legs:
After the rebels were driven out of Kabala by ECOMOG, the rebels spread to different towns, including Mongo, Badela, and Dankawali. One day I went with my brother to wash in the stream, as I was afraid to go by myself. We heard shots, which my brother thought must have come from ECOMOG soldiers. I was afraid. We met three rebels with guns who accused my brother of being a SLA soldier. "Superman" was the commander. They beat my brother with their gun butts and took off his clothes. "Superman" forced my brother to go down on his hands and knees and made me sit beside him. They cut his neck from the back and then took an axe and cut his back. They removed his heart and liver and put them on my hands. The heart had more shape and the liver was flat. They tried to force me to eat them but I refused to. Another rebel, Colonel Titus, a mercenary who spoke Liberian English, arrived and told the others not to force me to eat my brother's heart and liver. He said he would show me how they will deal with me. He said they should abduct me. They took me back into the village of Dankawali where we met my grandmother on her veranda. She was tied up and she said that another rebel commander, Hakim, had carried my two children and small sister away in the first group.
The rebels had abducted another group of twenty-five persons and held them by the cotton tree. My big sister was under the cotton tree. I told her that the rebels killed our brother. Colonel Titus slapped my sister and told her not to cry. They killed my sister and two other women and placed their cut off heads on my legs. The rebels also locked some villagers in the houses and set all houses on fire.120
H.K., a sixteen-year-old student, was abducted from Freetown during the January 1999 invasion. She was taken to Makeni where she was "virginated" and forced to be the wife of Colonel "Jaja," a twenty-two-year-old half-Liberian who threatened to kill her entire family if she escaped. H.K. was brutally tortured after Colonel "Jaja" accused her of stealing his money, which was in fact taken at gunpoint from her by "Superman," a notorious rebel commander and his bodyguard called "Yellowman." She described what happened afterwards:
Then the rebels took me into a stream and tied me to a tree in the water. They told people to beat me. I was in water up to my head. "Jaja" said the boys should cut down the tree and let me drown. I was there for several days, maybe up to a week or so. Once a water snake swam by and ate my foot in the water. When I was tied there, Jaja cut my neck and put cocaine into my body. He also gave me marijuana cigarettes to smoke. Finally he untied me and put me in an old container where I stayed for several days. While in the guardroom Jaja and Alhaji "Cold Boots" came several times to give me drugs.121
The rebels often used psychological torture against civilians by, for example, making them clap or sing in praise while watching family and friends being killed, raped or mutilated. They further exerted their domination over civilians by not allowing them to show any emotion, and threatening to kill anyone who did. In 1997, when K.M. was abducted by the RUF from Kabala in Koinadugu district, her brother was shot in front of her. The RUF accused him of planning to escape. She was not allowed to show any emotion and was forced to throw his body in the river. In 1999, K.M.'s husband was killed in front of her by RUF Captain Solvelar in Yomandu in Tonkolili district, when a child combatant accused her husband of not doing his job properly. As Captain Solvelar shot K.M.'s husband, he warned her not to cry otherwise she would be killed. Later in the same year, K.M.'s baby was killed in front of her in Kambia district by a rebel captain who wanted to rape her:
Captain "Danger" pulled my baby from my back and before I could do anything, he sliced my child in two. I was told not to cry as otherwise I would be killed as well.122
Rape with Objects and Other Sexual Torture, including Sexual Mutilation
The rebels frequently used objects, including weapons, burning wood, and hot oil, to rape or otherwise torture (including sexually torture) women and girls, sometimes resulting in their death. In 1994, J.M., an elderly man from Giehun village in Kailahun district, witnessed the killing of nine civilians accused of plotting to set Foday Sankoh up for a government ambush. One of those civilians, a woman named Janneh, was alleged to have been one of Sankoh's "wives." J.M. described how rebels brought her into the village square, forced her to lie down and then poured boiling palm oil into her vagina and ears:
The RUF rounded up about seventy of us civilians, including Abi and Janneh, and accused us of making a plot to arrest Sankoh. The commmander said we were to be killed but that first he would do an investigation. First he called upon Abi who accused Janneh of calling people in Freetown to arrange something against Sankoh. So Janneh was the first to be killed. The rebels grabbed her, stripped her and threw her down in front of the whole village. Several of them pulled her legs apart and held her tightly. They poured a pan of boiling palm oil into her vagina and then into her ears. This terrified us. She started shaking all over and was bleeding from the nostrils and mouth. While on the ground they struck her with a gun and danced around her saying, "When you were loving with the old man [Sankoh], you didn't show us any respect, but now your time for punishment has come." She died about an hour later. The rebels said they were sent by Sankoh who was living in Kailahun about seven miles. Nothing small or big happened without his knowledge. After killing Janneh they poured hot oil in the mouths, eyes and noses of three other villagers, and then shot five others. I guess Janneh must have known all of Sankoh's secrets.123
M.F., the thirteen-year-old who was raped by five rebels (see above, p. 30), witnessed how her stepmother's mother was beaten by the RUF with a long pestle in Momoria village in Koinadugu district in 1998. The rebels then shoved the pestle into her anus. M.F. said that her stepmother's mother was still alive when they left her with the pestle in her anus, which was bleeding.124 One woman also reportedly had pepper put in her vagina as the RUF suspected her of being the wife of a SLA soldier. Rebels inserted burning firewood into the vagina of twenty-five-year-old F.T. and another woman during the January 1999 invasion of Freetown:
On 21 January 1999, I went to a neighbor's house to buy rice, as I had not eaten for over two days. The rebels had been in the area and as I bought two cups from my neighbor, we heard the rebels coming again. My neighbor told me to leave quickly so that he could lock up his house. When I left with another woman and a man, we met a group of ten rebels who surrounded us. They were dressed in full combat [uniform] and asked us where we were going in Krio.
The rebels asked us what we could give them, so the man took out all his money and gave it to them. He was then allowed to go. As the other woman and I did not have any money, they told us to take off our clothes at gunpoint. We begged them not to harm us. The rebels then told us to lie on the dirt ground and open our legs. They put their guns to our throats and stomachs to make sure that we followed their order. Once we were on the ground all the rebels surrounded us, and a tall rebel well over six feet went to the kitchen of Parliament House and took a piece of burning firewood from the fire. He then squatted down and with his two hands inserted it into my vagina. Then he returned to the fire and got another piece and then a third. I felt like I was being stabbed inside.
He did the same to the other woman. While they did this to us, I heard them say "This is the way we are going to fuck you. We are not able to do to you half of the things we do to people in the provinces. You bastard civilians, you hypocrites; as soon as you see ECOMOG, you start to point fingers at us."
They left shortly afterwards and I managed to drag myself to a nearby house with blood gushing from my vagina. I went to a clinic where the doctor removed bits of firewood from my vagina. I feel so unhappy and fear my husband will find another wife to satisfy his sexual desire. The treatment is very slow and I do not have money for treatment. There are sores inside me. I can not sleep at night or walk more than one hundred yards.125
H.K., the sixteen-year-old Freetown student forced to be the wife of Colonel "Jaja," had an umbrella shoved up her vagina as part of the torture that followed her being accused by "Jaja" of stealing his money:
When Jaja came home, I told him what happened and instead of believing me, he blamed me and accused me of having stolen the money. He dragged me out of the house into the street and started beating me. He caused a great scene. He stripped me, tied me up and hit me again and again with a stick. He also beat with the butt of his gun. Then he took an umbrella and pushed it up inside me two times-he shoved it up into my privates-hard. Many people were standing around watching and even some of the other rebels told him to leave me. He went crazy. He started shooting up in the air. I lay there for a few days, naked and bleeding. I was three months pregnant but after this I aborted. I bled for over a month. Once a boy named Junior came by and put his hand inside my vagina. He brought out his hand, which was all bloody and said, "Look at your blood, you're sick." All the civilians seeing this felt sorry for me, but of course they couldn't say anything.
Rebel forces were known for mutilating pregnant mothers to find out the sex of the unborn child. According to witnesses, they would bet large sums of money, and the rebel who had rightly guessed the sex of the unborn child after the women's belly had been cut open would keep the money. Some women were cut open alive, but sometimes the women were killed before the rebels cut their abdomens open. K.M. who was abducted during the 1997 attack on Kabala, witnessed the killing and sexual mutilation of a pregnant woman near Kono in Kono district (see above):
They captured a Koranko woman who was pregnant. Two RUF, Captain "Danger" and C.O. "Cut Hand" argued about the sex of the child. They bet 100,000 leones [approximately U.S.$50] on the sex of the child. Then they shot the woman dead and opened her belly. The RUF held up the baby with the placenta, which they shook in the air. The baby cried and then died. I wanted to run away but my husband said that the civilians would think that I was a rebel and that they would kill me.126
Fifteen-year-old F.K. was raped by the RUF in Lunsar in Port Loko district in May 2000 and witnessed the sexual mutilation of a pregnant woman as well as the killing of her three male relatives, and six amputations:
I was raped when the RUF attacked Lunsar in May 2000 by four rebels including one man called "Put Fire," who had made me his rebel wife from 1997 to 2000. One of the other rebels was called "Kill Man No Blood." While I was being raped, the rebels found my three male relatives who were hiding under their beds. They stabbed them with their bayonets and then shot them. They raped me in my bedroom and then brought me into the living room. Three men and three women were also brought into the room. They were put in line and then the rebels gave them the choice between their life or their money. The rebels strip searched each one and then killed them on the spot. The group was forced to watch as each was killed.
One of the women was six months pregnant and slightly disabled. She was last in the row. When it was her turn, she was stabbed in the neck and fell down. The rebels started to discuss whether she was carrying a boy or a girl. They bet on the sex of the baby so they decided to check it. Kill Man No Blood split open her belly. It was a boy. One of the other rebels took the baby out and showed everyone that it was a boy. The baby was still alive when he threw it on the ground next to the woman but died shortly after. As the rebels took me away, I saw six men who had just been amputated. Some had an arm cut off below the elbow, others above the elbow. They were screaming, "Please kill us, don't leave us this way."127
Sexual Violence with the Added Element of Violating Cultural Norms
The rebel forces have used sexual violence as a weapon to terrorize, humiliate and punish, and to force the civilian population into submission. The rebels sought complete domination by doing whatever they wanted with women, including sexual acts that, by having the additional element of assailing cultural norms, violated not only the victim but also her family or the wider society. The rebels have forced civilians to commit incest, one of the biggest taboos in any society. One survivor witnessed the RUF trying to force a brother to rape his sister in Sambanya village in Koinadugu district. When the brother refused to do so, the rebels shot him.128 Fathers were forced to rape their daughters. Fathers were forced to dance naked in front of their daughters and vice versa. In Sierra Leone, postmenopausal and breastfeeding women are presumed not to be sexually active, but rebels violated this cultural norm by raping old women and breastfeeding mothers. Child combatants also raped women who could have been their mothers or in some instances even their grandmothers. Many rapes were committed in full view of other rebels and civilians. Victims were also raped in mosques, churches, and sacred places of initiation.
During the January 1999 invasion of Freetown, A.C. was forced to watch the rape of his daughter by RUF/AFRC rebels:
The rebel in charge was a thirty-year-old ex-SLA known as "Amos." I knew him from before. He had plasters on his face. The others were called "Junior" and "Blood," who did most of the talking. They gathered five young girls together, including my fifteen-year-old daughter, and put them in the back room. They asked us for five million leones [approximately U.S. $2,500] otherwise they threatened our girls would be killed. We managed to collect 350,000 leones [approximately U.S. $175], which we gave to them.
Then they brought out the girls. They pushed my daughter and a seventeen-year-old on the bed in the parlor and started tearing off their clothes. I peeked through a crack in the door and could see them fighting with my daughter. They put clothes in her mouth so she would not scream. The rebels punched, slapped her and knocked her head with the butt of their rifle. Then one of them opened the door and asked who the fathers of the girls were. One of them took us and lined us up right in front of the bed and said, "Don't you want to see what we do to your daughters?" We begged them to leave them alone but they said, "If you continue to talk, we will burn this house and kill everyone of you." A rebel had his gun pointed at us the whole time and there were two more at the door. Amos raped my daughter and Blood raped another girl. Then the rebel with the gun and the one guarding took their turns. My daughter was crying but they covered her mouth and told her to shut up. Blood then told the girls to get dressed and they took them away.129
S.G., a fifty-year-old widow, was raped by a teenage rebel called Commander "Don't Blame God" and subsequently had both arms amputated in Mattru village in Bo district prior to the 1996 elections:
I pleaded but Commander Don't Blame God said he was going to kill me if I didn't lie down. I told him it had been such a long, long time since I had sex. During the rape I was pleading with him saying, "Don't kill me, please don't kill me." He was so rough with me. Then he took me up a big dune above Mattru village. As we were walking, he said he was going to kill me. I pleaded with him and he then said, "I've changed my mind, I'm going to give you a letter." Once we got there I saw many more rebels, about twenty. I was stripped naked down to my underwear. It was humiliating. Then they asked me to sit down and wait. Commander Don't Blame God said: "I have a letter for you but wait for the cutlass man to come." Then the one with the machete came and told me to put out my left arm. It took them three chops with the cutlass to cut off my arm. After this I begged them not to cut my other arm but they struggled with me and a rebel held it down and cut it off. The cutlass man said, "We belong to Foday Sankoh's group." Then one of them took my left arm and put it under my vagina and kicked me twice in the vagina ... very, very hard.130
D.T. was gang raped by a child combatant and three other RUF rebels in the rainy season in 2000 near Foriah village in Koinadugu district:
I was hiding in the bush from the rebels with about fifteen other villagers when the rebels found us. The rebels separated me from the others because my nine-month-old son was crying. A child combatant ordered me at gunpoint to put my son down. He then raped me. I do not know how young he was but he had not yet been circumcised. He was maybe as young as twelve. Then three other rebel men raped me. When I was being raped, I made no movement as they might think that I was trying to resist. I was bleeding after being raped by four males. After being raped, the rebels forced me to carry a heavy load and walk to Kania town. I escaped the same day and returned to the farm. I explained to my husband that I had been raped but he was happy to accept me back.131
R.F., a thirty-three-year-old farmer, explained how she felt after she was gang raped by West Side Boys, including four child combatants, at Petifu village in Port Loko district in November 1999:
Four children between ten and twelve years used me. They were so small I could barely feel them inside me. The small ones tried to imitate the older ones and one of them kept saying, "I'm trying it, I'm trying it." It was the war that brought that humiliation. I kept comparing them to my own children; my first-born son is ten. I forgave them because they are children. It was not of their own making. They must have been drugged.132
In December 1994, thirty-year-old A.B. was abducted with six other women from Yonibani in Tonkolili district by the RUF when they launched a surprise attack with the collusion of the SLA. The RUF made the women carry looted items to their camp, where A.B. stayed for a week before escaping. She herself was repeatedly raped by two rebels, including one Liberian, and witnessed the rape of an old woman with gray hair:
At least four of the women I had been abducted with were raped. Before they raped me, the rebels went for an old woman with white hair. When she realized what they wanted, she took off her headscarf to show her white hair and said, "I'm old, I have stopped having sex." At first the commander said the rebels should not touch her because she was old. But the other rebels got annoyed and started insulting the commander saying, "Fine, you can fuck any woman you want, anytime you want, but now that we have one we want, you say no." The commander finally said that they could go ahead so all five rebels, including a small boy of fifteen years raped her. One was on his knees with his trousers down while the others stood around watching.
When I saw that I felt sick. When I saw a young boy and that old woman, I realized they could do anything and that they were going to do the same thing to me. But I guess I was lucky as only two did it to me.133
S.J., a wealthy forty-five-year-old woman, was raped by RUF rebels, including a child combatant, and then burnt in late January 1999 in Manjoro village in Bombali district:
Thirty rebels attacked our village. The rebels said that we, the civilians don't want peace. I saw them kill three people and were it not for God, I would have been the fourth. Then they burned thirteen houses and looted all our things. I ran with my four children to the house in the bush where we tend to the cows. We slept there with the cows for a few days but then seven rebels surprised us there. The commander of this group was called C.O. Caca Scatter. He was a Mende. Others were speaking Mandingo and Temne.
They started stealing what few possessions I had and then C.O. Caca Scatter said that I should be raped. When I heard that order I pleaded, "Please, don't do that one to me." But they said they would do whatever they wanted. Four raped me and the last one to rape me was a fifteen-year-old. I could have given birth to him, he was so young. He put a knife to my throat and said he was going to kill me but the C.O. said I shouldn't be killed.
Then they tied my hands behind me and C.O. Caca Scatter burnt me. He scooped up hot charcoal from the fire we had been cooking with and tried to burn my face with it. I struggled and turned my face so he burned my chest instead. He did this four times on my front and seven times on my back. Each time they picked up the charcoal and held it on my body until it burned deep into my skin. They left me with my skin burning but I could not roll on the ground for fear it would catch fire and burn me even more. When they started to burn me I pleaded for them to kill me. I started screaming and my children came around to try and save me. They took two of my children, gave them looted property to carry and took them away. That is the last I have heard of them.134
T.B., a fifty-year-old woman was abducted from Freetown during the January 1999 invasion and made to walk to Magburaka in Bombali district. There, a RUF/AFRC rebel raped her until she developed an abscess in her vagina:
In Magburaka, I was first raped by three rebels. While doing it they called me a bastard child and that civilians wanted to burn them all alive. After that I was taken as a wife by a commander called "Bird Bod" who was in his thirties. He raped me every day. They were always on drugs. He said he didn't have a wife so I cooked and washed for him. He roughed and beat me and used to put his fingers violently up inside me. He would get an erection while he was doing this and would sometimes rape me afterwards. I think this is how I started to get boils-I had five or six of them. It started to create an ulcer. Over the two months I was with them it got worse and worse. It was terribly painful but Commander Bird still raped me and put his fingers up me even though I had this problem. I don't know why the RUF would treat an old woman like me in such a way.
The abscess got very swollen and started to hang down between my thighs. I could barely walk. It started to smell very bad and it was then that the commander finally drove me away. I walked for two to three weeks through the bush going from village to village until I got to Masiaka. In every village I went, the women felt for me and would give me food and make a bath of herbs and salt for me to soak in. Then when I felt strong enough, I would walk to the next village. When I reached Freetown, I received medical treatment. My husband has accepted me back and feels sorry for me.135
Breastfeeding mothers were also not spared by the rebel factions even though in Sierra Leonean culture, women are not supposed to have sexual intercourse until their children have been weaned and can walk, which can take up to three years.136 Sierra Leoneans believe that doing so will weaken the breast milk and the ability of the child to fend off infection. Women whose infants died from malnutrition after they-the mothers-had been raped frequently attributed the death of their child to the fact that they had been raped. It is also a specific crime for a man to commit adultery with another man's wife while she is breastfeeding. Traditionally, the guilty spouses are thought to be under a curse and will suffer misfortune.137 A.B., who was raped by two rebels and witnessed the rape of an old woman, tried at first to dissuade the first rebel from raping her by telling him that she was a breastfeeding mother with full breasts, but the rebel said he did not care.138 M.C. was breastfeeding her two-week-old baby when she was brutally gang raped by RUF/AFRC rebels in early January 1999 near Mabang in Tonkolili district; she breastfed her baby while being raped. She suffered a prolapsed uterus139 as a consequence of the rape:
At the time of the January 1999 offensive, my husband who is a policeman was based in Mile 91. I became very worried about him and decided to travel to find him. I left Bo on January 8. I had just given birth to a baby girl two weeks before so was still feeling very weak but I desperately wanted to find my man.
I arrived late in the evening. Then all of a sudden we heard firing. There was confusion and armed rebels captured me. They took me to their bush camp in a place called Mabang. They started sexing me two days later. I tried to fight and told them to leave me, but several times they put a pistol into my vagina. I gave myself up to God and asked that he save me. The first day, about ten sexed me. After the first day there were fewer men, between three and six a day. Every day they came and stood in line waiting to rape me. All together there were over thirty different men. They were aged between seventeen and twenty-five years old. The younger ones were rough and most of them seemed to be on drugs. I think these were RUF people. Most of them seemed to be Mendes. I saw many young girls in their camp. I guess the lucky ones only had one rebel. But I'm from Bo and wouldn't allow myself to be together with one of them. I told them I wasn't a Kamajor and that my husband was a policeman and they said, "Oh policemen are our enemies ... we've killed them all. Forget about your husband."
Sometimes they tied my legs to my arms with my legs spread and raped me one after the other. They said since I was from Bo and I was a Kamajor's wife that they were going to rape me to death. [Sometimes] I held my baby Hawanatu in my arms while they were raping me. When she cried they said they wanted to shoot her so I gave her the breast.
They raped me for two or three weeks and then in early February, my vagina came out [i.e. she suffered a prolapsed uterus]. It was so, so painful. I can't tell you how much it hurt. When this happened, I thought I was going to die. In order to get it to go back in I had to lie down and push it back in. To urinate, I had to lie down. They provoked me and made fun of me. They said now my Kamajor husband will not be able to have sex with me. A wife of one of the commanders told a villager to help me escape which they did. He took me to a nice woman in another village away from the rebel area and after explaining my problem, she helped me so much. She gave me herbs and tried to cure me and my baby who by that time was vomiting and very sick. It's only God that helped keep my little Hawanatu alive. He decided that this little child is mine to keep. Later, when I was stronger, I made it to Freetown and had an operation for my prolapsed uterus. I feel much better now.140
Rebels also raped pregnant women. In polygynous marriages, pregnant women generally stop having sexual intercourse with their husbands once their pregnancy has been confirmed, to protect the fetus. R.F, the thirty-three-year-old farmer gang raped by West Side Boys at Petifu, Port Loko, in November 1999 (see above, p. 39), was six months pregnant at the time. As the result of the gang rape she delivered prematurely, causing the baby's death:
I went with Isatu, her husband and my five-year-old son to harvest rice in Isatu's village, Petifu. We traveled by boat and at night to avoid the rebels. When we were resting having worked all the next day, we heard the rebels. They were all over the village and told us to give them our rice and palm oil. Several of them started hitting me on the head with their guns. Three were wearing uniform, the others wore civilian clothes. They spoke all different languages.
One of them tied a rope around my waist like a goat and pushed me out of the door screaming, "Show me where your people are." My little boy was left sleeping on the bed. Seven of the rebels then led me about a mile out of the village, screaming at me to tell them where we had hidden the rice and palm oil. I told them I was a stranger there but they did not believe me. They took me into a small farmhouse where they all used me. This went on for a few hours until the cloth I was lying on was soaked. I could barely walk. Then they ordered me to get up and dragged me like a sheep back to the village.
Once back in the village, they put me in a house and more of them started raping me. I was used by at least twenty rebels. I think the whole unit raped me throughout the night. The only one who did not use me was the commander. He kept coming in and saying, "Have you had your turn?" He was the one they kept calling "Commander."
When one of the Temne speaking rebels was raping me I said, "Please brother, talk to these people and ask them to leave me." But he said he could not do anything. Another rebel pulled out a knife when he was on top of me and said if I said anything he would kill me. I told them I was pregnant and said, "Can't you see? I have a six month belly." But they said, "We do not care. We see your belly but so what." Two of them told me to stoop down, but I couldn't and they just pushed me down and used me. After many had used me one of them said, "Oh, there is no more sweetness there," so they turned me over and did it to me from behind. Three of them did it to me like that, and now when I go to the toilet it is so painful; I am still bleeding and it feels like my insides are coming out. One rebel had sex with me several times. He said he was punishing me for not having shown him where the rice and palm oil was hidden. I yelled for the commander and complained, saying, "He wants to kill me, tell him to leave me!" but he said, "We have killed others that are better than you." I did not complain after that. They kept saying they were about to stop fighting-that they really want peace and that after peace comes, they won't do these things any more.
In the early hours of the morning, they finally left. They wanted me to carry their looted items but I could not walk. They took other people whom they used to carry the looted goods. At one point I tried to get up but could not, I slipped and fell down to earth. By this time I had started bleeding. I felt my baby trembling in my belly. A few hours later the water broke and then I started to have contractions. I have five children and had never even had a miscarriage. I had about three hours of labor before giving birth. The little thing shook for a minute or so and then it died. It was so beautiful; it had fine hair and the face was so pretty. I wrapped it with a cloth. I could not bear to look whether it was a boy or a girl. I was gushing out blood and shortly after I delivered the placenta. I felt dizzy. I was barely able to walk.
Later when I had a little more strength I covered my baby and threw it in a pit latrine. I felt so bad for throwing it away like that but I did not have the strength to bury it properly. After thinking everything over, I am only angry at this war and thankful that I still have my life and that the life of my child [her five-year-old] was spared. It's only God that saved him. He was lying on the bed the whole time.141
Many women and girls became pregnant as the result of the rape(s) they were subjected to. Although some women were reportedly able to abort without the knowledge of the rebels using traditional herbal treatments, the majority had no choice but to carry the child to full term. M.W., the abducted nurse already quoted above (see p. 28), said that many girls who had been raped had miscarriages that might have been self-induced with herbs. I.S., a twenty-seven-year-old student who was abducted by the AFRC during the January 1999 invasion, tried to abort, but was unsuccessful:
When I got pregnant I didn't tell my rebel husband for months. I asked a woman who knows about medicine to give me herbs to abort the baby, but it never worked and after my belly started to swell, he found out. He warned me that if I tried to flush the baby out, he'd kill me. He said he wanted the baby and that he hoped it would be a boy.142
M.W., the abducted nurse, also mentioned that medical personnel were instructed by a rebel doctor, Dr. Lahai, not to perform abortions, give birth control, or advise that traditional herbal treatments be taken, as the rebels felt that too many people had died and they needed to increase the population.143 Many women did have miscarriages because of the brutal rapes and trauma they were subjected to by the rebels, as well as the difficult conditions in the bush.
Forced Abortion by West Side Boys
Human Rights Watch has documented one case of forced abortion by the West Side Boys, the splinter group of the AFRC that took power in the 1997 coup. Twenty-year-old M.K. was abducted from Magbele village in Port Loko district in July 2000, when she was four months pregnant. She was raped by four West Side Boys and was made the wife of a rebel who forced her to abort:
I was abducted with two other civilians, including my brother-in-law, by the West Side Boys. They were all wearing uniforms; some uniforms were new, and others wore old ones. We were taken to their base in Magbele Junction where there were many other abductees. At nighttime one of the rebels called Umaro Kamara came to me and said he wanted to have sex with me. He spoke nicely with me and said that he wanted to take me to Makeni and make me his wife. He raped me that day. The rebels saw that I was pregnant and said to Umaro, "We are not going to work along with any pregnant woman, we should kill her." Umaro said that he wanted to take me as his wife and that I should be given an injection instead. Umaro called me and tried to convince me to get rid of the baby. He said, "They will kill you if you do not agree so you better have the injection." I was taken to the doctor who gave me an injection and some pills. Two days later I started bleeding. I felt weak and had pain all over my body. Then I lost the baby.
When Umaro was on patrol, three other rebels raped me. When we moved out to go to another base, I saw the body of my brother-in-law. After one day I started bleeding again so Umaro took me to the doctor who gave me another injection. When we reached Lunsar, Umaro wanted to make me his wife. Even while I was bleeding, Umaro used me. He told me to wash myself before raping me.144
Rape by Female Combatant
Human Rights Watch has documented a case of a female rebel manually raping female abductees. The virginity checks performed by female rebels on abductees prior to their "virgination" by male rebels, noted above, also constitute rape given that penetration occurred without the consent of the victim. More of such abuses may have been committed but not reported due to shame, as expressed in the testimony below. The rebels captured sixteen-year-old F.P. on January 7, 1999 when-as she was fleeing the fighting in central Freetown with two other girls-she ran into a patrol of five heavily armed rebels, including one female rebel. They knew the female rebel from before as Aminata; she had lived in their neighborhood before the 1997 AFRC coup. She had joined the rebels at that time and had not been seen since the AFRC was driven out of Freetown in February 1998. F.P. remembered having had an argument with her several years ago. The rebels called her "C.O. Sally." F.P. was taken with her sister and another girl whom she did not know to a rebel base. Her friend was raped by five men, which she was made to watch. F.P.was also "virginated" by male rebels and sexually molested by "C.O. Sally," along with another girl, also called Sally:
C.O. Sally came into the room where we were kept and said, "Why are you hollering? These are my boys, why are you refusing them?" Since we knew C.O. Sally, we asked her to help us get away, so finally on January 10 she took us at gunpoint to another house. She made us cook and wash for her. Once she told us to go into a room and take off our clothes. She had an RPG [rocket propelled grenade] on the ground as well as a gun. We took off our clothes and then she took two long sticks and tied our hands to them straight out from our shoulders. She stood us in front of her and asked if we remembered her to which I answered, "No." Then she said that she remembered me and that we had fought last time we had met each other. She made me put one leg up on a drum and then she fingered me with two fingers. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I asked her why she was doing this but she screamed at me to shut up. She did not touch herself or say anything, but kept on fingering me. Then she called Sally and did the same thing to her. When she was finished, she left us standing there with our arms tied. A little later she fingered us again. It did not seem sexual to me and I do not know why she did it. An hour later a young rebel came and said he thought he was hearing gunshots from ECOMOG. C.O. Sally ordered the boy to untie us as "I have punished these people already."145
Rape and Other Sexual Violence against Boys and Men by Male and Female Rebels
According to FAWE Sierra Leone, boys and men were also raped by male rebels. FAWE Sierra Leone treated fourteen boys aged between nine and fifteen years old who had been raped, but suspects that there are more cases. Due to the stigma attached to homosexuality in Sierra Leone, male victims of rape feared they would be perceived as homosexuals and therefore few boys were willing to report it. Human Rights Watch has not documented any of these crimes of sexual violence, which were apparently committed on a much smaller scale than sexual violence committed against women and girls. FAWE Sierra Leone did not want Human Rights Watch to interview the boys they had treated as they feared that interviewing them would re-traumatize them.146
Human Rights Watch documented two cases in which female rebels forced men to have sexual intercourse at gunpoint. One case involved a female rebel forcing a male civilian to have sex during the January 1999 invasion of Freetown, and the second involved a RUF female training commander and male conscripts in Kono. Cases of these crimes of sexual violence were also reported by FAWE Sierra Leone. It is impossible to determine the prevalence of this type of sexual violence, but-given the general level of violence within the rebel forces and the power that female combatants had over civilians-Human Rights Watch believes that such incidents did happen more often than has been reported, albeit again on a much reduced scale compared to male combatants raping female civilians.
Abduction, Sexual Slavery, Forced Labor, and Conscription
The rebel forces used abduction as their primary method for recruitment. During an attack on a town or village, rebels typically rounded up civilians as they tried to flee or were found hiding. Men were abducted to carry the looted items as well as being forcibly conscripted. The abducted children were also given military training and forcibly conscripted.
In thousands of cases, women and girls were abducted after being subjected to sexual violence. The rebels often killed family members who tried to protect their women and girls. Abducted women and girls described being "given" to a combatant who then took them as their "wives" (see also "Sexual slavery" section, below).147 Abduction of civilians continued for the duration of the armed conflict. In the early years of the conflict, the RUF went on hit-and-run raids, returning to their base camps with looted items and abducted civilians. As the RUF took over more territory, an increasing number of civilians were abducted. As their ranks increased with more men and boys being forcibly conscripted, so did their abduction of women and girls. The AFRC and West Side Boys used the same tactics. Some women had the extreme misfortune of escaping from one rebel faction, or unit, only to be abducted by another. One such victim, thirteen-year-old M.F. (see above, p. 34), who was first abducted from Koinadugu by the RUF/AFRC and gang raped, was driven out of Makeni in October 1999 when it came under attack by the RUF. She was subsequently abducted by the West Side Boys and raped by two child combatants.148
Sexual Slavery and Forced Labor
Women and girls were primarily abducted to be the sex slaves of the rebels and to perform slave labor. The survey conducted by Physicians for Human Rights found that 33 percent of the interviewees reporting war-related sexual violence had been abducted and 15 percent had been subjected to sexual slavery. Consistent with fairly common practice among the Sierra Leonean male population at large, many rebels had polygynous "marriages," including with abducted women whom they had forced to "marry" them. Rebels also changed "wives" frequently when they tired of them or when their "wives" were too ill to perform their tasks (a consequence of the brutality that they were often subjected to). Victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported attaching themselves to one rebel to avoid gang rape and be given a degree of protection. The more highly ranked the commander, the more protection a woman had. Women and girls, however, remained vulnerable to sexual violence by other rebels. M.F., the thirteen-year-old who was gang raped by the RUF/AFRC in Koinadugu was raped by two other commanders when her "husband" Mohammed was out on patrol.
Women who were "married" to high-ranking rebels benefited not only from "protection" but also were able to exert power over others. The women and girls often benefited from the looted items that their rebel "husbands" gave them, and took part themselves in looting raids to steal clothes, shoes, and jewelry. Not all were abductees: some women and girls voluntarily joined the rebel forces and sought to benefit from their relationship with the rebels, i.e. from the looted goods or escaping from their parents (some girls would use a relationship with a rebel boyfriend to gain freedom from parental control, by threatening to involve the boyfriend in their dispute over parental restrictions). Such women consenting to marry a rebel were probably still vulnerable to sexual violence from other rebels.
Numerous victims described being subjected to abuse or forced to work by commanders' wives. FAWE Sierra Leone also reported that female combatants "married" to rebels killed new abductees if their "husbands" showed a preference for them. A.J., the fourteen-year-old student who was abducted in Pujehun and tortured by the RUF from February to May 1994 (see above, p. 31) is an example of how some "wives" were treated by other female abductees or combatants:
I was put under the control of Commander Patrick, a Liberian. He was married to a woman called Neneh who was very jealous of me. Once, after the commanders had gone to the war front, Neneh told one of our guards to open up the cage where I was being held and take me out. She said, "My husband is interested in you. If you accept him to have sex with you, I'll kill you, so be forewarned." Neneh and Patrick have one child. She told me she'd joined the rebels voluntarily. She said, "You are just a captive. Do you think I was abducted? I was not abducted. I joined voluntarily. So you have no right to fall in love with my husband."149
A few victims also described how some of these women, usually the wives of commanders, used their power to try and protect, and at times facilitate the escape, of other abductees. For example, M.C., who was brutally raped by rebels in early 1999 in Mabang and suffered a prolapsed uterus (see above, p. 38) was helped to escape by a commander's wife who felt sorry for her.150
Abducted women were made to carry out forced labor during their captivity, including cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, and carrying heavy loads of ammunition and looted items. In many instances, women-intimidated by their captors and the situation they were in-felt powerless to escape their lives of sexual slavery, and were advised by other female captives to tolerate the abuses, "as it was war." The rebels often deliberately marked abducted civilians with the letters "RUF" or "AFRC" carved mainly onto their chests. This made escape more difficult because, were they to be caught by government forces, they would likely be suspected of being rebels and killed. Some women used traditional herbal remedies to remove their markings, and international organizations have also performed surgery on these victims to remove the scars.
Relationships between Rebels and Abductees
The relationships that developed between the abductees and rebels were very complex and varied. Most relationships were obviously very volatile, as described by I.S., the twenty-seven-year-old student who was abducted by the AFRC in the January 1999 invasion (see above, p. 40). She stayed with the AFRC/West Side Boys until August 1999 when she was able to escape:
We stayed there for months and they were always going on attacks in the Port Loko area. Occasionally C.O. Blood was nice to me and I had to kiss him and play love with him. But I could never tell him what was really in my heart; that I missed my family and wanted to escape. Other days he would beat me for nothing. He did the same thing to his other "wife." Neither of us could complain.151
H.K. was assigned as the wife of "Jaja" and was so badly treated by him that even the other rebels sometimes tried to prevail on him to be less violent:
Jaja was already "married" to another abductee, and when she saw what he had done to me, she escaped. He always beat both of us. He used to sex me twice every night. He made me take his penis in my mouth. I tried to refuse him but he always threatened to kill me. He was actually an SLA soldier but had joined the RUF. His C.O. was Colonel Stagger, who used to criticize him for how he treated us. Colonel Stagger used to say, "Look, when we take these kids, we should take care of them and now you beat her for nothing." Jaja used to say it was not Stagger's business. Stagger's own abductees were treated pretty well. He never beat them.152
Some women fled at the first opportunity. Other women, especially those who had children with the rebels, found it difficult to leave these abusive relationships. Many women and girls experienced their first sexual relationship with their rebel "husband" and may have developed aspects of the "Stockholm Syndrome," whereby the hostage identifies with the hostage-taker. They adjusted to the level of violence with the rebels, which over time became "normal," in order to survive.153 Others feared that their "husband" might seek revenge if they escaped and returned to their family. The rebels instilled fear in their "wives" by telling them that their families would not accept them back. The abductees also feared to some extent that they would be blamed for what happened to them. For some women who had lost their families, the rebels became a surrogate family. As many rebels had themselves lost their families or could not return to their villages of origin, given that they had in some cases committed human rights abuses in their communities, they did not want to relinquish their surrogate families or their slave labor.
As the women and girls were never registered in the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program and there was insufficient documentation of this large category of victims throughout the armed conflict, it is unclear how many girls and women were abducted. It is now impossible to establish how many remain under the control of their rebel "husband" or have returned to their village of origin.
The ones who have remained involuntarily will only re-examine their situation when alternatives become available. Women who wish to sever links with ex-combatants have few alternative economic or social options. They are a very vulnerable group that has little or no means of support. They are often not able to return to their villages out of fear, lack of funds and social stigma, especially if they have given birth to children fathered by rebels. The women are therefore often forced to remain in situations in which they are vulnerable to continuing abuse. Numerous victims end up being commercial sex workers, selling their body for as little as U.S.50¢ Exploited girls and women can end up abandoned with several children to raise by themselves by the time they are in their early twenties.
Rebel Control over Abductees
Life with the rebels was very tough. Civilian abductees, in particular, were treated ruthlessly. The RUF established a military police system and courthouses to administer a form of justice to those who contravened RUF rules of behavior. Some of the RUF rules were written, but the rules, trial and punishment were to a large extent arbitrary, dependent on the particular commander. Interviewees reported that severe punishment was meted out for small incidents such as spilling water on a commander's shoes (one week in a cell with daily beatings) or not lodging complaints through the official channels (imprisonment in a dungeon). "Courthouses" were established to try both combatants and the civilians.154 A rebel was expected to provide for his "wives" and children during their captivity even if he had taken on another "wife" or "wives." If a rebel reneged on his responsibility, then he could be put in a cell and beaten to death. Civilian women who were tried by the court were raped and beaten if they did not have a commander to stand up for them. According to K.M., who was abducted by the RUF from Kabala, Koinadugu, the three male rebels who presided over the courthouse in Burkina, a training camp in Kailahun, would arrange amongst themselves who could rape the women. She also said that one woman was raped to death by six rebels.155
Forced Conscription: Female Combatants
Women and girls were also forcibly conscripted into the rebel fighting forces. The RUF established military training camps for women. During active fighting, female combatants were sent into battle after the men and the Small Boys Units (SBUs). There were only very few high-ranking female commanders in the rebel forces and a much smaller number of female combatants than adult men or boys. Female combatants had more power than female civilians: combatants, including female combatants, who had received military training, had substantial power to do whatever they wanted to civilians. Within the rebel forces, however, women still held much lower status: female combatants were assigned "husbands."
Forcibly conscripted female combatants were in many ways as vulnerable as civilian abductees, and may have decided to stay with their rebel "husbands" for the same reasons as their civilian counterparts i.e. shame, lack of alternative options, and economic dependence on their "husbands."
RUF Officers' Responsibility for Sexual Violence
In addition to their individual criminal responsibility, rebel commanders can bear direct command responsibility for crimes of sexual violence and sexual slavery, for ordering the rape and abduction of women and girls (see below, p. 60, for a discussion of the principle of command responsibility in international law). C.O. Caca Scatter, for example, ordered the gang rape of S.J., the wealthy forty-five-year-old woman (see above, p. 37). A.J., the fourteen-year-old student, was tortured, caged and brutally raped by C.O. Patrick (see above, p. 43). S.G., the fifty-year-old widow was raped and had both arms amputated by Commander "Don't Blame God" (see above, p. 36).156 Indeed, the organized way in which victims frequently describe being rounded up and taken, as well as the number of rebels involved in these abductions and the number of victims abducted, suggests an element of premeditation and planning on the part of the RUF, AFRC and West Side Boys command. Victims also frequently described being specifically selected to be given to a commander or being sexually abused in the presence of commanders, which again suggest that sexual violence was committed under the direction of and with the consent of members of the rebels' hierarchy. I.S., the twenty-seven-year-old student who was abducted and gang raped by the West Side Boys from January to August 1999 explained how Commander "Blood" had initiated the "wife" selection process:
One of the commanders said he was going to amputate all of us too. But another commander, C.O. Blood, said, "Don't kill them, let's chose them as wives." Then we were divided up. The one who seemed to be in charge, C.O. Blood, chose me. When he looked at me I was frightened. His pupils were huge-he was high on drugs. He took me to a house and told me to lie down on the ground. He said if I did not allow him to have sex, he would kill me. He took out a knife and said he would not even waste his ammunition on me. He would just chop me to pieces. I knew he meant what he said. He forced my clothes off and used me twice. He was rough and after the second time I begged him to leave me, but he said he did not care. My insides hurt so much. Then he used me from behind. Other women were being raped in the same room. They [the West Side Boys] did not care.157
According to the survey conducted by Physicians for Human Rights, thirty-four of the ninety-four survivors directly reporting sexual violence believed that their attackers' commander was aware of the attack.158 While it is difficult to generalize from this figure, it does tend to confirm the findings of Human Rights Watch that sexual violence and slavery, which were committed on a widespread and systematic nature, were part of the rebel forces' military strategy to dominate, humiliate and punish the civilian population.
The RUF has made occasional efforts to declare rape a crime within certain areas under their control and disciplined ordinary soldiers accused of raping. The disciplinary measures included summary trials followed by execution. These efforts failed to prevent sexual violence in practice. One commander, for example, prevented at least temporarily the rape of an eight-year-old girl who was abducted by a ten-year-old child combatant by ordering the child combatant to only use the young girl "for cleaning and cooking for now."159 A.B. witnessed the gang rape of an old woman, which the commander had originally tried to stop but then allowed to happen (see above, p. 37).
Senior male and female figures in the RUF interviewed by Human Rights Watch mainly denied that sexual violence had happened, explaining that the women joined the RUF movement voluntarily and fell in love with their rebel "husbands."160 A key figure in the AFRC admitted that he had heard of cases of sexual violence and blamed it on the breakdown of law and order.161 He also said that none of his men had expressed any remorse for the human rights abuses they committed. In the vast majority of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch, those who committed rape were not disciplined or punished in any way
Sexual Violence Committed by the CDF
As already noted, there are relatively few reported cases of rape committed by the CDF. The CDF were reasonably disciplined during the war, although their discipline deteriorated when they were deployed in chiefdoms outside their own native areas. Sexual intercourse is believed to act against the protection bestowed on the fighters during their initiation ceremonies. However, Human Rights Watch has documented several crimes of sexual violence by the Kamajors, the CDF based in the Southern Province.
In March 1998, a forty-five-year-old Temne man, M.B., witnessed the rape of a young Temne woman called Jeneba by the Kamajors in Kenema town. The Kamajors also mutilated and killed Jeneba. M.B. explained that during the ECOMOG intervention to restore the democratically elected government in 1998, Kamajors accused members of the Temne and Limba ethnic groups of being RUF/AFRC supporters and persecuted them. According to M.B., the Kamajors identified Temnes and Limbas as such by their last names and publicly beheaded or stabbed to death numerous alleged rebels. The Kamajors also ate some of their victims, believing that this would bestow additional powers to them. The accused had no means to defend themselves, as ECOMOG initially backed the Kamajors and did not realize until later that the killings were carried out along tribal lines. After receiving death threats, M.B. sought refuge in the house of a chief who was Temne and the father of Jeneba. A group of about eight Kamajors came to the house, looking for Jeneba, and accused her of having a sexual relationship with an AFRC fighter:
I saw Jeneba being raped by one Kamajor, while the others were standing around watching. Then the Kamajors threatened to kill us if we did not stop looking at them, so we went into other houses to hide. From there we could not see what was going on but heard Jeneba screaming at the top of her voice, and when the Kamajors had gone we came outside and found Jeneba dead. She was naked and her hands and feet had been mutilated by a machete.162
On February 17, 1999, J.K., a thirty-one-year-old woman was raped by two Kamajors in a small village in Bonthe district. A group of Kamajors entered J.K.'s house looking for her brother, who had not been home for the past three years:
One of the Kamajors called Kinie said that they had been told that my brother was in the village and was planning to attack them. I assured them no one knew where he was. During this argument, the other civilians in village became afraid and fled into the bush. As soon as the Kamajors forced their way into my bedroom, I followed them to check up on what they were doing. Kinie and another Kamajor whose name I did not know pushed me to the ground, tearing off my clothes. I screamed for help but no one came to my rescue. Even my father who was in the house was unable to help me. They both raped me while the others stood around laughing. When they left the village, they looted some goats and chickens. There was no one to report the incident to and I had no money to pay for a hospital visit. I decided to leave everything to the Almighty God.163
In another incident, at least three female civilians were raped, including by a Kamajor commander. In July 2000, M.S. and twenty-five other passengers were taken off a bus at Bauya in Moyamba district, beaten, and accused of being RUF rebels. All their possessions were taken off the bus and inspected by the Kamajors but they did not find any incriminating goods. Their possessions were stolen by the CDF. In the evening, M.S. was locked in the guardroom at the CDF office with nine other women and her young child:
Twenty CDF came to the guardroom and told us, the women that we could choose between [being] raped or killed. I was raped by a young CDF on the ground of the guardroom. I told him that I was a suckling mother but he did not care. My baby was in the room when he raped me. He made me stoop like an animal. He said, "I am a government man so no one will ask me anything about this." My breast milk has gone bad now. I could hear another woman who initially refused to be raped being beaten with the torch. She was raped by two CDF called Mohammed and Ahmed.164
In the same incident, an older high-ranking CDF commander raped a thirty-five-year-old trader, R.K.:
Mr. S. raped me all night. He raped me five times. I cried as I was not used to doing that even with my husband. He was rough and did it from behind like an animal in a bad way. He accused me of being a RUF commander's wife. I told him my husband is a Gbetti [part of the CDF].165
Human Rights Watch also interviewed B.R., a Kamajor fighter who reported witnessing the rape of two civilians that took place in 1997 and 1998. He also witnessed the killing of a captured RUF female combatant, who died after being raped with a stick. B.R. explained that the rape that took place in 1997 happened when a patrol of six Kamajors, including B.R., met a group of female civilians in the bush:
Some of the women started talking bad things about the Kamajors and said that we were taking food off people. Then one Kamajors went for this woman. I saw him raping her. He had stripped her naked and she was screaming. I did not want to see it or be a witness but I had to rush there. At one point I thought he was killing her.166
The incident was reported to the high priest, one of the main Kamajor initiators who decided that the offender had to be punished. B.R. explained that the punishment was called "walking the highway," which entailed the offender being made to walk slowly through fifty Kamajors lined up on two sides, with the Kamajors flogging him with canes. B.R. said that the victim would have reported the rape to the Kamajor high priest, but that he and the others on patrol decided to report it first, otherwise it would have made them equally guilty of the crime. The rape committed in 1998 involved a young Kamajor raping a twenty-year-old woman. B.R. explained that the offender was given a trial, during which he admitted to having committed the crime. He was subsequently locked up in prison (probably a local prison).
In another instance, B.R. explained how a twenty-five-year-old female RUF combatant captured in Tongo in Kono district was brutally killed by the insertion of a long stick in her vagina after the Kamajors had cut off her ears and nose and gouged her eyes out with a machete. The Kamajor commander allegedly wanted to teach the woman a lesson and said that: "This stick is your husband and is screwing you. Are you enjoying it? Just say your last prayers, as you are going to die bit by bit."167
Sexual Violence Committed by International Peacekeeping Forces
Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of rape by the international peacekeeping forces. Human Rights Watch was informed of a rape committed by a Guinean peacekeeper, Sgt. Ballah, by two reliable sources, including the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), who had interviewed the twelve-year-old victim. The victim was raped on March 26, 2001 when she asked for Sgt. Ballah's assistance in securing a ride to Freetown at the checkpoint that he was manning. The rape was perpetrated in Bo, the area of deployment of the Guinean peacekeeping contingent. Sgt. Ballah was charged to court on the same day. Unfortunately, the SLP dropped the case and the offender was sent back to Guinea. Human Rights Watch was not able to locate the victim.
In February 2001, a Nigerian peacekeeper reportedly raped a sixteen-year-old girl in Freetown. When Human Rights Watch investigated the case, the SLP claimed they had not been able to trace the perpetrator for questioning. UNAMSIL claimed that the Nigerian contingent and UNAMSIL Civilian Police Section had investigated the matter and that the plaintiff had subsequently dropped the charge.
Human Rights Watch interviewed a witness to an alleged rape by two Ukrainian peacekeepers that took place on April 3, 2002 in the village of Joru in Kenema district. K.S., a fifty-five-year-old female farmer testified that she as well as others in her village had witnessed the gang rape:
Late at night I came out of my house to ease myself [urinate]. Maybe I had been woken up by a big white truck that had stopped about fifty meters away from my house. I hid and watched what was happening; there were people inside. I noticed two white men and one black lady inside the truck. Clearly there was a struggle going on. I could hear her yelling at them to "leave me alone" in what sounded like a Liberian accent, but I can not be sure. The door was open and one of them was on top of her. The lady was really struggling. I saw that one of them was holding her down while the other was raping her. I was able to see because in the process the men had opened the door to the car and the light had come on. I am sure they were raping her and she was fighting with them to stop it. I stayed and watched this go on for several minutes. I later learned a few more people were also watching what was going on. In fact we talked about it the next morning.
Then, perhaps afraid of being watched, the two whites moved their truck further down the road ... past my house, further down the road going out of town. Maybe they thought that because there were no houses around, we would not see what they were up to. They stayed another thirty or so minutes in this second location. I saw both of them have their turn on her, but I did not see any guns. After they were finished, I saw one of them drag her out of the cabin and put her in the back of the big truck. I can not remember if one of them got in the back with her but I think so. Then they drove off.
The next morning when I went out to go to the mosque, we found one of her black shoes that she must have kicked off while struggling with those men. The shoe was near the first place they had stopped. We took it to the police but they never came to ask us any questions. We are all a bit frightened of those UNAMSIL people now. We tell our girls never to get in a truck with them or the same thing might happen to them.168
Neither the SLP in Joru or UNAMSIL in Kenema conducted a proper investigation into this alleged gang rape, both claiming that the absence of the victim prevented them from conducting their investigation. The UNAMSIL human rights section was not aware of this alleged gang rape until Human Rights Watch informed them, and to date has also not conducted a thorough investigation.
On June 22, 2002, a fourteen-year-old boy was allegedly raped by a Bangladeshi peacekeeper near the Jui transit camp for Sierra Leonean returnees located outside of Freetown in the Western Area. The rape occurred when the victim and his friends were fishing with several Bangladeshi peacekeepers near the camp. The offender was reported to have taken the boy away from the others in the group before raping him. The victim's friends reported that the boy looked disheveled after rejoining the group and immediately told them what had happened. The offender gave the victim the equivalent of U.S $0.25 to silence him. The boy reported the rape to the SLP on June 24 and a medical exam carried out on the same day confirmed penetration had taken place.
The SLP were involved in the case for ten days, until the UNAMSIL provost marshal took it over. The provost marshal concluded that there was no conclusive evidence to link the crime to the perpetrator. After reviewing the case, the UNAMSIL force commander concluded that while the evidence was inconclusive, the circumstantial evidence was strong enough to conclude that the peacekeeper had violated military discipline, and as such issued an order of repatriation. It is not clear to Human Rights Watch whether this violation will be recorded on the offender's file. According to a reliable source, the investigation by the police and UNAMSIL was conducted in an insensitive manner and members of the Bangladeshi contingent spoke with the victim while the UNAMSIL investigation was ongoing, even though they should not have had access to him. Nor did UNAMSIL follow up with the victim or his family to apologize, provide compensation, and explain the outcome of the investigation.169
UNAMSIL investigations into allegations of sexual violence by peacekeepers indicate a lack of appreciation for the seriousness of the problem of sexual violence. Human Rights Watch urges UNAMSIL to fully investigate any allegations of sexual violence committed by UNAMSIL military or civilian personnel. The human rights section should systematically monitor and report on sexual violence, including cases involving UNAMSIL personnel. UNAMSIL should establish a mechanism with the SLP whereby allegations of sexual violence by persons employed or affiliated with UNAMSIL reported to the police are immediately reported to the relevant UNAMSIL staff members, including the provost marshal and the gender specialist in the human rights section. UNAMSIL should reciprocate by reporting cases known to it to the SLP. UNAMSIL should ensure that states report within the prescribed six months on follow up to cases involving military personnel that have resulted in the alleged perpetrator being repatriated to his country of origin, in order to ensure that states prosecute the accused. This will serve to actually enforce a stated "zero tolerance" for sexual exploitation by UNAMSIL staff and persons affiliated with UNAMSIL, which to date has had no teeth and therefore no impact on changing behavior. Civilian staff who commit sexual violence should be fired and their misconduct properly recorded in their personnel file to ensure that they are not rehired in another U.N. mission.
The UNAMSIL human rights section should also provide in-depth gender sensitization training to military and civilian staff. The training should ensure that the peacekeepers understand the code of conduct and the consequences if they do not adhere to it. The U.N. Code of Conduct for peacekeepers and the Military Observer Handbook need to be revised to ensure that the zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation by persons employed or affiliated with U.N. missions and the consequences of such acts are clearly stated in these guidelines. Similar guidelines for civilian staff need to be widely disseminated to all U.N. missions.
Both ECOMOG and UNAMSIL peacekeepers have sexually exploited women and solicited child prostitutes.
99 PHR report, p. 2. The PHR report captures some of the different types of sexual violence that women were subjected to. Of the ninety-four internally displaced women reporting their own experience of sexual violence to PHR, interviewees reported among other things: rape (89 percent); being forced to undress/stripped of clothing (37 percent); gang rape (33 percent); abduction (33 percent); molestation (14 percent) and insertion of foreign objects into genital opening or anus (4 percent). It should be noted that the definition of rape used by the PHR report differs from that used throughout this report. The definition used in this report, as mentioned above, is that used by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in the Foca case.
100 Ibid., p. 3. As PHR points out this figure might be an underestimate due to deliberate non-disclosure of sexual violence and the lack of privacy in some of the interviews, despite efforts made to ensure privacy.
101 Ibid., pp. 3-4. PHR's calculation is not inclusive of all categories of victim: to the IDP women reporting conflict-related sexual violence, PHR added non-conflict-related sexual violence among non-displaced women, assuming a prevalence rate of 9 percent.
102 Human Rights Watch interview, Foriah, March 6, 2002.
103 Human Rights Watch interview, Bo, February 9, 2000.
104 See Human Rights Watch, "Sowing Terror: Atrocities against Civilians in Sierra Leone," A Human Rights Watch Report, July 1998.
105 Human Rights Watch interview with MSF, Freetown, March, 2000.
106 PHR report, p. 48. and Table 5 on p. 52. See also Binta Mansaray, "The Invisible Human Rights Abuses in Sierra Leone: Conflict-related Rape, Sexual Slavery and Other Forms of Sexual Violence," June 2001. On file with UNAMSIL human rights section.
107 The Kamajors operate predominately in the south and east, the Tamaboros in the far north, the Gbettis in the north and the Donzos in the far east. See also "Background" section.
108 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, May 1, 1999.
109 It should be noted that virginity can not be medically proven.
110 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, October 21, 1999. The victim probably suffered from vasico-rectal fistula (a tear or opening in the tissue between the rectum and the vagina, usually resembling an open blood vessel), which would have left her incontinent.
111 International humanitarian law prohibits all rape and other acts of sexual violence, of course irrespective of whether the victim was a virgin or not.
112 Human Rights Watch interview, IDP camp called "Lebanese Camp," March 2, 2002. Women and girls with obstetric fistulae suffer from a constant wetness that results in genital ulcerations, frequent infections and a terrible odor. These fistulae generally require surgery although occasionally they spontaneously heal.
113 Human Rights Watch interview, Bo, February 9, 2000. Bundu is one of the secret societies that initiate girls and perform female genital cutting.
114 The dry season in Sierra Leone is approximately between November and May.
115 Human Rights Watch interview, Lebanese Camp, March 2, 2002.
116 Human Rights Watch interview, Kabala, March 7, 2002.
117 PHR gave the following examples of serious human rights abuses: beating, bodily injury, amputation, torture, killing, forced labor, captured for less than one day, sexual assault without rape, rape, abduction, burned dwelling, looting. PHR report, pp. 45-47.
118 Human Rights Watch interview, Lebanese IDP Camp, March 2, 2002.
119 Human Rights Watch interview, Pujehun, February 12, 2002.
120 Human Rights Watch interview, Kabala, March 9, 2002.
121 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, October 12, 1999.
122 Human Rights Watch interview, Kabala, March 7 and 9, 2002.
123 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, November 11, 1999.
124 Human Rights Watch interview, Kabala, March 7, 2002.
125 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, May 21, 1999.
126 Human Rights Watch interview, March 7 and 9, 2002.
127 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, May 25, 2000.
128 Human Rights Watch interview, Kabala, March 9, 2002.
129 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, May 3, 1999.
130 Human Rights Watch interview, Bo, March 2, 2000.
131 Human Rights Watch interview, Foriah, March 6, 2002. The rainy season starts in May and ends in October.
132 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Loko, November 27, 1999.
133 Human Rights Watch interview, Bo, February 9, 2000.
134 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, September 17, 1999.
135 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, July 8, 1999.
136 Mariane C. Ferme, The Underneath of Things: Violence, History, and the Everyday in Sierra Leone (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2001), p. 131.
137 Joko Smart, Sierra Leone Customary Law, pp. 127-8 and 131.
138 Human Rights Watch interview, Bo, March 2, 2000.
139 A prolapsed uterus is a condition in which the uterus drops from its normal position. In severe cases, such as those that may be associated with injury from sexual violence, the cervix and uterus may protrude beyond the vaginal opening.
140 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, September 5, 1999.
141 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Loko, November 27, 1999.
142 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, September 17, 1999.
143 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, October 21, 1999.
144 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Loko IDP camp, July 13, 2000.
145 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, May 18, 1999.
146 Human Rights Watch interview with Christiana Thorpe (founding Chairperson of FAWE Sierra Leone Chapter), Freetown, March 22, 2002.
147 The PHR report found that 9 percent of women reporting having themselves experienced sexual violence had been forced to "marry" their rebel "husband." PHR report, p. 2. These types of marriage are similar to marriages by capture, which were common at the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth centuries. In tribal wars, the conquerors would kill the male inhabitants of the vanquished village and capture the women who subsequently became the wives of the conquerors. The "marriage" was validated by the captor's public declaration of his intention to cohabit with his captive. Such a wife was regarded as a slave and her children could not inherit from their father. Joko Smart, Sierra Leone Customary Family Law, p. 29.
148 Human Rights Watch interview, Kabala, 7 March 2002.
149 Human Rights Watch interview, Pujehun, February 12, 2000.
150 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, September 5, 1999.
151 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, September 17, 1999.
152 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, October 12, 1999.
153 A group of female ex-combatants and abducted women, for example, defined to Human Rights Watch domestic violence as "wounding or losing consciousness."
154 Abdullah and Muana, "The Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone," p. 189.
155 Human Rights Watch interview, Kabala, March 7 and 9, 2002.
156 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, May 3, 1999. Under Article 6 (1), persons are held individually responsible for the planning, instigating, ordering, committing or otherwise aiding and abetting in the planning, preparation or execution of a crime referred to in articles 2 to 4 of the statute.
157 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, September 17, 1999.
158 PHR report, p. 54.
159 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, June 16, 1999.
160 Human Rights Watch interviews, Freetown and Makeni, April 1999 to May 2002.
161 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, April 26, 2002.
162 Human Rights Watch interview, Kenema, August 12, 2002.
163 Human Rights Watch interview, Bonthe district, July 8, 2002.
164 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, August 21, 2000.
165 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, August 21, 2000.
166 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, July 31, 2000.
167 Human Rights Watch interview, July 31, 2000. The CDF generally killed any RUF that they had captured.
168 Human Rights Watch interview, Joru, May 28, 2002. Other villagers did not want to be interviewed.
169 Human Rights Watch interview, Freetown, September 15, 2002