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Saturday, July 10, 1999 Published at 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK

World: Africa

Top mediator defends Sierra Leone deal

The ceasefire: Signing away justice?

The architect of the recent Sierra Leone peace deal has defended the ceasefire agreement, amid accusations that it would allow rebels to go unpunished for atrocities committed during the eight-year civil war.

The BBC's Mark Doyle: The West is unlikely to prosecute the war criminals
The Togolese Foreign Minister, Kokou Koffigoh, told the BBC it was unrealistic to talk about respecting human rights unless the war was brought to an end.

The deal, signed in the Togolese capital, Lome, on Wednesday, commits the Revolutionary United Front to lay down its arms in exchange for representation in a new government.

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Speaking at the Organisation of African Unity summit in Algiers, Mr Koffigoh pointed out that the peace agreement stipulates the creation of a South African-style peace and reconciliation commission.

Whether this commission leads to prosecution, Mr Koffigoh said, was up to Sierra Leoneans.

Mr Koffigoh said he condemned the wide-scale killings and mutilations carried out by members of the RUF in their attempt to seize power from the government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.

UN calls for inquiry

Sierra Leone
The Togolese foreign minister was speaking the day after the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said any internal reconciliation commission should be backed up by an international inquiry.

Mrs Robinson said she welcomed the peace accord, but confirmed the UN would not accept that amnesties could be granted to those guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and other gross violations.

Several human rights organisations have voiced protests against the deal, saying that that those who have carried out atrocities would be allowed to benefit from an amnesty.

The UN representative who signed the peace deal added a hand-written note, which said the amnesty should not cover gross violations of international humanitarian law.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch says it wants the UN to develop this note into a formal protocol, and to put pressure on both the Sierra Leone Government and the rebels to endorse it.

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