LURD Denies Abducted Nurses' Claims

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 19, 2003

Editor's Note: On March 17, 2003, this paper carried an article (The Cold Bloody Murder of Kaare Lund, Emmanuel Sharpolu and Musa Kieta) about the murder of three aid workers of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Toe Town, a town that was said to be attacked by forces of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) at the time of the murder. The article posed some questions: "Since the brutal killing of the aid workers, not a single word has come LURD on the Toe Town attack. Did LURD attack Toe Town and kill the ADRA aid workers and innocent civilians in the town? And if so, why?" As an example of atrocities committed by LURD against civilians the article also cited Human Rights Watch's recent report which detailed atrocities administered by LURD against five nurses of the group known as MERCI . The nurses were allegedly abducted by LURD last year.

Well, LURD issued a press release yesterday (March 18, 2003) in which the organization denies that its forces physically and sexually assaulted the nurses. Absent in the release, however, is the case of the murdered aid workers - there is still not a single word from LURD about the Toe Town attack and the allegation that its forces murdered the ADRA's aid workers. Below is the press release from LURD:

LURD's Fighters
Relative [to] the case of the five (5) nurses allegedly raped and subjected to abuses, we do take such accounts seriously; it is however terribly disappointing that the said nurses had the guts to implicate us in acts as threatening them... We outrightly denounce said implications. In as much as we accept criticisms, we do not accept destructive remarks/comments made by the nurses (act of threatening), on the contrary, we did everything possible to protect them and to convey them safely to safety, where they were eventually turned over to the UNHCR.

We are fighting an honorable war devoid of undue harassment, especially the ultimate protection of the civil populace and we intend to protect the value and not to destroy it; we see this as a prevarication intended to destroy a noble cause.

Our movement will be better served if steps are taken to prevent atrocities - an SOP (Standard Operational Procedure) is effectively put in place to serve as a check and balance on disciplinary action against perpetrators of atrocities within the rank and file of LURD - therefore, action is being taken [against] acts committed against civilians and surrendered/defected soldiers (Taylor's militia).

We assure all Human Rights Organizations and the International Community that all acts aimed at negating our positive stance in terms of atrocities against civilians shall be dealt with instantly without qualms; we are concerned and serious about civilian issues - this is no propaganda - we, LURD TRULY want the BEST for Liberia and its people, [and] the people of the West African sub-region inclusive.

LURD Secretariat
Voinjama, Lofa County
Republic of Liberia