Monrovia - The Liberia Massacre Survivors Association (LIMASA) has expressed optimism over the trial of former ULIMO-K commander Mohommed Jabateh, which started on Monday in the United States.
Report by James Harding Giahyue, FPA Contributor
Known during the war as Jungle Jabbah, Jabateh faces two counts each of perjury and fraud for allegedly lying to American immigration officers during his 1998 application for asylum in the United States.
The 49-year-old is accused in a 14-page indictment of either committing or supervising war crimes and crimes against humanity—murder of civilians, sexual enslavement of women and conscription of child soldiers, just to name a few.
He faces up to 30 years in prison in the United States but will not face deportation.
“Now am very much happy,” said Peterson Sonyah, Executive Director of the Liberia Massacre Survivors Association (LIMASA) in an interview over the weekend.
“Liberians are hurt in the sense that some people did bad things and are lying to the people in the U.S. Some of the things they did here are the things that have got people begging here from street to street and there is no shelter,” he said.
“That is the work that LIMASA is doing,” he said.
“When we hear things like this, we are very much happy, very much impressed that things should work for the betterment of the Liberian people. So, we are 100 percent in support of that."
"We want to see people being prosecuted, we want to see people being sentenced for the rest of their live, so that they can know that what they did to people …is hurtful and that they should go through that pain too.”
Liberia has not prosecuted anyone for crimes committed during its 14-year civil conflict (1989–1990). (Charles Taylor was convicted of crimes committed in neighboring Sierra Leone during that country’s war crimes trial.
He has been jailed for 51 years in the U.K. His son Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr. was sentenced to 97 years in a U.S. jail in the first prosecution of a US citizen for torture committed on US territory.)
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended a special tribunal for those who bear the greatest responsibilities for the bloodbath, but that has yet to happen. The TRC’s recommendations have divided the country. The Supreme Court ruled that some of its recommendations were unconstitutional, for instance.
But groups like LIMASA have their fingers crossed with the war crimes of Jabateh, and several more trials set to go ahead next year—of former Taylor fiance, Agnes Taylor in the United Kingdom and Martina Johnson in Belgium and Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu in the U.S.—that some Liberian victims will see a form of justice.
“We’ve got good hope in this trial that things will work out fine, and things are going to work out in the interest of the Liberian people,” said Sonyah.
“This is not only about victims and survivors. This is about all Liberians because if we allow people to do things and go with impunity in this country, it will continue to happen.”
Sonyah said LIMASA was angry that only one of the lead presidential candidates has spoken about the setting up of a war crime court here or any means through which war perpetrators can account for their crimes.
Vice President Joseph Boakai concurs with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that only some of the TRC recommendations—not a war crime court—can be implemented. Senator George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) has drifted from his call for a war crimes court in 2004.
Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress sees war crimes court as “looking backward”. And Cllr. Brumskine says a Liberty Party government may consider a court after his first three years as president.
Only Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP) has promised to set up a war crime court if elected.
“I’m frustrated, downhearted with many of our presidential candidates in the race,” Sonyah, lamented. “They are not saying anything about prosecuting warlords and opening war crimes court in Liberia. It is very much frustrating.
“Many victims of the Liberian civil war, massacres are just around here, roaming around here, begging for little or nothing; while those warlords, those perpetrators are living the best of lives.”
LIMASA claims it has recorded thousands of the names of survivors of scores of massacres that occurred during the civil war in Liberia.
Sonyah revealed his group was encouraging its members to vote in the general and presidential elections on next Tuesday so it can rally the support of politicians for the establishment of a war crime court here.
“We have 19,000 plus that registered and will take part in the elections” he said.
“We will write the houses of parliament, the new government that is coming into power that:
‘If you want this country to move forward, there should be a war crime court established here.’ In the absence of justice, we are not going to go anywhere. We are going to remain the same as yesterday.”
The story was produced as collaboration with New Narratives with funding from Civitas Maximas. The funder had no say in the story’s content