Liberia Must Make Accountability For War Crimes A Top Priority

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DURING A VISIT with the Speaker of the House of Representative last week, Sir Neil Bradley, the British Ambassador accredited to Liberia added his voice in urging the government of Liberia, to take seriously the issue of accountability to give justice to war victims affected by the long years of civil strife.

MORE THAN A DECADE after the end of the civil war, the quest for justice for those who lost their lives in the civil war appears to be dwindling with very little attempts being made to implement the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, a rapidly rising fear amongst many stakeholders is that a new generation of Liberians with very little memory of what took place during those painful and bloody years, lack the interest to keep the fire burning. Thus, it is becoming increasingly likely that those who maimed, tortured and maimed victims are likely to go unpunished for the crimes committed during the war.

THIS IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.

WHILE EXPRESSING Britain’s willingness to work with Liberia in many areas of economic opportunities affecting the country’s green energy sector, mining, forestry, fisheries, and energy, amongst others, Ambassador Neil stressed that without accountability for crimes perpetrated by people against others in various forms, it will be difficult for the country to achieve its goals.

IN RECENT WEEKS, the country has been overwhelmed by criminal activities with the mysterious deaths of auditors and many others.

SADLY, the only accountability carried out so far have been out of Liberia.

QUITE RECENTLY,  a  Finnish court commenced the trial of Gibril Massaquoi, a Sierra Leonean accused of war crimes allegedly committed in Liberia between 2001 and 2002. In a first-of-its kind move, the court has temporarily relocated to Liberia for part of the trial. 

MASSAQUOI HAD BEEN living in exile in Finland for a decade. The charges associated with the alleged war crimes were brought against him in a Finnish court. Due to the logistical difficulties involved in moving witnesses to Finland, especially following the outbreak of Covid-19, the court decided to temporarily relocate to Liberia. 

MASSAQUOI, 50, originally from Sierra Leone, stands accused of torture and rape of civilians, crimes allegedly committed in Liberia during his time as a commander of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) between 2001 and 2002. 

SIMULTANEOUSLY, another trial is taking place in Switzerland of a Liberian rebel commander facing allegations of rape, executions and cannibalism has resumed, with Liberian victims set to begin testifying this week in a landmark case under Swiss law. Alieu Kosiah, 45, a former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy rebel group, denies all the allegations against him.

THE TWO TRIAL COME as France’s investigating chamber of the Paris Court of Appeals confirmed the referral to trial in France of Kunti K, a former Liberian commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), for crimes allegedly committed during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996).

IN NOVEMBER 2020, the investigating judge in his closing order had requested the indictment of Kunti K. for crimes of torture and barbaric acts. The Prosecutor appealed the failure to indict for crimes against humanity. The investigating chamber found in favor of the Prosecutor, by expanding the indictment to cover crimes against humanity in addition to crimes of torture and acts of barbarism that had been ordered by the investigating judge.
 
KUNTI K.’S TRIAL will be the first in France, since the establishment of the French war crimes division in 2012, not connected to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT of the Kunti K. trial closely evokes the trial of Kosiah, which was concluded in March 2021 in Switzerland, and it is expected that a verdict will be reached soon. Both Kunti K. and Kosiah were ULIMO commanders active in the same region and are both implicated in alleged heinous crimes against the population of Lofa County in Liberia.

LIBERIA’S FAILURE to take issues of accountability for war crimes seriously is simply adding to a rising sense of impunity.

FOR STAKEHOLDERS KEEN on lending a hand to help resuscitate the country’s economy, lagging on the issue of grave importance to Liberia’s post-war peace does not augur well for Liberia’s long-term political and economic survival and stability.

ALLOWING PERPETRATORS of war to continue to roam the streets and occupy seats in government at taxpayers and donors expense is a slap in the face of donors and stakeholders whose taxes have helped Liberia recover from the damage caused by war criminals who killed innocent Liberians and are getting away with murder, mayhem, chaos and damage that Liberia is still struggling to recover from.

THOSE NOW IN POWER owe it to victims of the war to ensure that their lives were not lost for nothing, that those responsible for destroying Liberia’s infrastructures will be made to pay for the pains and suffering they put Liberia and Liberians through.

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