LIBERIA: ‘Mother of NPFL’S ‘Revolution’ Betrays Victims of Civil War
AGNES REEVES-TAYLOR is the latest actor to proclaim that she had no role to play in Liberia’s long-running civil war. “They called me Mother of the Revolution because I was everyone’s mother. I did not play any military role during the war. I was wife of Charles Taylor”, she said at a news conference Monday.
AROUND 250,000 people were killed, and many thousands more fled the fighting.
FATHERS, MOTHERS, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, loved ones, friends and family members endured pain, suffering and losses and scores of others are still grieving to come to terms with the toll of the war, after more than a decade of senseless fighting and killings.
THROUGHOUT THE PERIOD, no one went on record to speak out against the atrocities; no one within the vicinity of Mr. Taylor, Prince Johnson or any of the warring factions, said anything publicly, that the killings had to stop, that innocent people were dying, that the war was taking a toll and a tribal tone and many lives were being lost without valuable explanations.
APPEARING BEFORE the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in January 2009, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf challenged any member of a former warring faction to prove she was a member, saying she was never a member of any of the warring factions. “I have absolutely not supported any warring faction and none of them can say I supported them, “she said.
ACKNOWLEDGING THAT like thousands of Liberians, she was a sympathizer, Sirleaf admitted making contribution to an amount of US$10,000.00 that was donated to the NPFL by the Association of Constitutional Democracy (ACDL) for relief operations in Nimba County at the height of the conflict. “After the killing of Jackson Doe, Kpolleh and others, we then concluded that that thing about Taylor was not what it was meant to be.”
VERY FEW actors have acknowledged actual roles in the war, except for the likes of Prince Y. Johnson, leader of the breakaway Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia(INPFL) and Joshua Milton Blahyi, known by his nom de guerre General Butt Naked.
Blahyi was known for his violence and atrocities during the First LiberianCivil War in the early 1990s while multiple videos and images of Johnson’s atrocities are available on the worldwide web.
SADLY, NO ONE AT THE time of the civil war, ever recalled Madam Reeves-Taylor ever trumpeting herself as the “Mother of the Revolution, a label she appeared to happily embraced during her breakout news conference, since her return to Liberia and release from prison in the United Kingdom.
ADDRESSING THE ALLEGATIONS against her for the first time, Madam Reeves-Taylor acknowledged that she has never, until now, had an opportunity to tell my side of the story. “All you have heard is the account given by my so-called accusers howbeit flawed. Under normal circumstances I would have ignored what was being said but due to the grievous and heinous nature of these allegations, I am compelled to respond with the truth.”
REEVES-TAYLOR, WHO was placed on a UN travel ban and Asset Freeze for a period of 11 years, dismissed allegations that she was the commander of Gborplay from January 1990 and thereby held 80 odd women in a house as comfort women for NPFL fighters.
SHE ALSO DISMISSED allegations that she was the 2nd in command to Charles Taylor, the Commander of the Wild Geese, the Commander of SBU, the Commander of the WACs. “The Commander of a group I have never heard of called Wives Force and the Commander of another group called Wise Brigade. I was also said to be the Minister of Health, the Commander of border patrol and the Commander of the Parker Paint checkpoint where I supposedly killed 200 persons every day. Now it is obvious that these are monstrous, nefarious lies.”
MADAM REEVES-TAYLOR lamented: “Guilt by association appears to be the locus in cases related to Liberia. This poses a threat to anyone of any significance who dares travel or live in a western country. These so-called NGOs (Civitas Maximum and its subsidiary GJRP) are on a rampage with venom and will do anything to keep their funding coming. They are willing to stoop to any level including scripting witnesses and developing an alternative reality to the truth in order to gain relevance internationally. THIS NEEDS TO STOP!”
UNTIL THOSE at the helm of power begin to see a strong reason to revisit the TRC recommendations, those who lost their lives in the civil war may have just died in vain The truth of what actually happened to them is now being disinfected by witnesses who were at the center of the war and in close proximity of warlords and their band of killers and looters, who killed innocent people, who went on a vengeance spree.
SHE ACCUSED Mr. Hassan Billy and his Global Justice & Research Project(GJRP) of manipulating Western countries to believe that he is some a renown journalist and human rights activist. “I beg to differ. When did he become a renown journalist. There have been many renown journalist over the years and some of you are here today. This erstwhile individual claiming to be a renowned Liberian Journalist is nothing but a, fraud, Bounty Hunter and mercenary. He has no conscience or moral compass.”
SHE URGED the Liberian judiciary to seize this opportunity for justice and fully review the matter that subjugated me to solitary confinement, bringing mental and physical humiliation to my person on foreign soil. I came to Liberia to face my so-called accusers in an environment where they claim these crimes occurred. I am home to join my fellow citizens to help in the rebuilding of our country for the good of all. Now that I have been vindicated. I will join with all to rally around our government and work in the interest of peace and development.”
SADLY, ELEVEN years after the final TRC report was completed and presented to former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,, none of the recommendations seen as essential for achieving justice, reconciliation and continued economic, social and political rehabilitation of Liberia, has been implemented.
ELEVEN YEARS on, no valuable Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation, and the Agenda for Transformation have been discussed.
THE PALAVA HUT MECHANISM regarded as the only current effort that could foresee some form of justice, using traditional mechanisms and address lower level crimes has not been discussed. Additionally, the Agenda for Transformation which recognizes that “true reconciliation in Liberia is currently hindered by inadequate accountability for human rights violations committed during the civil war has also not been addressed.
WITH ALL THESE key mechanisms being ignored, it is unfair for anyone who was such close proximity of Mr. Taylor and the NPFL to now claim that they had no role in the war.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE, that tHE UK LAW which Agnes Taylor was charged under only applies to people involved in acts of torture who were “acting in an official capacity” at the time. This means that they must have worked for the government or been members of a rebel group that had a certain kind of authority / control over the area where the alleged crimes occurred.
SHE WAS charged for offenses allegedly committed in 1990 in certain areas of Nimba county. Some courts in the UK thought that the kind of authority / control the NPFL had in Nimba at the time Agnes Taylor was allegedly involved in acts of torture was sufficient to send her case to trial. However, the highest UK Court had a slightly different understanding of the kind of authority / control that is required under that particular UK law. Because of that, the UK judge that was hearing her case had to reconsider whether she could be prosecuted under that law.
THE JUDGE decided that the evidence the UK prosecutors had provided the court was not enough to prove that the NPFL had the required level of authority / control in Nimba at the time of the alleged crimes, in order for Agnes Taylor to be prosecuted under that law. “(…) I have asked myself in relation to each Count (…) whether there is sufficient evidence, taken at its reasonable heighest, upon which a jury could properly conclude that, at the time and location of each offence, the NPFL was exercising governmental function in the relevant area. In my view the answer, in each instance, is clearly in the negative.”
THERE IS ANOTHER UK law under which any person (not only people “acting in an official capacity”) may be prosecuted for torture, but because it only came into legal force in 1991, Agnes Taylor’s alleged involvement in torture in 1990 cannot be prosecuted under that law. The law cannot be applied to crimes that occurred before it came into legal force.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE that the crimes that Agnes Taylor allegedly committed could qualify as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, they could not be charged as such under UK law. Like the broader definition of torture described above (applying to all persons) which came into force only in 1991, these crimes did not exist in UK domestic law at the time of the events in question.
CONTRARY TO WHAT she stated in her news conference Tuesday, her release from prison does not in anyway mean that the Court did not believe the witnesses/victims who spoke about crimes that Agnes Taylor allegedly committed. In fact, the case never went to trial, no witnesses or victims ever got to testify against Agnes Taylor.
WHAT IT MEANS is that the merits of the allegations against Agnes Taylor, as well as the credibility and reliability of the victims/witnesses, were not challenged by the court decision. More importantly, these important elements remain untested.
THIS BY NO MEANS, mean that Reeves-Taylor is innocent. It simply means that the case never went to the trial stage because of the legal issues noted above. In fact, the UK Court noted in its judgment dismissing the charges against Agnes Taylor that she did not dispute, when she applied for the charges agaisnt her to be dismissed (direct quote from UK Court judgment):“that there is prima facie evidence that she held a high rank in the NPFL and (…) carried out, whether personally, or by giving orders, or by acquiescing in, the acts of torture (…) which took place in, or on the border of, Nimba County.”
REEVES-TAYLOR could still be prosecuted for her alleged involvement in torture, as well as other alleged crimes, if a country that has the authority to prosecute her has a law enabling it.
UNTIL THOSE at the helm of power begin to see strong reason to revisit the TRC recommendations, those who lost their lives in the civil war may have just died in vain. The truth of what actually happened to them is now being disinfected by witnesses who were at the center of the war and in close proximity of warlords and their band of killers and looters, who killed innocent people, who went on a vengeance spree.
NOW, THEY ALL get to walk free with impunity and never have to answer to the families of the people they killed and the lives and properties they ruined.
WHAT THIS guarantees is that the next time anything resembling a war takes place in Liberia, one can expect to see the same atrocities committed because every Tom, Dick and Harry will feel that there is simply no punishment for war crimes, not in Liberia, and maybe not in this generation.