Liberia: Swiss Court To Decide Alieu Kosiha’s Fate Today

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MONROVIA – The Swiss Court hearing war crimes case of Alieu Kosiah, a former ULIMO commander, is expected to give a verdict in the case today.

Kosiah stood trial in Bellinzona, Switzerland, in December 2020 and in February 2021 for four weeks for the crimes he allegedly committed in Lofa County, Liberia, between 1993 and 1996.

He is charged with 25 counts of war crimes, including murders, forced transports, looting, rape, and recruitment of a child soldier. The Swiss Federal Criminal Court announced today that the judgment will be rendered on June 18, 2021 at 1.30pm. Alieu Kosiah pleaded not guilty, and the Federal Prosecutor requested the sentence of 20 years in prison.

This is a landmark case as the Defendant is the first Liberian national to be tried for war crimes connected to the Liberian civil wars (1989-1997, 1999-2003); it is also the first time the Swiss Federal Criminal Court held a war crime trial.

Of the seven plaintiffs that testified, four of them were represented in Court by the lawyers of Civitas Maxima, which had filed a complaint against Kosiah in 2014. “Kosiah’s trial is the first step towards ending impunity in Liberia” stated Fayah Williams, Deputy Director of the Global Justice and Research Project “people who allegedly have committed crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil wars have always thought they were above the law. Some of the plaintiffs in the Alieu Kosiah case chose to come twice from Liberia during Ebola and later the COVID-19 pandemic to share their testimony in Switzerland. Their example will encourage other victims to come forward.”

Alieu Kosiah is a former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) faction, a rebel group that participated in the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996) which fought against the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, led by Charles Taylor. After the war, Kosiah moved to Switzerland, where he obtained permanent residence.

On 10 November 2014, Swiss authorities arrested Kosiah in connection with accusations that he was involved in mass killings in parts of Liberia’s Lofa County from 1993 to 1995. Criminal complaints were filed against him by several Liberian victims, represented by Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima. Kosiah was accused of ordering civilian massacres, rapes, and other atrocities in northern Liberia during the nation’s First Civil War.

Kosiah was charged on several counts, including having ordered, committed, or participated in the murder of civilians and soldiers hors de combat, having desecrated the corpse of a civilian, having raped a civilian, having ordered the cruel treatment of civilians, having recruited and used a child soldier, having ordered several pillages, and having ordered and/or participated in the forced transport of goods and ammunition by civilians.

The trial:

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court postponed the trial several times due to the spread of COVID-19.  Finally, the Court has decided to proceed with the preliminary questions and the hearing of the defendant from December 3 to December 11, 2020. The rest of the trial – the hearing of the plaintiffs and the witnesses, and the final pleadings – took place from February 15 to March 5, 2021. A verdict is expected on June 18, 2021 at 1.30pm.

This was the first time a Liberian national was tried for war crimes in relation to the Liberian Civil Wars, and the first time the Federal Criminal Court held a war crimes trial.

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