Liberia: ‘Woewiyu will Never Be Sentenced, But’. . . Swiss-Based Civictas Maxima on Death of Ex-NPFL Strongman

0

Thomas Woewiyu had faced trial in June 2018 in Philadelphia, U.S, and in July 2018 was convicted by a jury who found him guilty of 11 counts of immigration fraud and perjury for lying to the U.S immigration authorities about his role in a rebel movement during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996). It was the first ever trial of someone who held a ministerial position with a major rebel faction during Liberia’s Civil Wars.

GENEVA – Civictas Maxima, the Swiss-based group, responsible for bringing some of the major players of Liberia’s long-running civil war to face justice for their crimes says victims of war crimes can take solace that while Mr. Jucontee Thomas Woewiyou, who died Monday from the deadly Coronavirus will forever be linked to his role during the first Liberian civil war, thanks to his conviction last year.

“Many victims were incredibly brave to travel from the other side of the world to testify. Thomas Woewiyu’s trial remains a landmark for Liberian history, it marks one of the first steps of Liberia’s quest for justice and fight against impunity for the crimes committed during the two civil wars. Nevertheless, his death stresses the need for the Liberian Government to move faster and build an accountability system in keeping with international laws: we cannot afford perpetrators to die of natural causes as a way of eluding justice.”

Hassan Bility, Director, Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP).

“Thomas Woewiyu will never be sentenced, but he was convicted of criminal offenses directly linked to his role during the first Liberian civil war, and this will never be taken away from the many victims of the NPFL’s vicious crimes” declared Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima, in a statement Monday.

Mr. Woewiyu, the former Minister of Defense and Spokesman of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) during the First Liberian Civil War, died yesterday, April 12, of COVID-19 after a week of treatment at the Bryn Mawr Hospital in Philadelphia, U.S.

Woewiyu had faced trial in June 2018 in Philadelphia, U.S, and in July 2018 was convicted by a jury who found him guilty of 11 counts of immigration fraud and perjury for lying to the U.S immigration authorities about his role in a rebel movement during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996). It was the first ever trial of someone who held a ministerial position with a major rebel faction during Liberia’s Civil Wars.

Woewiyu’s sentencing hearing was first scheduled for October 2018 but was postponed several times during 2018 and 2019. After the last postponement in April 2019, a new date for the hearing was not set, but was expected in 2020. Woewiyu was not in custody awaiting sentencing.

Woewiyu’s trial in the U.S. was the very first time victims and witnesses, including child soldiers, were able to take the stand in a criminal court to testify about the horrific crimes committed by the NPFL during the First Liberian Civil War. Civitas Maxima and its Liberian sister organization, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), assisted the U.S. authorities during the investigation and monitored the proceedings.

“Many victims were incredibly brave to travel from the other side of the world to testify. Thomas Woewiyu’s trial remains a landmark for Liberian history, it marks one of the first steps of Liberia’s quest for justice and fight against impunity for the crimes committed during the two civil wars. Nevertheless, his death stresses the need for the Liberian Government to move faster and build an accountability system in keeping with international laws: we cannot afford perpetrators to die of natural causes as a way of eluding justice” stated Hassan Bility, an awarded human rights defender and Director of the GJRP.

“Thomas Woewiyu will never be sentenced, but he was convicted of criminal offenses directly linked to his role during the first Liberian civil war, and this will never be taken away from the many victims of the NPFL’s vicious crimes.”

Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima

Woewiyu, alongside former President of Liberia and leader of the NPFL Charles Taylor, founded the NPFL and served as the Defense Minister and Spokesman of the faction while it conducted a brutal military campaign across Liberia, including the infamous Operation Octopus against the capital city Monrovia in 1992.

According to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the NPFL controlled most of the country during the First Civil War (1989-1996) and is responsible for at least 60,000 violations reported to the TRC, consisting of war crimes such as rape, slavery, recruitment of child soldiers, and massacres. During the two Civil Wars, which lasted over 10 years, approximately 250,000 civilians were killed.

Beside Woewiyou, Civictas Maxima has been responsible for the arrest of several prominent figures of the Liberian civil war.

Among them:

The work of Civictas Maxima has led to the arrest of several prominent figures of the Liberian civil war.

Martina Johnson, a former artillery commander of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of Charles Taylor, who was arrested in September 2014 in Gent, Belgium, and charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. She was later released while she is awaiting trial
Her arrest marked the first time ever a Liberian was criminally charged for international crimes allegedly committed during the 1st civil war in Liberia (1989-1996).

Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) had documented crimes allegedly committed by Martina Johnson and the NPFL in Liberia and helped victims to file a criminal complaint against her in Belgium with the Belgian lawyer Luc Walleyn. The Belgian authorities conducted a two-year non-public investigation based on the information Civitas Maxima and GJRP collected.

The criminal investigation continues and a decision is likely to be made in the course of 2019 by Belgian judges on whether or not to send Martina Johnson to trial.

Alieu Kosiah, a former commander of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) was arrested and charged for war crimes in Switzerland in November 2014 and his arrest was made public in January 2015.

His arrest marked the first time ever a member of the armed group ULIMO which was fighting against Charles Taylor and the NPFL during the Liberian civil war was arrested and charged.

Like the case against Johnson, Civitas Maxima and the GJRP documented crimes committed by ULIMO in Liberia and Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima, filed on behalf of five Liberian victims a criminal complaint against Alieu Kosiah in 2014 in Switzerland after having discovered that he had resided in Switzerland for several years. Alieu Kosiah is suspected by the Swiss authorities to have committed war crimes between 1993 and 1995.

From 2015 through 2017, the criminal investigation proceeded and a Swiss Judge decided several times to prolong M. Kosiah’s detention. In March 2019 the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced that Kosiah’s case will go to trial, expected in 2020.

A criminal trial of Kosiah was set to start in March but was put off due to the Coronavirus pandemic. His trial would be the first time someone would be tried for war crimes in front of a non-military criminal court in Switzerland (the Federal Criminal Court).

Regarding the case of Michel Desaedeleer, Civitas Maxima and the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) in Freetown have worked in partnership and documented for several years the accounts of people used by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) as slaves in the diamonds pits of Kono in the Eastern part of Sierra Leone as part of the trade of so-called « blood diamonds ». A criminal complaint against M. Desaedeleer, US and Belgian citizen, was filed in 2011 in Belgium on behalf of several Sierra Leonean plaintiffs. This complaint prompted an official and non-public federal investigation by Belgian authorities against M. Desaedeleer.

This is the very first time that someone was arrested and indicted for participation in the trade of blood diamonds, qualified as a war crime – pillage – and crime against humanity – forced labor.

In September 2015, after several years of investigation, M. Desaedeleer was arrested in Malaga, Spain, following the issuance of a European arrest warrant against him. He was then transferred to Belgium where he was charged for war crimes and crimes against humanity, being accused of having participated with Charles Taylor and the rebels of the RUF in Sierra Leone in the trade of so-called “blood diamonds”.

Desaedeleer passed away in Belgian custody on 28 September 2016, a few months before his trial was scheduled to commence.
Agnes Taylor, the former wife of former President Taylor, was arrested in June 2017, the Metropolitan Police Service and charged with torture for her alleged involvement with atrocities committed by Charles Taylor’s rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), during the first Liberian Civil War.

This landmark case marks the second time someone formerly associated with the NPFL has been charged with crimes committed during Liberia’s civil wars. In December 2019, a UK judge dismissed torture charges against Taylor.

Mohammed Jabbateh, aka Jungle Jabbah, was arrested in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. On 2 October 2017, the U.S. Government’s immigration fraud case against the Liberian citizen, Pennsylvania resident, and alleged war criminal began in Philadelphia. Jabbateh was charged with two counts of fraud in immigration documents and two counts of perjury for having lied to authorities about his war time activities. He was a ULIMO commander, then later ULIMO-K post-faction split, during the First Liberian Civil War and responsible for commanding atrocious wartime crimes including murder, conscription of child soldiers, and cannibalism.

A jury convicted Jabbateh on 18 October 2017. On 19 April 2018, Jabbateh was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence for his charges. This sentence is also one of the longest sentences for immigration fraud in U.S. history.

That trial was the first ever trial against a ULIMO commander and the first time that victims testified in a criminal trial about crimes committed during the First Liberian Civil War. Our team of lawyers produced daily legal monitoring summarizing the trial proceeding.

Civitas Maxima believes that local populations, those who bear the consequences of the gravest war crimes and human rights violations committed in their countries, have the right to accessible and unbiased information about any trials of alleged war criminals, even those that take place in other countries. In order to make justice proceedings approachable, we incorporate creative and innovative tools involving grassroots participation of artists, filmmakers, and reporters.

Comments
Loading...