Monrovia – Charles Cooper, a Liberian national recently deported by the United States government for his alleged involvement in human rights abuses during the Liberian civil war, has claimed innocence. He noted his deportation was due to his refusal to testify against former President Charles Taylor during his trial in The Hague.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]Cooper served as a bodyguard to Taylor and a member of the elite Special Security Service (SSS).
Speaking to reporters in Monrovia over the weekend Cooper said, “I have come to clarify some of the media reports. At no time I, Charles Cooper, committed crimes against humanity. I wasn’t mentioned in any of the Truth Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings or report. My family is devastated; my kids are weeping knowing the kind of father they have – he will never do such thing and that is why I have come to clarify.”
He told reporters that he was framed by some of his accusers, including the U.S. government which had asked him to testify against former President Charles Taylor when he was being prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
He insisted that he knew nothing of the former President’s war activities and he at no time went on the frontline to fight for the Taylor-led National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
Cooper explained, “I started working for the Special Security Service (SSS) 1994 up to 2006. As a professional in the SSS, I worked for the presidency and not an individual; whoever becomes President, I worked for them. What people don’t know is that I worked for Mr. Taylor as an SSS officer and also worked for Charles Gyude Bryant in a very sensitive position than I was with Taylor.”
He has challenged people who were victims of crimes he is being accused of to come out publically to show places and time he committed the crimes. He has also challenged the TRC to invite him and investigate him to show whether he was involved in any military activities.
Cooper said; “Let them go to former military commanders to find out which military group I was a member of. I have never ever gone on the frontline to fight for the NPFL.”
“If the American government had enough proof on me that I committed atrocity they would have provided it but this whole case against me was built because I refused to testify against Taylor; this case is fake.”
How He Was Deported
Cooper was returned to Liberia on June 19 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) deportation officers.
According to the ICE, prior to coming to the United States, Cooper, while a member of the SSS and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, was directly involved in the persecution of civilians in Liberia.
“This individual is a human rights violator. He was a member of an organization known for setting fires to whole villages, and it is because of the diligence of ICE and its officers that this man is no longer living comfortably within our communities,” said Thomas Decker, field office director for ERO New York. “It is important to note that the safety of the public is our top priority, and ICE continues to target criminal aliens taking refuge in our cities after having committed crimes in their home country.”
ERO deportation officers escorted the 45-year-old who was removed from the United States via an ICE Air Operations Charter flight and transferred into the custody of Liberian law enforcement authorities upon arrival to the capital, Monrovia.
In January 2006, Cooper entered the United States as a nonimmigrant visitor, with authorization to remain in the United States until August 2006. Cooper failed to depart the United States as required. In December 2006, Cooper was placed into removal proceedings
On Aug. 11, 2014, Cooper was ordered removed by an immigration judge in Baltimore, Maryland, and appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). On Feb. 9, 2016, the BIA dismissed the appeal. On Aug. 11, 2017, Cooper was arrested by the New York Police Department, and charged with DWI. On that same date, ERO deportation officers lodged an immigration detainer with the NYPD’s Richmond Central Booking. Cooper was released from NYPD custody, without the detainer being honored and without notification to ICE. On May 5, 2018, ERO deportation officers arrested Cooper in Staten Island, New York, paving the way for his removal.
This case was litigated by ICE’s Baltimore Office of Chief Counsel with the support of the Human Rights Law Section and the Immigration Law and Practice Division and was supported by ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). Established in 2009, the HRVWCC, furthers ICE’s efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 410 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 908 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 122 such individuals from the United States.
Currently, HSI has more than 135 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center has issued more than 75,000 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped over 260 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.