Victims Group: Liberia collaborated with Foreign Government in War Crime Case for First Time

A ULIMO grandfather-victim in Foya, Lofa County shows a scar from a wound he sustained from a ULIMO rebel in the 1990s

Monrovia – Security personnel here collaborated with French authorities in an investigation in Lofa County earlier this year in war crime case against a former general of the Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO), according to the group representing the victims who filed the case in France: Civitas Maxima. 

By James Harding Giahyue, New Narratives Senior Justice Correspondent

Kunti Kamara was in arrested in September last year and charged with torture, murder, enslavement, the use of child soldiers, and cannibalism between 1993 and 1997. 

“That investigation was the first time Liberian authorities have taken part in a crime-scene reconstruction following the end of the civil war in 2003, Civitas Maxima said in new release on Wednesday, adding the “mission required significant logistical resources”. 

“These reconstructions took place in the presence of the French prosecuting authorities, investigating judge, defense lawyers, and the civil parties. Throughout this one-week mission, the contribution of the Liberian authorities was exemplary,” the news release added. 

Liberian authorities collaborating with foreign investigators over a case involving war crimes and crimes against humanity is huge news for the international justice system. Four other Liberians—Moses Thomas and Thomas Woewiyu (awaiting sentencing) in the United States, Agnes Reeves Taylor in United Kingdom, Alieu Kosiah in Switzerland—are on trial in connection to the civil war. Such collaboration was lacking prior to Kosiah’s indictment in March, which the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland said was “particularly complex”.  

The Lofa investigation is a also a turnaround by the George Weah administration, which, sources say, had ignored requests—like former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—from European investigators to gather evidence inside Liberia for the cases of Kamara, Kosiah, Reeves Taylor and Johnson. 

Civitas Maxima, which works in collaboration with Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) based here, commended Liberia and France for the collaboration. 

“This, Civitas Maxima and GJRP believe, is an important development in the fight against impunity for crimes that were committed in Liberia during the two Liberian Civil Wars,” the news release said.

Kamara is the third ex-ULIMO general to be charged in connection with crimes allegedly committed during the civil war. Mohammed Jabbateh, aliased “Jungle Jabbah”, who is serving a 30-year sentence in the United States and Kosiah in Switzerland were the first and second, respectively. 

All the European cases are being held under the legal doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction, which allows countries try foreigners for crimes committed in other countries. Both Jabbateh and Woewiyu cases are immigration cases; while Thomas case is a civil lawsuit. 

The news release did not say exactly where the investigation in Lofa took place, but the Foya District towards the Sierra Leone and Guinea border is one of the places that witnesses most of ULIMO crimes. 

ULIMO committed more crimes in Foya than any other warring faction, according to survivors. The TRC report did not say much of ULIMO’s alleged Foya killings, except once that “large number of people from the Kissi ethnic group” was killed in October 1993.  The group committed 11,500 crimes or the fifth most atrocities during the Liberia Civil War, according to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report in 2009. 

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.