Dutch Supreme Court Upholds Gus Kouwenhoven’s Conviction; Extradition Pending

The Hague, Netherlands December 18, 2018 – The AP is reporting that the Supreme Court in the Netherlands has upheld the conviction of the notorious Dutch arms smuggler Gus Kouwenhoven – a long-time associate of former rebel turned ex-President of Liberia Charles Taylor.

Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor
Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor

Kouwenhoven who operated the Oriental Timber Company (OTC) in Liberia was convicted in 2006 of international arms and timber smuggling including supply of cars, weapons,  and ammunitions to the main rebel group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in exchange for access to timber, diamond and natural resources of the poor West African country during its devastating civil war in 1990s. He appealed that conviction and was cleared.

However, new evidence surfaced on which the Dutch national was convicted again early 2017 and sentenced to 19 years  in prison.

In his 2016 book on conflict diamonds entitled, “ The Lion That Didn’t Roar: Can The Kimberly Process Stop the Blood Diamonds Trade?”, author Nigel Davidson wrote that, “…The Netherlands utilised its national war crimes legislation to initiate a prosecution about the related issue of so-called ‘conflict timber’. Although not a conflict diamonds prosecution as such, the war crimes legislation was used to prosecute timber trader and Dutch national Gus Kouwehoven. Reminiscent of the conflict diamonds problem, Kouwehoven allegedly provided financial assistance through is logging activities to human rights violators. Kouwenhoven was charged with war crimes for his role in the conflict in Liberia, as well as breaching United Nations sanctions. The indictment alleged that in at least four locations, Kouwenhoven committed, directly or indirectly, the killing, inhuman treatment, looting, rape, severe bodily harm, and offences against dead, sick or wounded persons. Machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used in an attack that made no distinction between active combatants and civilians…”

A Dutch Magisterial Court in 2006, however, did not find Kouwenhoven criminally liable for the alleged crimes. An Appeals court in 2008 overturned the decision and ordered him re-tried and he was subsequently convicted.

Charles Taylor Fighters
Charles Taylor Fighters

At the time of Mr. Kouwenhoven’s arrest last December in South Africa, the Executive Director of Global Witness, in a press statement said, “The arrest of Gus Kouwenhoven marks a banner day for the people of Liberia and those around the world who suffer at the hands of companies that trade in conflict timber and minerals. The message to those that trade guns for resources and profit from international crimes is that the rules of the game are changing. You will be found and you will go to jail…”

“Gus” as he was known in Liberia, was a business fixture at the once famed Hotel Africa Hotel in the northern western Liberian suburb of Virginia.

“Years of dogged work by the Dutch government, and now the South African authorities, are paying off and are finally bringing an infamous criminal to justice. Global Witness applauds their efforts. Charles Taylor has already been sentenced and imprisoned. Kouwenhoven now faces a similar fate,” the Global Witness official said last December.

Mr. Kouwenhoven, now residing in South Africa who was appealing his second conviction but with the Dutch Supreme Court’s decision, he is now awaiting extradition to the Netherlands.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

His lawyers argued before the Dutch Supreme Court that the Kouwenhoven could not be prosecuted because of am amnesty granted to him by former President Taylor in 2003. That argument was rejected by the Court and his conviction upheld.

Over 250,000 Liberians were killed in the country’s civil war and another 1 million others were displaced internally and externally by the bloody conflict. Charles Taylor himself was convicted of charges by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in the Hague in May, 2012. He is currently serving a 50 year prison sentence in the UK.

In Liberia, the Administration f President George M. Weah is facing international and domestic pressure to establish a war crimes court to prosecute those accused of gross human rights abuses and economic crimes.

But the Weah government has said that the establishment of such a court is not a priority.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

 

OPINION – Liberia: LEVERAGING THE WAR & ECONOMIC CRIME COURT

State Of The Nation

The Liberian economy is shrinking daily, mostly because of uncertainty. Grant that the UN drawdown, slump in international commodity price and other cash-flow minimizing events going into 2018 started the decline, but the change of government and the first few bold but inconclusive economic initiatives by the new government have ushered an atmosphere of uncertainty which is not good for business.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

The widespread perception that the new officials have gone on a spending spree buying homes and expensive assets even outside Liberia does not help. Two major loan schemes for nearly US$1Billion on which months of tangible and political capital were expended seem to have shadowed out. The suspicion of unauthorized printing of currency and the alleged stealing of LD$15.5 Billion, even if untrue, have left a gaping hole in the confidence of the people and the owners of capital. As a result, dozens of missteps that would otherwise be excusable for an infant government are now glorified into scares of dooms day nearing. All this, while the ability of the ordinary people to make a reasonable living is increasingly grueling, daily. People are hurting, at least for that, there is no dispute.

In the wake of the economic reversals pervading the country, a voice is rising among a large segment of the population; both in the country and the diaspora, and among key international stakeholders, for a final reckoning; the establishment of a War and Economic Crime Court, to hold accountable those responsible for the violation of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) and the pillaging of the resources of the country under the canopy of war. The trauma of war is manifested every day in the violent outburst of youths when motor accidents occur, mob executions of accused thieves in public spaces and the massive explosion of an illicit drug culture among the youths, a by-product of the war.

There are some who are asking, “Why now? Why wasn’t the same pressure brought to bear on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for a War Crime Court?” President Sirleaf would not have implemented the punitive recommendations of the TRC; she did not have the fortitude to hold herself accountable. (To her credit, she did implement some of the less controversial items). That should be expected, but President Weah is not anchored by the same weight. When asked about the War Crime Court on his return from France over the last weekend, President George Weah, answered in such a manner as to make a disparity between the War Crime Court and his New Economic Plan, the Pro-Poor Policy for Prosperity and Development. I get the impression that key policy makers believe it is either War Crime Court or Economic Development. I think this is a misread; we can have both. In fact, the former will lift the latter.

Crimes Against Humanity

We need not argue that heinous crimes were committed in Liberia that fall under the definition of crimes against humanity. Non-combatant men, women and children were killed because of their ethnicity, some past disputes and, in some cases, for the like of it. In countless places in the country, including St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Duport Road, Fandell, Po River Bridge, Gbarnga, Buchanan, Yekepa, Zwedru, Greenville, Caldwell, Monrovia, hundreds of thousands of people were maimed, drowned, decapitated, hearts taken from bodies while the victim was still alive, eaten and youths drugged and conscripted into battle to heartlessly do the dirty work of their masters. Liberians witnessed militias rip open pregnant women and extract their fetuses while dancing to their war songs in amusement and fanfare. Daughters and wives were forcefully taken from their families and made into sex slaves; some never to be seen again. Militias and their warlords commonly celebrated their cruelty by displaying skulls of their victims on their cars and even using their intestines as toll gates. Whole towns and villages were wiped out; people seeking rescue in God’s church were mutilated and many were stripped of their dignity. This does not begin to capture the depth of cruelty brought on the innocent people of Liberia. For one to suggest that asking those who have been accused of such cruelties to have their day in court is unreasonable and untimely falls flat in the face of reason.

Liberia Civil War Injured Victims
Liberia Civil War Injured Victims – File Photo

The demand for accountable is a cardinal part of reconciliation and national healing. It is justified under both domestic and international law. Liberia is a signatory and state party to the Geneva Conventions, Vienna Convention and all the International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) and protocols regarding, among other things, the conduct of war and the treatment of civilians and those who surrender in armed conflict. Like International Humanitarian Laws (IHL), the recommendation of the TRC has binding effect on the Government of Liberia and there are consequences for non-compliance. The TRC is an Act of the Legislature; it is Liberian Law. There is another argument that the Comprehensive Peace Initiative Agreement (CPA) signed between the Liberian warring factions, the very warlords who perpetrated the atrocities, granted amnesty to the perpetrators.  Self-amnesties are kinds of amnesty promulgated by persons or governments while in position of authority, purporting to protect themselves from prosecution once they relinquish their hold on power. Both self-amnesty and domestic Legislation for amnesty promulgated to unhook alleged violators of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) are not respected under International Law.

Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Torture, ethnic cleansing and most provisions of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) which perpetrators, in the case of Liberia, have been accused fall under peremptory norms in international law or “jus cogens.” A peremptory norm is a fundamental principle of international law that is accepted by the international community of states as a norm from which no derogation is permitted; they are compelling laws that cannot be set aside or pardoned, recognized as a whole as being fundamental to the maintenance of the international legal order. They include the prohibition of genocide, maritime piracy, enslaving in general, torture, refoulement and wars of aggression and territorial aggrandizement, among others.

Relying on the principle of “Pacta sunt servanda,”Article 26 of the Vienna Convention bars state parties to the convention from invoking provisions of their internal laws as justification for failure to perform obligation to prosecute and punish crimes under the Geneva Conventions, Vienna Convention and other conventions to which the state is a party. For example, many of those accused of crimes under the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) proffered the argument that the Lomé Accord which ended the Sierra Leone Conflict granted amnesty to the warlords but their claims to immunity were summarily denied by the court.

Already, many who committed war crimes in Liberia have been brought before courts and made accountable in jurisdictions other than Liberia. Charles Chucky Taylor was tried in a Florida court for crimes committed in Liberia and sentenced to 99 years imprisonment. His father, former President Charles Taylor was handed to the Special Court for Sierra Leone(SCSL) by the Government of Liberia, represented by its Solicitor General Cllr Taiwon Gonglor; so to suggest that Liberia does not ascribe to the International War Crimes Court is ludicrous. Former President Johnson Sirleaf’s failure to occasion the implementation of the recommendations of the TRC was predicated purely on the principle of self-preservation. She was unwilling to rollout a program that bars her and other co-accused in positions of power from public office for thirty years. If renewed pressure on the Government of Liberia for a War and Economic Crime Court, including a recent US Congress Resolution in support of Justice for victims of the Liberia Civil War, is anything to go by, one need not be a rocket scientist to know that the quest for some form of accountability for War and Economic Crimes committed in Liberia will not dissipate. Government’s continued rejection of the notion of War Crime Court puts Liberia at odds with the key international players in a battle we, a poor and dependent country, cannot win. We may as well ride the wind.

Leveraging Calls for War & Economic Crimes Court

Every problem brings with it an equal opportunity for finding a solution. My advice to the Government of Liberia is that we leverage the situation and use the international quest for a War and Economic Crime Court to attract the support for our economy necessary to gender growth and the upliftment of the lives of our impoverished population. Every post-war country that submitted to the demands of the international community for accountability was economically strengthened through the programs of direct economic support. Germany, Japan, Italy, Rwanda, South Africa, Vietnam, and next door Sierra Leone, are examples.

Instead of fighting against the inevitable, the Government of Liberia needs to go back to the Recommendations of the TRC and the Virginia Declaration of the Liberian National Conference ( June 19, 2009) out of which most of the TRC recommendations were taken, and identify those programs that have the highest potential of fostering reconciliation, unity and economic relief, and begin negotiations with international stakeholders with the hope of establishing a War and Economic Crime Court on Liberian soil concomitant with international provision of support for all the identified programs recommended by the TRC and the Virginia Conference.

Liberia TRC
Liberia TRC

Some of the recommendations for which the government should seek international support in pair with the establishment of a War and Economic Crime Court in Liberia include:

  • That those who died as a result of the conflict be memorialized by monuments and multi-purpose halls erected in the name of victims at all sites of massacres.
  • That individual reparations be granted to victims of Liberia’s civil crisis in the form of psychosocial support, educational scholarships, microloans, livestock support, agricultural support, and food aid.
  • That community reparations be granted to affected populations in the form of centers for psychosocial support, support to communal farming, and priority rehabilitation of roads, schools, and health facilities.
  • That community leaders should be empowered to use “under the palava hut” management to deal with all those that have acknowledged their wrongs and are seeking forgiveness.
  • That political appointments be based on merit.
  • That a national culture center be established to promote Liberia’s diverse culture.
  • That welfare centers be created to provide care to those who can no longer provide for themselves, including the elderly, mentally disturbed or mentally handicapped.
  • That vocational education be provided to adults in the form of literacy and skills-training programs.
  • That youth receive pre-technical qualification trainings in order to seek employment.
  • That the curriculum for children and youth be updated to include reconciliation, peace-building, human rights, and patriotism.
  • That more recreational opportunities be created for children and youth.
  • That more rehabilitation centers for deviant youth be established.
  • That a Peace and Reconciliation Commission be established to oversee, support, and encourage reconciliation activities throughout the country.
  • That a National Peace and Reconciliation Conference be held annually, rotating between all 15 counties.
  • Establish a special judiciary review committee to monitor the government’s progress on implementation of these and other TRC recommendations
  • That the economy be Liberianize and local businesses protect

Support for the establishment of a war crime court in Liberia, including the construction of the court, training and employment of hundreds of Liberians and the implementation of the measures listed above will require hundreds of millions of dollars that will serve to augment the weakening Liberian economy. The acceptance by Liberia of the establishment of the court will increase confidence in justice and the rule of law in Liberia. The Government may ask for international security, should it determine the need for additional security presence. The return of the international force will not only increase security but add new energy to the economy in terms of the additional cash flow affiliated with the large number of expatriate workers in the country. Handled properly, Liberia’s acceptance of the War and Economic Crime Court and the other recommendations will strengthen the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and catapult the Liberian economy back into the high growth trajectory.

Non for Self, But Country

My recommendation to leverage may come across as blunt and insensitive to those who have been accused. Far from that; I believe in the presumption of innocence, an aged old legal doctrine ascribed in the Latin “ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat,” meaning, the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies. Those so accused must be brought before a court of competent jurisdiction where they will have the chance to confront their charges and defend themselves, even at the expense of the sponsors of the War and Economic Crime Court, in cases where the accused are incapable of footing his own legal fees.

Liberian Voters At Rally Town Market jpg
Liberian Voters At Rally Town Market – File photo

Occasioning the court and leveraging the other growth centric programs are but small sacrifices every citizen can make to the betterment of country. For those, including my Uncle, Sen. Prince Y. Johnson, who are edgy about the prospects of a War Crime Trial and who have spent countless hours grand standing their patriotism and love for country, this is their moment to show that patriotism and be remembered for something good. Inscribed over the chapel door at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis is the Latin phrase: “Non Sibi Set Patraie.” Let me admonish those who are being cowed into fear of a War and Economic Crime Court to adopt this motor: “Not for Self, but Country.” Let’s embrace the War Crime Court and kick impunity and all its attending vices out of Liberia.

Read my new book, The FOG – War, Love & Country, about my experience in the Liberian Civil War and my take on reconciliation and national unity, informed by experience of other post war countries.

About the Author

Cyrus L. Gray
Cyrus L. Gray

Cyrus L Gray, Jr., is the Author of the Negro Nation (www.amazion.com), the International Shipping Guidelines; and Publisher of the New Liberian Magazine (renamed LIB BUZNEY). His new book, “FOG (A Story of War, Love and Country)” will be published in December 2018 with first rollout in Monrovia. As a day job, he is a Logistics Business Development Consultant with Core competence in Air and Seaport Development. His recent work was Co-Consultant for the crafting of the Economic Analysis of the Mesurado Fishing Pier (Oct. 2018) at the Freeport of Monrovia, for Liberia’s National Aquaculture and Fisheries Authority (NaFAA). He can be reached at: cyrus.grayii@gmail.com

US Lawmakers Signal Major Support For War Crimes Court In Liberia

Washington DC – November 14, 2018:  In a strong signal against the perpetuation of a  pervasive culture of impunity in Liberia since the end of the brutal back-to-back civil war that brought the West African nation of Liberia to its knees, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 passed Resolution 1055 “to reaffirm strong U.S.-Liberia ties and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Recommendations.

Flag of Liberia
Flag of Liberia

As part of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2003, all belligerents in the Liberia conflict agreed to the establishment of a  Truth or Reconciliation mechanism to investigate “perpetrators of massacres, sexual offences, murder, economic crimes, extra-judicial killings, and all incidents of gross human rights abuses and violations from January, 1979 – October 13, 2004. The aim of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which began work in earnest 2006, was to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation”.

Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement ARTICLE XIII: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

  1. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission shall be established to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences, in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.
  1. In the spirit of national reconciliation, the Commission shall deal with the root causes of the crises in Liberia, including human rights violations.
  1. This Commission shall, among other things, recommend measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims of human rights violations.
  1. Membership of the Commission shall be drawn from a cross-section of Liberian society. The Parties request that the International Community provide the necessary financial and technical support for the operations of the Commission.
Former Fighters In Libera - File Photo
Former Fighters In Libera – File Photo

The TRC completed its work and submitted a Final Report to the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration in 2009. However, the Government of Liberia has failed to take the necessary steps for implementation in spite of local and international urgings to address gross human rights abuses and economic crimes committed by major actors; some of whom serve in high positions in the current Liberian government.

The UN, Germany, the United States, European Union and local non-governmental organizations have made private and public representations to the George M. Weah Administration on the matter but without success so far.

Liberian diaspora civic groups and individuals and international human rights organizations including the International Justice Group (IJG) have been vigorously  lobbying the U.S. and European governments for support for the establishment of an accountability mechanism like the War Crimes Court. International war crimes investigators who traveled to Liberia over the years to collect first-hand evidence from victims and eyewitnesses have presented their findings to the U.S. government including lawmakers to make the case for passage of the resolution which supports the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia.

IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera
IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera

The Chief Investigator of the International Justice Group (IJG) Mr. Garretson Al Smith who played a key investigatory role which helped with the passage of U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1055 said, “this is a major step in the accountability process for those who are accused of committing war crimes in the West African nation.”

Prior to the vote on the Resolution, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Ed Royce stated that, “ …The Africa Subcommittee worked across party lines and alongside the international community and the people of Liberia to apprehend the notorious warlord Charles Taylor. Today, he remains behind bars. In 2003, the Government of Liberia, rebel groups and political parties signed a comprehensive peace agreement.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to ensure justice for the people of Liberia. Unfortunately, however, this war crimes tribunal has never been established, although Liberian government figures and activists alike have continued to call for one. This resolution repeats this important call.”

According to the U.S. lawmaker Representative Royce, “…We have turned the page on this horrific chapter in Liberia’s history. In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there officially ended. It is not often we get to celebrate the successful end of a mission, and we remember the 202 peacekeepers that lost their lives to bring peace and stability in the region…”

Former Warlord Prince Y. Johnson

In a recent interview on a local radio station in his home county of Nimba in northeastern Liberia, a former militia leader turned Senator Mr. Prince Y. Johnson threatened those calling for his arrest. “If you were to come to arrest me, I will fight you. You know why? The same crime you want to arrest me for is the same crime Taylor committed. When you said you killed my ma, you then compensated Taylor with the Presidency. You paid Taylor to be President of Liberia…,” Johnson angrily said in the interview.

Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper
Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper

He cited calls to arrest and prosecute him for alleged war crimes as “selective justice” and defended his role as a fight to save his kinsmen who, he said, were being massacred by the Samuel K. Doe regime. Johnson and his militia were responsible for snatching former President Doe from the base of the Peacekeeping Force on September 9, 1990, after killing nearly 70 members of his entourage during the late President’s visit there. Doe was later tortured, killed and his body mutilated by rebel fighters loyal to Johnson.

The former warlord said Parliament in Liberia passed an Amnesty law for all acts committed between 1990 – 2003 and defiantly added, “ If you want, come catch me. The resistance you will find from young guys…it will be maximum, uncontrollable and ungovernable…”

Liberia’s TRC Final Report

Liberia’s TRC Final Report recommended the prosecution leaders of warring factions for “…human rights violations, including violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, war crimes and egregious domestic laws of Liberia and economic crimes…”

Liberia - TRC
Liberia – TRC

Those recommended for prosecution include now jailed former rebel leader turned former President Charles G. Taylor of the National Patriotic Front, (NPFL), Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL), Alhaji G.V. Kromah of United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO-K) and Dr. George S. Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).

Other former warlords named for prosecution in the TRC Final Report were Thomas Yahya Nimley of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Sekou Damate Konneh of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Rebel Leaders Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO -J faction and Francois Massaquoi of the Lofa Defense Force (LDF) pre-deceased the TRC Final Report.

US – Liberia Relations

US Representative Ed Royce
US Representative Ed Royce

The U.S. wields significant economic power and influence in Liberian matters and the House Resolution is expected to force the hand of the Weah government to implement the TRC Final Report or it will face further international isolation and sanctions. The Liberian Administration is already facing a crushing economic deterioration and has been unable to access international loan facilities.

The Weah government is said to be frantically seeking unconventional avenues to solicit loans and lines of credit to keep it afloat amidst rising local economic discontent and pressure to deliver much needed relief.

In his prepared remarks before passage of the House Resolution on Liberia, Chairman Royce noted that, “Much more needs to be done to crack down on corruption and create a more conducive environment for trade and economic investment. The government must ensure policies are in place to encourage businesses to invest, grow and create jobs. But this resolution affirms the U.S. commitment to continue to partner with Liberia to support civil society, rule of law and good governance. We stand by the Liberian people in their continued efforts for a more prosperous and democratic Liberia…”

Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes
Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes

On last Monday, hundreds of Liberians marched in the capital Monrovia in support of victims and survivors of the war and presented a petition to the Government of Liberia, the United States and international partners in which they called for the setting up of a war crimes court.

The Weah Administration Liberia has not officially responded to the U.S. House Resolution.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

Liberia: Top Judicial Security Chief Accused Of War Crimes; Peaceful March For Justice Planned For Tuesday In NY

A Liberian Rebel Fighter- File Photo

As international pressure mounts on the current Liberian Administration to undertake local and international obligations to prosecute alleged war criminals who have so far enjoyed relative protection and gone with impunity in the West African country since cessation of hostilities in 2003, a source says a team of international investigators is in Liberia and following up on alleged atrocities catalogued in the Final Report of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which completed its work and submitted recommendations to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration in 2009.

The source says some of the investigators with the newly established advocacy and research entity, the International Justice Group (IJG) include some former support staff of the TRC.

According to information obtained from actual eyewitnesses who spoke to investigators, they recounted how a former Assistant Director of Police for its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Henry Landford and some foreign nationals were rounded up and executed by rebels of the National Patriotic Front (NPFL) on the orders of Commander Paul Tuazama and one Anthony Komahoun.

Mr Paul Tuazama , Chief of Security At Liberia’s Judiciary

Mr. Tuazama is the current head of security at the Judiciary branch of the Liberian government known as the Temple of Justice which also serves as the official seat of the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court on Capitol Hill.

Director Landford and others were murdered in the NPFL controlled area on Duport Road outside the capital and Kakata, about 34 miles outside of Monrovia.

In 1991, journalists embedded with a contingent of Ecomog peacekeepers visited the eastern Duport Road suburb area for the first time after the cessation of hostilities with the NPFL.

Peacekeepers and journalists were directed by local residents to an area described as the “killing field” where human skeletons and personal effects of victims were scattered and covered by overgrown brush.

Liberian career Government officials, law enforcement officers and ordinary civilians were also allegedly murdered by rebel fighters and death squads allied with some rogue commanders of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) loyal to late President Samuel K. Doe.

Rebel NPFL Small Boy Unit Fighter – File Photo

Victims include Cephus Junius, Chief of Intelligence Unit of the Liberia National (LNP), Williette Scott, Chief of Communications of the LNP.

Williette Scott was a well trained and professional Police officer who was reportedly taken off a line of fleeing residents and executed in NPFL controlled territory by a rebel fighter identified as Joe Mantee.

Still others include a popular Mighty Barrolle soccer team sports enthusiast David Quayle Langston who was allegedly executed in the Paynesville suburbs and prominent and well liked national radio broadcast journalists Tommy Raynes and G. Moses K. Washington.

They were reportedly executed somewhere between 15th Gate and Careysburg area by NPFL rebels.

Others allegedly murdered during this period, according to investigators, include the Deputy Chief of Command of the Bong Mines Police Department Lt.Joe McGill, Lt.Joseph Balls, Detective Thomas Morris and Foday Boikai.

The entire Bong Mines Police Detachment was summarily executed in Kakata by NPFL rebels.

ECOMOG Peacekeeping Troops

Ghanaian ,Sierra Leonean, Guinean, Nigerian And Gambian, Nationals were targeted and ordered executed in the rebel NPFL controller territories simply because their individual countries had seconded peacekeepers to re regional ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group in Liberia known as ECOMOG.

Lt. Bobby Kpoto

One Lt. Bobby Kpoto now believed to be residing in the United Kingdom murdered Archie Greene who was a graduate of the Cuttington University College(CUC) in Bong County, which is situated central Liberia.

TRC Final Report – Liberia

Investigators say information which they are following up on about summary executions of individuals named were obtained from actual accounts collected during hearings of the TRC held in and out of Liberia.

More information is being gathered by investigators .

Meantime the IJG says it is warning anyone or groups who may want to discredit the integrity of the Liberia’s TRC members and Final Report in an attempt to justify solicitation of international donor funding.

Liberian Rights Activist Vandalark Patricks

In support of international efforts to bring to justice those accused of major atrocities, Liberian Organizers of a March For Peace in Justice say they will hold a peaceful protest on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 in New York near the United Nations headquarters to call on President George M. Weah to prosecute alleged war criminals in Liberia.

In an exclusive interview, with on Sunday, the Chairman of the organizing of the Peace and Justice March Mr. Vandalark Patricks said, ” people are listening and are now aware that the only way Liberia can move forward is when alleged war crimes perpetrators are brought to book for atrocities committed during the war. Weah wants to jeopardize justice for over 250,000 victims. Weah must understand that Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution so that the will of the people prevail.”

Organizers say their peaceful protest is timed to coincide prior to the arrival of President Weah to the UN in New York in order to allow him time to appreciate the seriousness of their call.

Liberian President George M. Weah

President Weah is expected to attend and address the UN General Assembly later in September.

The Weah Administration has not committed to prosecuting war crimes perpetrators in-spite of local and international calls to prioritize the issue.

No one in Liberia has been prosecuted for atrocities committed during the country’s civil war between 1989 – 2003.

An estimated 250,000 people were killed in the bloodletting which almost completely destroyed the country infrastructure and institutions.

Vandalark Patricks, a Liberia rights activist condemned Senator Prince Johnson, a sitting lawmaker from northeastern Nimba County in Liberia, who is also a former war lord and major actor in the war and who was named in the country’s Truth a and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Final Report as a responsible  for some heinous atrocities.

Liberian Former Rebel Warlord and Current Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Mr. Patricks said it was totally unacceptable that Senator Johnson would threaten the country with another war, if attempts were made to hold him accountable for his alleged war crimes.

Those named as perpetrators have not faced prosecution nor have they been found guilty of any crime in Liberia.

Political observers and diplomatic sources say unless President Weah commits to prosecuting alleged war criminals, he will lose international support which he desperately needs to sustain his country’s struggling economy.

The IJG says it is prepared to network with other partners to secure international sanctions and travel ban against government officials if no action is taken.

Already, a US Republican lawmaker Representative Daniel M. Donovan Jr. has introduced a congressional bill which calls for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.

US President Donald Trump

Future US economic and military assistance to the West African nation may hinge on the Weah Administration’s commitment to bow to congressional pressure for an improved human rights regime and fiscal accountability in Liberia.

The Weah government is already lobbying to open a corridor to Congressional leaders and the White House.

Liberia relies heavily on US economic, diplomatic and military assistance.

Flag of Liberia

In its Fact Sheet on Liberia, the African Affairs Bureau of the U. s State Department in July, 2018 stated that, “…U.S. assistance is focused on consolidating democratic progress; improving capacity, transparency, and accountability of governance institutions; promoting broad-based, market-driven economic growth; improving access to high-quality educational and health services; and professionalizing Liberia’s military and civilian security forces, while helping Liberia build capacity to plan, implement, and sustain its own development efforts in each sector….”

Of the $27 billion in world wide Foreign Assistance planned for 2019 Fiscal Year by the US Government. Liberia stands to gain over $29.3 million for peace and security, democracy, human rights and governance, health and economic development.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia: How Col. Larry Borteh Was Killed; Other Atrocities and Perpetrators

A team of investigators from the International Justice Group (IJG) says a former member of Liberia’s erstwhile People’s Redemption Council (PRC) military junta which, in 1980, overthrew the civilian Administration of William R. Tolbert Jr.,was killed in 1990 by forces under the command of former rebel commander and leader of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia Prince Y. Johnson.

Colonel Larry Borteh - File Photo
Colonel Larry Borteh

According to IJG international investigators citing witnesses and family members who they interviewed in Liberia, Colonel Larry Borteh, just prior to his death, was residing at the once prestigious Hotel African in the western outskirts of the capital Monrovia. General Johnson, upon hearing that Colonel Borteh was at Hotel Africa, requested to see him. The area was under the control of Johnson and his INPFL forces.

Johnson is now a senator representing the northeast political sub-division of Nimba County in Liberia.

Colonel Borteh fell out of favor with coup leader Samuel Doe in 1984 following accusations that he and 2 other former PRC members Nicholas Podier and Jerry Friday were plotting against him, Doe. Borteh remained largely in private life after until the onset of the civil war which started in December, 1989.

The former PRC junta member left the hotel accompanied by several INPFL rebels and traveled to the Cotton Tree-Caldwell junction which is a main thoroughfare that leads to central Monrovia but also branches off to the township of Caldwell where Johnson and his rebel outfit had carved out their military base. Form there, Johnson and his rebels would launch frequent deadly attacks on government forces and the main rebel National Patriotic Front (NPFL) led by now jailed former President Charles Taylor. Johnson and his forces also regularly terrorized and indiscriminately killed unarmed and innocent civilians and some of his own forces. Johnson and his INPFL forces looted food and goods from the main seaport known as the Freeport of Monrovia. The port was situated in territory which he controlled on Bushrod Island, west of Monrovia.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former INPFL Rebel Commander Senator Prince Y. Johnson

When Colonel Borteh arrived at the Cotton Tree- Caldwell junction, he was immediately arrested by INPFL forces under the command of one Anthony Sonkarley. He was ordered tied up and weighted down with stones after which he was taken to the nearby Stockton Creek into which he was thrown. Colonel Borteh died from apparent drowning at the hands of the INPFL forces under the control of Johnson. The incident occurred in August, 1990 just before the arrival in Monrovia of the ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group known as ECOMOG.

It is unclear why Colonel Borteh was singled out and killed by Johnson forces.

Atrocities and Perpetrators

Several individuals have been identified as alleged war criminals responsible for committing heinous crimes against civilians during the war. Some of those named by IJG sources include Major George Dweh, Lt. Bobby Kpoto, Major Nezee Barway and Lt. Col. Michael Tailey The accused were all part of Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) loyal to slain Liberian President Samuel K. Doe and were fingered by investigators for the killing of Doris Toweh Gballah, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Nah and family, former government Minister Johnny Kpor and the entire Cassell in Monrovia. Others allegedly killed include Mr. and Ms. Samuel D. Greene, John Bright, student activist Wuo Garbe Tappia, Tonia Richardson, Benedict Garlawulo, Robert Quiah, Robert Phillips and Wewe Debar.

The AFL death squads, comprising the named perpetrators allegedly killed Martha Bernard and her sister. One Naomi Gooding and six other women who were taking refuge in the Sinkor suburb were also killed.The victims were all picked from various parts of Monrovia by by death squads.

According to our source, Lt. Colonel Tailey, loyal to former President Doe, was a notorious death squad commander who led government troops to the Lutheran Church compound in the suburb of Sinkor where hundreds of defenseless civilians from the Gio, Mano and other ethnic groups, fleeing targeted violence were taking refuge.

Lt. Col Michael Taily
Lt Col Michael Tailey

Witnesses and survivors said over 600 men, women and children were killed in that massacre although the government at the time denied any involvement and blamed advancing rebels for the attack on the church compound. According to survivors, forces who carried out the Lutheran Church massacre were from the same Krahn ethnic group as then President Doe.

Tailey was subsequently killed in mysterious circumstances on orders of AFL commanders after he was detained on the military base of the AFL known as the Barclay Training Center Barracks in central Monrovia.

Another perpetrator is a former police officer Paul Tuazama who was dismissed from the Liberian National Police (LNP) following the failed coup in 1985 led by another former PRC member and army commander General Thomas G. Quiwonkpa. Investigators say Tuazama operated an NPFL death squad which operated on Duport Road in the Paynesville area, north of the capital Monrovia and allegedly carried a massacre of civilians in that area and in Kakata, which is about 34 miles from the capital Monrovia.

Tuazama currently works at the Liberian judiciary at the Temple of Justice, just a stone throw away from the seat of country’s Legislature and the official offices of President George M.Weah on Capitol Hill.

Local and international pressure is mounting on the Weah Administration to establish a war crimes tribunal and bring to book for prosecution all those identified in the country’s TRC Final Report as responsible for the commission alleged war and economic crimes.

In its Final Report and under the heading,“Statute Establishing the Extraordinary of Liberia” General Part, Article 1 Establishment and Competence, the TRC recommends that,

1. In order to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Republic of Liberia (TRC) to establish an “Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia”, an internationalized domestic court, to combat a culture of impunity, secure justice for victims and ensure that Liberia adheres too, respects and protects prevailing international human rights and humanitarian law standards, an Extraordinary Criminal Court (hereinafter “Court”) is hereby established.

2. The Court shall have all the necessary power and jurisdiction to prosecute persons referred to it by the TRC for gross violations of human rights (GVHR), serious humanitarian law violations (SVLV) and egregious domestic crimes (EDC) as enumerated by this Statute.

3. The seat of the court shall in Monrovia, Liberia.

i. The Court may establish alternative sites to conduct hearings as it deems necessary.

Article 2

Organs of he Court

The Court shall be composed for the following organs

i. Appeals Division

ii. Trial Division

iii. The Office of the Prosecutor and

iv. The Registry

About 98 notorious perpetrators and heads of rebels factions in Liberia were named in the TRC report and recommendation for prosecution for gross human rights violations and war crimes.

Another 54 individuals and entities were recommended for further investigation.

Individuals named by the TRC Final Report are presumed innocent until guilt has been established beyond a reasonable doubt by the final verdict of the court.

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

The Weah Administration has refused to publicly state its official position on the establishment of the Court but has signaled through some of its officials that this is not a priority for Government. Local and international rights and advocacy groups and non-governmental organizations say they are prepared to turn up public awareness and pressure on the Liberian government in order to ensure justice is served. A U.S. Republican Representative Mr. Daniel M. Donovan Jr. last week introduced a Congressional resolution which calls for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia. The Weah Administration has yet to officially respond to this move.

Diplomatic sources say that additional pressure such as cut in foreign aid to Liberia, a travel ban and sanctions against Liberian government officials will be applied to force the West African nation’s compliance with implementation of recommendations of the TRC.

By Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine

 

Liberia War And Economic Criminals Hiding Abroad, Say IJG Investigators

The International Justice Group (IJG) war crimes investigators in the United States. South Africa, Europe and Canada say they have discovered about 73 Liberian war and economic criminals residing in the US, Canada and other parts of Europe.

Convicted NPFL Spokesman Tom Woewiyu and Former Rebel INPFL Commander Prince Johnson

According to the IJG Investigators, the individuals listed in the West African country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report  are living under different disguises and names to avoid detection and apprehension by authorities for the roles in the Liberian civil war.

They are from the  Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), National Patriotic Front of of Liberia (NPFL), Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) and the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).
Others in hiding are from the Lofa Defense Force (LDF), MODEL, ULIMO-J, ULIMO-K and the LURD rebel factions.

The accused were involved in heinous atrocities committed between April 14, 1979 up to 2003. A team of international investigators was in Liberia in June to conclude the final stages of investigation of these individuals, a source said.

Some of the non combatants and victims of the Liberia civil conflict included the following:

Mr. & Ms. Samuel Greene
Archie Greene
John Bright
Budu Houge
Charles Gbenyon
Robert Quiah
R. Vanjah Richards
James Coleman
Butler Freeman
Mr & Ms. Johnny Nah
Johnny Kpor
Doris Toweh Gballah
Stephen Yekeson
Stephen Daniels
Tommy Raynes
Samuel Tody and
Browne Paul
Henneh Johnson
Phillip Bowen
Michael Doe
Jackson F. Doe
David Q. Livingstone
Moses Washington
James Turning
Chea Kayea
Roosevelt Savice
Gabriel Kpolleh and
Tonia Richardson

Still other victims are:
Wuo Garbe Tappia
Wewe Debar
Exodus Kerdoe and
Benedict Garlawolu

Thousands in Liberia and Sierra and nationals of other countries who are not listed were  murdered by the rebel factions in violation of the four Geneva Conventions which  protect people who were not (or were no longer) taking part in hostilities, including the sick and wounded,   prisoners of war, and civilians.

Liberia TRC
TRC Liberia – Logo

Since submission of the TRC Report and recommendations, in 2009 to the Liberian government, no one has been held to account for their roles in war and economic crimes.

Local and international pressure is building on the Weah government to favorably respond to calls to establish a war crimes tribunal.

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

The International Justice Group (IJG) earlier this week said, “Under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanction to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought by the International Justice Group  as well as the 76 Group and others…”

The Weah Administration has yet to officially commit to the setting up of a war and economic crimes court.

Liberia – TRC Full Report

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

Opinion- Deportations Must Be Banished Among Africans

The debate around immigration has intensified the past few years on the Western Hemisphere.

South African Refugees photo courtesy of CFR

In fact, it has become a prominent conversation that has seen the rise of far-right politicians who owe their success to anti-immigration populism. 

Migration is not a new phenomenon.

For as long as the world has existed, beings have been moving around. The current conversations around migration are not much about the fact that people move but more about the fact that poor and vulnerable citizens of developing countries are migrating to so-called rich nations in search of safety, security, and prosperity. 

From Syrian refugees that are escaping a bloody civil war and are stranded at the gates of Europe, to African migrants that die by thousands in the Mediterranean in their attempt to reach the “colonizer’s land” to the Latin American migrants that are arrested and separated from their children at the border of the United States and Mexico, sad and disheartening are the stories of migration that have dominated mainstream and social media the past months. 

Illustration – courtesy of UC Davis Poverty Center

Amid such devastating news that make one regret belonging to this antipathic generation, very little is said about the millions of people who migrate within their continent and region. In Africa for instance, 92% of migrants go to another African nation. The remaining 8% are divided among other continents with less than 3% making it or attempt to make it to Europe.

The “conflict-torn and property wretched continent “ whose people despite all the past decades of imperialist attacks and pillage have demonstrated an unparalleled form of resilience and are still progressing economically at a faster rate than any other continent in the world has been welcoming far more immigrants from Asia and Europe than it is sending out. 

It is understandable that western nations reject taking their share of the blame when it comes to exploiting other nations, causing and feeding conflicts that leave millions of people displaced and puts their lives in jeopardy. Nonetheless, the hypocrisy of the West lays in the argument of the fascists and the racists who claim vehemently that they are being invaded by other races and soon enough, they will lose their identity. 

Poverty Map of Africa photo – courtesy of Behance

First of all, culture and identity are dynamic. The French culture today was not the same a century ago and the American one wasn’t the same half a century ago. No one can stop identities from changing and drastic immigration policies motivated by the fear of the unknown and hatred toward the most vulnerable and the poor will not save the West from losing its contemporary identity which in a few decades or centuries might look gregarious to the future occupants of this planet. 

The West does not have anything against migrants but it has everything against poor people.

The American President Trump made it clear that their country wouldn’t mind receiving Norwegian migrants and when a former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy talked about “immigration choisie”, their selective immigration process is a way of ensuring that the most educated and the wealthiest migrate to their countries. 

The West has always felt insecure and constantly leaves in paranoia. This paranoia has caused humanity two world wars that left millions of people dead. The insecurity of the West pushes it to constantly see a threat in whatever people or nations they are unable to profit from beyond exploiting them physically, economically and politically.

There is this attitude that is intrinsic to western nations which makes them constantly see others as foes they do not just need to compete with but must dominate and control. As a result, they are always seeking to grow their economic, military and political power.

And the poor, undereducated and unskilled migrants are not the kind of people they foresee can help them achieve that. Rather, they see them as a liability and the very selfish and parasitic West that has stolen from every single continent cannot afford to share the massive wealth it has acquired at the expense of billions of people’s dignity whose very existence is threatened by poverty, climate change, terrorism, civil wars all of whom are the direct consequences of the West’s insatiable imperialist conquests and selfish neoliberal politics. 

African migrants- courtesy of the Citizen

The media which is the most effective brainwashing tool used by populists to indoctrinate their ignoramus citizens have played a role in depicting migration as a new phenomenon that will eventually lead to the destruction and the fall of the West. A destruction that failed to occur when the same western nations were butchering millions of Africans, Asians, Native Indians for many centuries. 

The one thing that the West can never claim as its invention is migration and nothing can the Europeans and their American cousins do to stop it. The exhibition of inhumanity Western governments are getting better and better at will only further alienate them from the rest of the world. A world that they need more than anyone else. 

When you are born on a land as dry as Europe, you can’t afford arrogance because everything you own, and use was produced from the resources of other continents. And the sooner the West sucks in its belligerent pride, the better for them because it has more to lose from that hatred than the world has to gain.

Author: Farida Bemba Nabourema is a Togolese human rights and political activist.