Monrovia, Liberia – February 18, 2019: The fight against public corruption in the West African country of Liberia appears to be a losing exercise in addition to lackluster support from the George M. Weah Administration.
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.
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.
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.
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
Philadelphia, PA October 29, 2018
“He’s in jail for the long term. We have not made any effort to seek any change or adjustment to the due process and what was adjudicated by the court systems.”
The statement, an apparent reference to former Liberian President Charles Taylor,was made by then Ambassador Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto U.S. State Department official during a Congressional committee hearing in September, 2017 and in response to questioning about the effort by Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, the current Liberian Vice President and ex-wife of former rebel leader turned former President Charles Taylor to get Taylor released.
Apparently and prior to the Presidential and General Elections in Liberia, the then Vice-Presidential candidate of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Ms. Jewel Howard Taylor and a delegation of the CDC visited the U.S. in early 2017 and pressed State Department officials to assist with the release of her ex-husband Charles Taylor who was convicted and sentenced in May, 2012 to fifty years in prison for atrocities committed in Sierra Leone’s war.
Nathaniel F. McGill
Also on that US trip was a former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) stalwart turned Former CDC Chairman and now Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in the office of the Liberian Presidency Mr. Nathaniel F. McGill. The CDC delegation also visited their party stronghold in Minnesota and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during their US visit last year.
Taylor is serving his sentence in a jail in the UK.
At a sub-committee meeting before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing held on September 13, 2017 in Washington DC, New York Republican Dan Donovan Jr. who, on September, 8, 2018, introduced a resolution which calls for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal is Liberia, wanted to know if Madam Howard Taylor held discussions with the State Department. Ambassador Yamamoto demurred about the substance of the discussion but confirmed that State Department did meet with Ms. Howard-Taylor and “messages were passed.”
“Yes, we did meet with Jewel Howard Taylor and those conversations, I think, are between us,” the former State Department said at the time.
The U.S. which had expended over $2 billion dollars in assistance to the Liberia since 2003 worked to dissuade the CDC from placing Ms. Taylor on the Weah warned prior to the election that it would not tolerate interference by Charles Taylor in the election which subsequently elected President Mr. George M. Weah.
The Weah Administration remains defiant in the face of international calls to establish war and economic crimes to address human rights abuses and killings by warlords and militias. The UN, 76 international non-governmental organizations and the International Justice Group (IJG) have called on the Weah Administration to prosecute economic and war crimes. International support is growing for accountability in Liberia and include the U.S. Congressional resolution which supports the establishment of the war crimes court.
The opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) political party in Liberia has called on President Weah to take the lead in disclosing his position on the establishment of a war crimes court.
Recently and following the visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, by the Executive Director of the IJG Counselor Jerome J. Verdier to seek international support for their advocacy to pressure the Weah Administration to address war crimes and impunity in the West African nation, the German envoy accredited to Liberia Hubert Jager two weeks ago, at the launch of the Alliance for Transitional Justice in Monrovia remarked that, “Providing justice for the victims of the conflict is a key aspect.”
““Providing justice for the victims of the conflict is a key aspect,” the German Ambassador said.
Other that humanitarian assistance, the Weah government is finding it difficult to access international loans to relieve mounting economic pressures and has been told by western countries that further pressure including travel ban and sanctions may be forthcoming if the government refuses to implement measures to address war and economic crimes by alleged perpetrators.
West African Journal Magazine
The international justice noose continues to tighten around former alleged war actors in the Liberian conflict.
France Crimes Against Humanity And Genocide Agency
Latest news from France received by West African Journal Magazine say French authorities have picked up a suspected former factional commander for investigation into his alleged atrocities committed during the West African country’s civil war in the 1990s.
According to France 24 news website, a Liberian national who now holds Dutch citizenship and identified as Kunti K, a former ULIMO commander now living in the French suburb of Bobigny, outside of Paris was arrested by authorities on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. The apprehension of the Liberian war actor was based on a complaint filed with the French government by the victims rights advocacy group Civitas Maxima which is based in Europe. The group also played a key role in raising international awareness about the prosecution case of now convicted former “Defense Minister and Chief spokesperson” of the former rebel NPFL Mr. Jucontee Thomas Woweiyu in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA.
File Photo – Liberian Rebel Fighters
According to the report, ” Kunti K., born in 1974, was detained in a joint operation by the elite GIGN police and officers from France’s OCLCH agency, which investigates war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. He arrived in France in 2016, after leaving the Netherlands and passing through Belgium, said Colonel Eric Emereaux, head of OCLCH.”
French authorites had been investigating the accused Kunti K. The ULIMO rebel faction was named in Liberia’s TRC as committing over 11,500 various forms of abuses and atrocities including forced displacement, killing rape, property destruction and torture among aother alleged criminal actions. ULIMO was allegedly responsible for committing about 7% of overall atrocities in the TRC Final Report and its leaders recommended for prosecution for human rights and international humanitarian law violations and war crimes.
Radio France International Interview
No one in Liberia has been prosecuted for alleged atrocities committed during the war.
Former Rebel NPFL Commander Martina Johnson
Other Liberians who have been booked by foreign countries include a former NPFL commander, Martina Johnson. She was arrested in Belgium on September 17, 2014 and is facing investigation and prosecution for her alleged role in atrocities committed in Liberia. Agnes Reeves Taylor
She was a former personal bodyguard to former rebel leader turned former President Charles Taylor who is serving a 50 year prison sentence in the UK for his role in the Liberia civil war.
The ex-wife of former President Taylor, Agnes Reeves-Taylor, was arrested in the London on June 1, 2017 and is facing prosecution over four charges for offences she allegedly committed in Liberia.
The son of former President Taylor, Charles “Chuckie’ Taylor Jr., a US citizen, was prosecuted in America for his role in the war. In October, 2008, he was convicted by a U.S. Court on six charges of committing act of torture and conspiracy to commit torture in Liberia and firearms violations. He is serving a 97 year jail sentence in the U.S.
Former Warlord of the Rebel LPC Dr. George Boley
Another warlord who was residing in NY, Dr George Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC) rebel faction was picked by by U.S. authorities in January 2010 on immigration violation charges and extra judicial killings in the Liberian war.
He was deported to Liberia in March 2012. A witness in Dr. Boley’s case, one Isaac Kannah of Philadelphia, who U.S. Immigration authorities say lied to federal authorities to help Dr. Boley admitted to perjury and obstruction of justice on July 26, 2018 and agreed to voluntarily leave the U.S. He was facing a 5 year jail sentence and $250,000 fine, if convicted It is unclear if Kannah, has left the U.S.
Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah”: Jabateh, a commander in the rebel ULIMO faction was prosecuted in the U.S. on immigration fraud charges, found guilty and is serving a 30 year jail sentence. He is said to have lied to U.S. immigration authorities about his past association with ULIMO rebel faction in order to gain immigration benefits.
In July, 2018, a former bodyguard to President Charles Taylor was removed from the U.S. to Liberia. The former Staten Island resident is Charles Cooper. According to U.S. Immigration authorities, “…An ICE investigation revealed that 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. Cooper was also identified as a member of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, a rebel group founded by Charles Taylor that committed numerous human rights violations…”
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel laureate has been sued in a civil matter in a US. District Court Boston, Massachusetts by a Liberia national for her alleged role in the war.
A former Presidential guard commander during the early stages of the war in Liberia, one Colonel Moses Thomas, is facing a civil suit in Philadelphia for his alleged role in the Lutheran Church massacre by government troops under his command. Colonel Thomas has denied any involvement.
Local and international pressure is building on the Weah Administration to establish a war crimes court to prosecute those accused of committing human rights violations and atrocities during the war. But the Liberian President, at a recent meeting with opposition political parties purportedly stated that because Liberians are inter-related and since some of the accused are current “decision makers” in government, he could not implement recommendations to hold those individuals accountable nor could he take on a full frontal assault on “endemic” corruption in government. President Weah has been roundly criticized by Liberians in and out of the country for his unwillingness to implement recommendations of the country’s TRC.
Map of Liberia
A mass peaceful protest is planned by Liberians in the U.S. to greet President George Weah who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York later in September. Organizers say their protest is to call for President Weah to establish a war crimes court and fight corruption in the small West African country.
Former Rebel Commander Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson
A major war actor and former rebel commander now turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson who is named in TRC report as a “perpetrator” and recommended for prosecution has in recent days been threatening a return to conflict if there is an attempt to arrest him for prosecution.
Some supporters of President Weah say attempts to prosecute alleged war and economic criminals could destabilize the fragile peace while others say justice and accountability are the best remedies for reconciling Liberians.
Liberian President George M. Weah
Recently, a newly formed rights advocacy organization the International Justice Group (IJG) based in Europe and the U.S. disclosed that its investigators have uncovered individuals listed in the West African country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report living under different disguises and names to avoid detection and apprehension by authorities for the roles in the Liberian civil war.
“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 IJG said.
The group also clearly stated that, ” …under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses a serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanctions to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought to bear by the International Justice Group as well as the 76 group and others…”
Flag of Liberia
Liberia was wracked by back-to-back war starting in 1979 in which nearly and estimated 250,000 people were killed and about 1 million others were internally and externally displaced by roving bands of rebels. The conflict spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone where rebels reportedly hacked off limbs of victims and killed thousands others.
International war crime investigators say they will pursue alleged war criminals for full prosecution in and out of Liberia.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine
A federal jury in Philadelphia has brought down a guilty verdict in the U.S. government trial of former rebel spokesman and defense Minister of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu. He was convicted on Tuesday of 11 counts of immigration fraud, making false statements and perjury.
The guilty verdict marked the end of another attempt to hold former war actors and human rights violators in Liberia accountable for their actions during the country’s horrendous civil way. Another notorious war actor Mohammed Jabbateh who went by the nom-de guerre “Jungle Jabbah” was convicted at a trial in April in Philadelphia and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
NPFL leader and former Liberian President Charles Taylor was prosecuted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone and found guilty and sentenced in 2012 to 50 years in prison. Today, he sits in a jail in the UK serving his sentence.
His ex-wife Agnes was picked up by British authorities in June, 2017 and accused of committing the offences between 1989 and 1991. She has denied all the charges. Her trial is set for October.
Woewiyu, a close associate of former Liberia President Charles Taylor was a founding member of the NPFL rebel outfit that attacked the West African nation in December, 1989 in an attempt to dislodge former President Samuel K. Doe. The rebel group waged a merciless campaign of death, destruction, looting and displacement of nearly a million people internally and externally.
The former rebel official had resided in the U.S. since 1972 but traveled back and forth to Liberia as the NPFL waged its murderous campaign. He attempted to apply for U.S. citizen in 2006 but was denied based on information obtained by U.S. authorities that he was a member of the NPFL; information which he did not initially disclose on his citizenship application.
The 12 person jury deliberated fro about 8 hours before arriving at their guilty verdict. He was found not guilty of 5 of the 16 counts in the indictment. Woewiyu who will be sentenced on October 15th is facing significant jail time which in effect may amount to a life sentence. He is 73 years old.
Pressure is mounting on the new administration in Liberia to bring to trial, those named in the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as bearing the greatest responsibility for alleged human rights and economic crimes in the country. The seven month Weah Administration has signaled that prosecution of alleged war criminals is not a priority.
International investigators say they will not relent in pursuing warlords across the globe and where ever they are found. According to a source, a major target is a former warlord and now a Senator in the Liberia government Mr. Prince Y. Johnson who is responsible for the capture, torture, death and mutilation of former President Samuel K. Doe in September, 1990. Johnson is alleged to have summarily executed hundreds of innocent civilians in areas under his control during the war.
An estimated 250,000 persons died in the Liberia war.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine
A one time close associate of former Liberian rebel leader turned President Charles Taylor is facing federal prosecutors in a court room in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA beginning Monday, July 11th.
Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu
Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, a former Defense Minster of the now disbanded rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) goes on trial on immigration fraud charges and for failing to disclose his involvement in one of the most brutal civil conflagration in Liberia, West Africa in the 1990s.
Woewiyu allegedly hid critical information from U.S. Immigration authorities when he applied for citizenship in 2006. He traveled regularly to Liberia from the U.S.
Court documents quote federal prosecutors as saying, ““Perhaps no other member of the NPFL save for Charles Taylor was more prominent in the public sphere…”
Woewiyu, a resident of Collingdale since the 1970’s, was a major actor in the rebel invasion which was launched on Christmas eve 1989 in northern Liberia. He is remembered to prosecuting the advance of the war towards the Liberian capital as spokesperson for the NPFL in daily interviews he gave to the BBC Focus on Africa program with Robin White.
Terrified residents across Liberia cowering in fear during curfew hours listened to the BBC for accounts of the rebel advance. Major human rights organizations have recounted thousands of rebel and government troops atrocities in areas under their control.
Former Rebel NPFL Leader Charles Taylor
Five American Catholic missionaries were killed by rebel forces during the rebel invasion in Gardnersville on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia. An estimated 250,000 people were killed and another 1 million others displaced internally and externally, making the conflict one of the worst in human history. Thousands of Liberians and Sierra Leonens were maimed by marauding rebels.
On October 15, 1992, Taylor’s NPFL launched a vicious attack on the Liberian capital and West African peacekeepers with the aim of capturing it and installing himself as President. The sustained attack was beaten back by the peacekeepers with assistance from the a small but highly trained militia group known as the Black Berets who were loyal to the then Interim Government of National Unuty (IGNU) led by Professor Dr. Amos Sawyer.
In their retreat, NPFL forces kidnapped civilians who were taken to their bases in Kakata and Gbarnga. Casualties of the Octopus assault are still unknown.
Map of Liberia
West African countries whose citizens were targeted by the NPFL intervened with the insertion of peacekeeping forces in Liberia to stem the bloodletting and humanitarian disaster in 1990. A number of peace conferences involving the various warring factions ultimately led to a Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the establishment of an interim mechanism to lead the country to national elections which Charles Taylor won in 1997.
However, more instability ensued and Taylor was forced out of power in August, 2003 under pressure from advancing rebels and the international community. Taylor was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).
In 2006 the Sirleaf administration formally requested Taylor’s extradition from Nigeria.
Taylor was arrested as he fled Nigeria, transferred to the Hague and prosecuted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). He was found guilty on 11 charges including terror, rape, war crimes and crimes against humanity in April, 2012 and sentenced to fifty years in jail. He is currently serving his sentence in a UK jail.
Liberia underwent 14 years of bloody back-to-back conflicts between 1989 – 2003, with spill over of the conflict over into neighboring Sierra Leone.
A UN Mission took over security and provided humanitarian support for Liberia beginning 2003 and successfully completed its mission on March 30, 2018 following the democratic elections.
Another war actor who was residing in the suburb of Philadelphia Mohammed Jabbateh known by the non-de-guerre “Jungle Jabbah” was picked by US Immigration and prosecuted by federal authorities also for immigration fraud charges.
He was convicted and is serving a 30 year jail sentence after which he will be deported to Liberia.
Flag of Liberia
Meantime, the new Weah Administration in Liberia is facing growing calls for fully implementing recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) including the establishment of a local war crimes court to prosecute individuals named as bearing the most responsibility for atrocities committed during the civil wars.
At a program on March 30th marking the closing of the UN Mission in Liberia, the Deputy UN Secretary General told the Liberian government to handle “unfinished business” of national reconciliation and the constitution including the establishment of a war crimes court.
But the current Liberian government and its supporters have signaled that the establishment of a war crimes court is not a priority, citing risk to the fragile “peace” in the country.
Woewiyu has denied the US government allegations against him.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal
Agnes Reeves Taylor, the ex- wife of former Liberian President Taylor who is in custody in the UK has made a brief appearance in court via video link. from her prison cell.
The rather brief appearance was for an administrative hearing. Ms. Reeves Taylor who was arrested by Metropolitan Police in June this year was refused bail at the hearing. She is accused of inflicting severe pain or suffering “in the performance of her official duties” as First Lady between 1989 – 1991 in the small West African nation.
The ex-wife of Taylor had been living in the UK and was a lecturer at Coventry University since 2012..
Ms. Reeves Taylor is facing very serious charges of conspiracy to commit torture under UK Criminal Law Act of 1977 and additional charges of torture.
Charles Taylor himself is in jail in the UK serving a 50 year sentence following conviction by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for arming and supporting Sierra Leone rebels who killed thousands of people in that neighboring country.
Charles Taylor’s Timeline:
Jan. 28, 1948: Charles Taylor is born in Arthington, Liberia to an Americo-Liberian family.
1970s: Taylor resides in Boston, Massachussetts US and graduates with an economics degree from Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts.
1983: Taylor flees Liberia after he is accused by the Samuel Doe Administration for stealing about US$1 million. The US government detains Taylor on an arrest warrant from the Liberia government and jailed.
1985: Taylor mysteriously escapes jail in Boston and surfaces at a rebel training camp in Libya.
– On December 24, 1989: Taylor launches an armed rebellion by hise National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). His rebel war claims over 250,000 and 300,000 lives in Liberia and neighboring countries..
– In August, 1990, ECOWAS countries forcefully insert a peacekeeping force which secures Monrovia in October.
– March 23, 1991: The Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front, rebel allies of Taylor, cross into Sierra Leone from Liberia.
The civil war lasts until January 2002 and over 120,000 are killed dead and thousands of civilians mutilated.
– July 19, 1997: Following a Peace Accord signed by all Liberian warring factions at a Peace Conference in Ghana, Taylor contests and emerges as the winner of Presidential elections in Liberia and takes office as President on August 2, marking the culmination of a peace accord.
– August-September, 1999: Fierce fighting breaks out in Liberia between Taylor’s government forces and rebels in northern Liberia.
– January 25, 2001: The United Nations issues accusations that Taylor of responsible for supporting and arming rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone from which he is also profiting from the sale of “blood diamonds” from rebel controlled areas. Sanctions are placed on Taylor’s government.
In June, 2003, The Special Court for Sierra Leone backed by the UN unseals an indictment against Taylor for committing war crimes in neighboring to Sierra Leone’s civil war.
– August 11, 2003: Taylor is heavily pressured by the world community, resigns from office and goes into exile in Nigeria.
– March-July, 2004: In pursuit of Taylor, the UN and the United States freeze Taylor’s assets.
– March 29, 2006: Taylor is arrested in Nigeria and sent back to Liberia and promptly taken into custody in Sierra Leone by the Special Court to await prosecution.
On June 20, Taylor is flown by the Special Court for Sierra Lone to the Netherlands for prosecution.
– June 4, 2007: Taylor’s war crimes trial gets under way and later ends in March, 2011.
– April 26, 2012: Taylor is convicted of war crimes and on May 30, 2012 sentenced to 50 years in jail.
On January 9, 2009 Taylor’s son, Emmanuel “Chucky” Taylor, was convicted of torture by a US Court and sentenced to 97 years in prison.
Taylor’s ex-wife Agnes is scheduled to go on trial in the UK in October, 2018.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine