Accused Liberian War Criminal Indicted In Switzerland: To Face Trial

Geneva, Switzerland, March 26, 2019: It appears that a former Liberian rebel and war actor will face prosecution in Europe, Switzerland after all.

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber

The SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) reports that after nearly five years of investigation, the country’s Swiss Attorney General has issued an indictment of Alieu Kosiah for war crimes he allegedly committed during Liberia’s back-to-back wars and his case will now goes to trial.

A statement from the Office of the Swiss Attorney General seen on Tuesday by the West African Journal Magazine says, “The defendant is accused of having ordered the murder respectively murdering or participating in the murder of civilians and soldiers hors de combat, desecrated a corpse of a civilian, raped a civilian, ordered the cruel treatment of civilians, recruited and employed a child soldier, ordered several pillages and ordered and/or participated in forced transports of goods and ammunition by civilians.”

Accused War Criminal Alieu Kosiah
Accused War Criminal Alieu Kosiah

Mr. Kosiah was picked up and detained in Switzerland since 2014 and he is the first person to be held for prosecution on charges brought by the Office of the Swiss Attorney General.

Following criminal complaints filed by several Liberians in 2014, the accused Mr. Kosiah was identified as a former rebel commander with the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO). He has been a resident of Switzerland. The Attorney General then launched an investigation into criminal charges that Kosiah was responsible for committing war crimes in Liberia.

According to the Office of the  Swiss Attorney General, the collection of evidence against the accused was complicated by what it called the “lack of cooperation from Liberia and long period of time which had elapsed since the events in Liberia.”

About 25 witnesses have given testimonies to the Office of the Swiss Attorney General which has also received legal assistance from several international organizations.

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

Liberia was wracked by  horrendous civil wars in the 1990s. Various militias are accused of committing gross human rights abuses against unarmed civilians including the intentional dislocation of large sections of the populations.

Following the wars, belligerents agreed to the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which completed its work in June, 2012, submitted its Final Report to the Liberian Government and among several recommendations called for the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal to prosecute those identified as responsible for gross war and economic crimes.

But The Government of Liberia has been reluctant to implement recommendations of the TRC.

Accused Agnes Taylor and Tom Woweiyu
Accused Agnes Taylor and Tom Woweiyu

Some of those accused in the report including former rebel warlord turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL) have angrily rejected any attempts to bring them to justice and have vowed to resist the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal in the West African country. The main rebel leader Charles Taylor turned former President Charles Taylor was forced from office, later arrested, prosecuted and convicted on 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity for supporting rebels who carried out atrocities in Sierra Leone in return for “blood diamonds”. He is presently serving a 50 year jail term.

The reluctance of the new Weah Government to commit to fully implementing the recommendations of the TRC, in spite of calls the local rights groups and the international community, has led to a campaign to support the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal in Liberia.

President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor - File Photo
President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor – File Photo

Support for proposed Congressional House Bill 1055 is growing in the U.S. for the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal.

Seal of International Justice Group
Seal of International Justice Group

Last week a rights groups including the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJL) and the International Justice Group (IJG) led supporters to the office of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presented a statement in which they said, “… we are equally optimistic that Resolution 1055 will be a reality, War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia will be a success story, and corruption and impunity will become history. It is only when we achieve these milestones, will we become an economically, socially and politically vibrant nation..”

Seal of Movement For Justice In Liberia
Seal of Movement For Justice In Liberia

Already, some supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) led Government are accusing rights groups of supporting the “economic strangulation” of the Weah government by their statement to U.S. House Speaker Pelosi.

Several Liberian war actors including former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tom Woweiyu, Agnes Reeves Taylor and Martina Johnson are facing international justice. Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabateh, a former ULIMO rebel commander, is currently serving a 30 year prison term on immigration fraud charges in the U.S.

Sealed indictments have been drawn up against some Liberians which have been accused of war and economic crimes in Liberia.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

Others accused of committing atrocities and who fled the country are living under assumed names in parts of Africa, Europe and the United States. One of such persons is a former commander in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who, in the early days of the rebel invasion in Liberia, led a death squad that murdered a prominent Liberian architect and Mayor of the suburban city of Clay Ashland, Mayor Mr. R. Vanjah Richards. At the time, the Defense Ministry in Liberia said Major Johnson and his men “deviated from their mission”. Johnson later disappeared from Liberia.

West African Journal Magazine has been reliably informed by credible sources that the accused, Henry K. Johnson, is hiding out in the U.S.

International investigators say they will continue to pursue accused Liberia war and economic criminals and bring them to justice or bring justice to them.

By Our Correspondents in Europe, Liberia and the U.S.

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

 

How Liberia Lost Out As A Host Country For US Africa Command HQ

Liberia squandered a valuable opportunity in 2007 to host the headquarters of the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) Africa Command known as AFRICOM.

AFRICOM

AFRICOM which is based in Stuggart, Germany says it maintains partnerships with African nations to strengthen security forces, counter transnational threats and respond to crisis in an effort to advance the interests of the United States.

It is one of six Geographic Combatant Commands that the U. S. maintains globally.

According to AFRICOM, “Along with regional partners, U.S. Africa command conducts military operations to disrupt, degrade and neutralize violent extremist organizations that present a transnational threat.

Operations set conditions for continued partnering to help African partner nations build the capacity they need to secure the region.”

According to the document seen by West African Journal Magazine, Liberian Legislative Committees lawmakers – Representatives and Senators, who were briefed by US Embassy officials at the time on AFRICOM “…expressed overwhelming support for the initiative and reiterated President Sirleaf’s request that Liberia be chosen as the new site of the headquarters…”

At the time, AFRICOM was actively seeking a continental base in Africa and the West African country expressed interest in being a host country.

Liberia -Some Strategic Characteristics

Geographically, Liberia is accessible through its southern coast via the Atlantic Ocean. It has a relatively young civilian population whose capacity can be trained to function in support roles. Liberia and Liberians have and maintain a “positive view” of the United States due to a very long period of mutual co-existence and collaboration in diplomacy, government, education, culture and economic matters.

Map of Liberia, West Africa

Additionally, it is in the strategic interest of the US to ensure the maintenance of a stable Liberia and the subregion.

In their enthusiasm, Liberian lawmakers at the time asked the U. S. diplomatic mission near Monrovia to assist them to, “counter arguments against AFRICOM and two legislators who also hold seats in the ECOWAS and Pan-African Parliaments agreed to lobby their African counterparts on behalf of AFRICOM.”

The US Embassy in Monrovia further briefed and educated the relevant Liberian lawmakers on the history, structure and function of AFRICOM and provided assurances to dispel the misconception that AFRICOM would “take over USAID”.

Richard Saah Gbollie

According to the documents, former Margibi County Representative Richard Saah Gbollie told U.S. Embassy officials that the Liberian Senate would ultimately be the ones to approve any agreement to host the AFRICOM headquarters and requested that some lawmakers travel to the US for further discussions on the issue with U. S. Congressional Armed Services And Foreign Relations Committees in Washington DC.

But US Embassy officials who saw the request as an attempt to get a “free trip” to the US discouraged the idea.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Senator Prince Y. Johnson, who is a member of the National Security Committee in the Liberian Senate told U. S. Embassy officials at the meeting that ECOWAS Parliament members, at their recent meeting, were concerned that hosting an AFRICOM Headquarters would make Liberia a terrorists target. Senator Johnson said he countered to his colleagues at the ECOWAS Parliament that “…AFRICOM’s fundamental role is to bring stability to the continent and ultimately help Africa fight global threats itself. The security brought by AFRICOM would help foster development… (C) Senator Johnson said the Liberian Special Security Services had been advising President Sirleaf not to offer to host AFRICOM because of an increased terrorist threat, but that they were the only GOL agency that felt that way.

Johnson said he would be willing to introduce a bill in the Senate to support AFRICOM because of the stability it could bring to all of Africa. He and the other Senators present agreed that they would introduce a formal resolution echoing

President Sirleaf’s offer for Liberia to host AFRICOM when the legislature reopens in January.”

Another former Liberian lawmaker and Pan African Parliament member Representative Eugene F. Kparkar of Lofa County in the briefing disclosed thatat their last Pan-African meeting, a colleague from Botswana called AFRICOM “anti-African Union measure” and “U.S. neo-colonialism.”

Representative Kparkar reportedly said he rebutted the position of the Botswana Representative and instead advocated for hosting AFRICOM on the African continent but asked that the U.S. undertake advocacy with other African countries.

Representative Rufus Gbeoir, a lawmaker from the Administrative District of Grand Gedeh County, who was the Chairman of the House Committee on Defense at the time, suggested a visit to AFRICOM’s headquarter in Stuggart, Germany “…to personally vouch for what AFRICOM is and is not and would have a better understanding of its mission.”

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The confidential US document seen by West African Journal Magazine, and which is now in the public domain, revealed that although there was huge support, especially among lawmakers at the time, for hosting AFRICOM’s headquarters in Liberia at the time, they had to table the effort because of a tug-of-war between the Executive and Legislative branches of the Liberian government.

The U.S. Embassy, through its Ambassador in Monrovia at the time, sent a cable to the State Department in Washington DC and summarized that, “While we cannot get in the middle of this tug-of-war with the two branches, we need to recognize the complicated nature of the relationship of all these actors with checkered and sometimes violent pasts, and do our best to ensure that all parties feel part of the process. Whether or not an AFRICOM presence comes to Liberia, the legislators remain an excellent resource for us in the public relations effort on AFRICOM, both in Liberia and all over the African continent through the Pan-African Parliament and ECOWAS. They are eager and willing to help. It is in our interest to keep them involved.”

The U. S. Embassy cable which included a mention of Liberian lawmakers with violent past include former warlord turned Senator Prince Johnson of the former rebel Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), former lawmaker Richard Saah Gbollie, a military police commander of the Taylor led rebel National Patriotic Front (NPFL).

Capitol Building in Monrovia

It is unclear if the Government of Liberia made further serious overtures to the U. S. Administration afterwards, given the enormous benefits of hosting a strategic ally.

AFRICOM’s Headquarters did not make it to Liberia nor Africa and remains in Stuggart, Germany where it coordinates Education and Training, Threat Assessments, Pandemic Response, Deployment Assistance, Military Partnership and Foreign Military Sales, etc. for the 53 countries in Africa.

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

 

Sen Prince Johnson Seen on Video Abusing Ms. Watta Allison During Civil War in Liberia

Former Liberian Warlord Prince Y. Johnson
Former Liberian Warlord Prince Y. Johnson

In the wake of massive pressure from local and international Liberian and other activists for the implementation of the recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) including the establishment of war crimes court for the prosecution of those identified as responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the West African country’s devastating civil war between 1989 – 2003, a disturbing video has surfaced on social media showing a former warlord and current Senator Prince Y. Johnson interrogating and brutalizing the wife of a former Liberian Defense Minister General Gray Allison.

The grainy video which was apparently shot by an unknown person at the Caldwell rebel base of the former rebel leader of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL),perhaps during the period of the war,  shows Johnson angrily accusing Ms. Watta Allison of being knowledgeable about the military invasion on August 12, 1984 of the campus of the University of Liberia(UL) on the direct orders of military junta leader and former President Samuel K. Doe.

The order to the then army commander General Allison, a former Defense Minister in the Doe Government was conveyed to students that “they move or be removed”. The brutal military invasion resulted in numerous student deaths, rapes, the closure and subsequent dismissal of the entire Administration of the University of Liberia at the time headed by the late Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman. No official death counts were ever verified following the invasion.

Students at the state University were demanding the release of former College Dean and Professor Dr. Amos Sawyer and Professor George Klay Kieh, also a political science lecturer who were in detention and charged with serious crime of “high treason”.

On the 55 second video, the wife of the late General Allison is heard denying that she was aware of the University campus invasion. She tried to explain a number of times to Johnson who sounds angry and is seated at a desk dressed in blue top that she only heard of the invasion while she was in the U.S.
“Mr. Johnson, to my Holy Communion, to my family… my children I took nine months… I did not know anything. It’s just a plot to get… to kill Gray. That’s all those people planned it to kills Gray…”Ms. Allison is heard saying to Johnson.

The rebel leader Johnson is then heard asking Ms. Allison, “…But you agree that Gray went to University of Liberia?” Ms Allison responded, “I was not here…” Johnson interrupts her, “But you heard it?”, She tried to explained saying, “I was sick; that’s what I’m trying to tell you…”
Johnson is then seen lunging and striking Ms. Allison who is off camera and to his left, accusing her of being a “lier”. Ms. Allison is then heard apologizing to Johnson.

img_0607-3
Map of Liberia

Social media is in uproar at the rather hard to watch video with some posters calling for Senator Johnson to be prosecuted for his role in the Liberian civil war.

At program in March, 2018 to mark the successful end of the UN Mission in Liberia which began in September, 2003, the Deputy UN Secretary General Madam Amina Mohammed told the Liberian government that peace would “remain fragile as long as people feel excluded from the economic and political life of the country, and as long as corruption undermines confidence in institutions”, a apparent nudge to the government to implement recommendations of the TRC Final Report.

The TRC completed its work and submitted findings to the Government  since 2009.

TRC Final Report – Liberia

President George M. Weah has refused to commit to any implementation of the TRC Report, saying this is not a priority for his government and no one has faced prosecution for atrocities committed during the civil conflict.

Johnson is responsible for the capture, torture, killing and mutilation of the body of former President Doe in September, 1990 on Bushrod Island, the western suburb of the Liberia capital Monrovia. Johnson has defended his role in the Liberian civil war as a “liberator” and says he will not submit to prosecution.

Senator Johnson is one of many war actors hooked by the country’s and Reconciliation (TRC) Final Report. In section 12.3 titled, <strong> Names of Those Responsible (Perpetrators) Recommended for Prosecution</strong> Johnson is named as leader of the INPFL.
Others recommended for prosecution include now jailed former National Patriotic Front (NPFL) leader and Former President Charles Taylor, late General Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO/ULIMO-K, Alhaji Kromah, ULIMO-K, George Boley of LPC, Thomas Yahya Nimley of MODEL, Sekou Damate Konneh of LURD and the late Francois Massaquoi of LDF.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Senator and Evangelist Prince Y. Johnson

The former Liberian warlord turned evangelist told members of his Faith Chapel Ministries Church at a service in August, 2017 that, “…Liberia had conflict that lasted for 14 years when brothers turn against one another in a brutal arm conflict, but the war is over, it is time to rebuild our nation.”

“I am the servant of God whom he took from the battlefield and cleansed with his blood, to stand here before the people of God to proclaim his gospel.”

Johnson who hails from the sub-political division of Nimba County in northeastern Liberia is a senior Senator. In the 2005 general elections, Johnson contested and won a Senate seat to represent his people. He is a former chairman of the Senate’s Defense and Security Committee.

Liberia TRC
TRC Liberia – Logo

He is leader of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) political party and threw his support behind the George M. Weah led Coalition for Democratic change which defeated the ruling Unity Party in recent Presidential and General Elections in Liberia.

Johnson is accused of the subsequent execution of Ms. Watta Allison.

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By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal