Bility: Liberia can achieve justice for war crimes

Liberian rights activist Hassan Bility

Kunti K. was arrested in France last week for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity committed during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996) while acting as a commander for the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO).

The ULIMO rebel faction fought against Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) during the First Liberian Civil War and was responsible for over 11,500 documented violations, according to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report.

This breakthrough arrest marks the first time a ULIMO member has been charged in France with international crimes committed during Liberia’s civil wars.

“What Civitas Maxima and the GJRP have accomplished is unprecedented for non-governmental organizations,” said Hassan Bility, director of the GJRP in Monrovia, Liberia, “to see numerous arrests abroad demonstrates that domestic criminal justice procedures can work to promote accountability for crimes against humanity.”

Bility continued: “This arrest comes at such a crucial time. In Liberia, people are hopeful that the high-ranking commanders, the people who committed the most horrific crimes, will be held accountable. Kunti K.’s arrest, and the previous arrests, show that justice for crimes committed during the civil wars can be achieved. We therefore call on the Liberian legislature to take steps aimed at legislating the necessary laws that will pave the way for the creation of a war crimes court that will address war-time violations of international humanitarian law.”

Since 2012, Switzerland-based Civitas Maxima has been working with the Liberia-based Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) to document crimes committed during the wars by all warring factions and find avenues for accountability for Liberian victims.

“Victims of these international crimes will not remain silent, they want justice for the wrongs they endured. We stand with the victims and help them access justice mechanisms no matter where, so that these former commanders, like Kunti K. are held accountable” said Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima.

“Each additional arrest of alleged Liberian war criminals abroad adds to the strength of the movement by Liberian civil societies calling for the establishment of domestic criminal justice procedures for the heinous crimes committed during the civil wars.” added Werner.

Civitas Maxima and the GJRP have assisted several prosecuting authorities, resulting in six arrests in the last four years for crimes linked to crimes against humanity committed during Liberia’s civil wars in five different countries.

Civitas Maxima filed a complaint in July 2018 against Kunti K. for his alleged commission or command of multiple crimes against humanity.

There has yet to be domestic accountability in Liberia for the crimes committed during the back-to-back civil wars, which in 14 years claimed over 150 000 lives, most of them civilians. Kunti K.’s arrest comes at a time when the momentum for justice in Liberia has never been stronger.

Courtesy of Civitas Maxima