Ex-Liberian fighter sentenced to life by French court

A Paris court on Wednesday sentenced a former Liberian rebel commander to life in jail over violence against civilians and complicity in crimes against humanity after France’s first trial linked to Liberia’s civil wars.

The Paris criminal court found Kunti Kamara guilty of crimes against civilians between 1993 and 1994, including a teacher whose heart he reportedly ate, and not preventing soldiers under his command from repeatedly raping two teenage girls.

The 47-year-old defendant betrayed little emotion when the verdict was pronounced.The case was brought by the crimes against humanity division of the Paris court.

It was set up in 2012 to try suspected perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide detained on French soil, irrespective of where their alleged crimes were committed.

The allegations against Kamara date back to the early years of the back-to-back conflicts that ultimately killed 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003 in the West African nation.

The fighting was marked by mass murders, rape and mutilations, in many cases by child-soldiers conscripted by warlords, with atrocities against civilians common.

Kamara was a regional commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), a rebel group that fought the National Patriotic Front of ex-president, Charles Taylor.

The prosecution had sought a life sentence against Kamara, whose defence team had questioned the trustworthiness of the evidence against him.

Kamara was arrested in France in 2018 after anon-governmental organisation representing some of the victims filed a complaint.

“This trial is important and really brings hope because today, in Liberia, we still have not tried a single person involved in the civil war,” said Sabrina Delattre, a lawyer for the civil parties in the trial. “It is very important for the victims to know that, abroad, these people sooner or later risk being confronted with their past.”

The trial shed light on some of the darkest parts of Liberia’s history; two civil wars that occurred between 1989 and 2003 and killed some 250,000 people.

Kamara was a leader of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), an armed group opposed to former LiberianPresident, Charles Taylor. -AFP

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