A former Liberian rebel is on trial in Paris on charges of crimes against humanity, torture and acts of barbarism during the West African country’s civil war in the 1990s.
Kunti Kamara, 47, is notably accused of “complicity in massive and systematic torture and inhumane acts” against the civilian population committed in Liberia’s Lofa County in 1993-1994, as one of the leaders of the Ulimo armed group. He was then less than 20 years old.
He was arrested near Paris in 2018 and faces life imprisonment.
The trial by the Paris criminal court has been made possible under a French law that recognises universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity and acts of torture.Rights groups hailed it as an important step to bring justice to victims.
It is “a victory for Liberian victims and a warning to perpetrators that no matter where they are, we’re going to make sure they’re held accountable for the crimes they committed in Liberia,” Hassan Bility, head of the Global Justice and Research Project, told the Associated Press.
Bility’s non-governmental organisation is dedicated to the documentation of wartime atrocities in Liberia, and to assisting victims in their pursuit of justice for these crimes.
Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) stressed in a statement that Liberia’s first civil war was especially marked by “violence against civilians, as warring factions massacred and raped civilians, pillaged, and forced children to kill and fight”.
Elise Keppler, Associate International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch, said the trial is especially important in the context of “the failure of Liberian authorities to hold to account those responsible for serious crimes during the civil wars”.
“France’s trial for atrocities in Liberia reinforces the importance of the principle of universal jurisdiction to ensure that the worst crimes do not go unpunished,” said Clémence Bectarte, a lawyer who coordinates FIDH’s Litigation Action Group, in a statement.
Liberia’s back-to-back civil wars killed an estimated 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003.
The country’s post-war truth and reconciliation commission in 2009 recommended prosecution for dozens of ex-warlords and their commanders bearing the greatest responsibilities for the war. –AP