Numerous cases have been brought to the international courts regarding Liberia’s civil war that occurred in 1989-2003. The war caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. One trial amongst the several brought before the court has caught the media’s eyes in Liberia, who have started following the proceedings and broadcasting them to their viewers. The trial involves a former Liberian rebel commander who was in command during Liberia’s civil war. The commander is accused of killing civilians, rape, and eating pieces of a school teacher’s heart during the war.
Trial of Former Liberian Rebel Commander
On Thursday, the former commander’s trial began in Switzerland. But before the trial could proceed, the commander decried his lengthy pre-trial detention in an outburst. Alieu Kosiah, the defendant who is 45-years of age, got arrested in 2014 in Switzerland. Kosiah says he has been in prison for six years pre-trial. He denies the charges put against him and says he is just a target. Mr. Kosiah’s lawyer told the court that his client was never present in the area in question when the alleged crimes he is accused of were committed.
On the day of his trial, Kosiah dressed in a shirt and black suit and sat down listening attentively and taking regular notes. He briefly responded to opening questions from the judge. The judge asked Mr. Kosiah if he knew the seriousness of the crimes put against him, and he answered that he understood. But Mr. Kosiah interrupted the proceedings, shouting: I was targeted…I have been six years in prison pre-trial, “before apologizing for the outburst. A witness in court that day said that Mr. Kosiah appeared to be shaking when he caused the outburst.
Kosiah was just a teenager when the conflict involving thousands of child soldiers begun in Liberia. He became a commander in the rebel fraction ULIMO which clashed with the fighters of commander Charles Taylor in the distant Lofa County in the 1990s.
During the course of the war, Kosiah allegedly killed or participated in the killing of 18 civilians. Moreover, Kosiah forced a displaced woman to be his wife and raped her repeatedly. Months later, as the conflict continued, commander Kosiah recruited a 12-year old boy as his personal bodyguard. Allegedly in one incident, Mr. Kosiah joined fighters in eating slices of an assassinated man’s heart of a metal plate.
No Prosecution of Warlords in Liberia
The Swiss court handling Kosiah’s case list his alleged crimes as recruitment and use of a child as a soldier, looting, forced transportation, rape, cruel treatment of civilians, desecration of a corpse, attempted murder, and murder (directly or by order). One of the biggest problems with the case that seems to contradict anything other witnesses say is that Mr. Kosiah had not yet arrived in Lofa (county) at the time when the crimes he supposedly committed there occurred. So far, Mr. Kosiah clearly states his whereabouts in Liberia when the crimes against him happened. He additionally has included testimonies collected in Switzerland confirming his whereabouts at the time.
War criminals in Liberia rarely or never receive punishment for crimes despite recommendations to do so in the Truths and Reconciliation Commission in Liberia. The former warlord in Liberia retain their positions of power and witnesses are reluctant to come forward.