Liberian Group Calls on UN to Indict Charles Taylor for War Crimes
May 14, 2001
The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) welcomes the imposition of sanctions on Liberia by the United Nations Security Council for President Charles Taylor's reported involvement in gun-running and diamond smuggling with Sierra Leonean rebels. We hope this is the beginning of serious efforts by the international community, led by the United States and Great Britain, to bring an end to Taylor's campaign of death and destruction in the Mano River Union basin in order to plunder diamonds and other resources.
We are convinced that the Liberian leader is incapable of ending the slaughter of defenseless people and other criminal practices as he thrives on anarchy.
Accordingly, ALJA appeals to the U.N. Security Council to begin the process of establishing the legal framework to indict Taylor and others culpable of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the interest of justice and accountability, perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity must be made to answer for their conduct. This is a means by which the commission of such crimes would be brought under control.
In 1999, ALJA sent separate letters to the U.N. Security Council, the General Assembly, and Secretary General Kofi Annan, drawing attention to criminal activities being perpetrated in Liberia and the West African sub-region by Taylor. The letter detailed accounts of politically-motivated killings and other horrendous human rights abuses, indiscriminate plunder of the rain forest and diamond mines, arms smuggling in violation of the U.N. arms embargo on Liberia, and Taylor's campaign of terror and destabilization in the sub-region. The letter then called on the U.N. to investigate and take appropriate actions to contain the Liberian tyrant's destructive influence.
Gravely concerned that the criminal regime in Monrovia has been involved in the indiscriminate destruction of a large part of the remaining rain forest in West Africa, we join in appeals to the Security Council to reconsider including Liberia's timber industry in the sanction measures.
It is our hope that countries of the sub-region, in particular, would fully cooperate with the U.N. for the effective enforcement of the sanctions against Taylor's murderous regime. We condemn West African heads of state and government who have been involved in criminal activities with Taylor or have been seeking to undermine the sanctions. We wish to issue a serious warning to the military despots of Burkina Faso and Togo to sever all criminal links with Taylor.
We call on the Nigerian president and the president of Mali, who is also chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to desist from any course of actions that would undermine international efforts to bring an end to the state of terror in the Mano River Union basin. We hope there is no deliberate Nigerian policy to nurture continuation of chaos in the Mano River Union basin in order to maintain a high international profile as a regional power and peacekeeper. Liberians greatly appreciate the sacrifices the government and people of Nigeria made to restore peace to Liberia. However, we do not appreciate pot belly army generals and political leaders continuing to feed off our carcass under the guise of peacekeeping initiatives. The game to continue the plunder of resources in the sub-region at the cost of innocent lives must be ended. We recall strong accusations by the Guinean government recently of conspiracy within ECOWAS to undermine the imposition of U.N. sanctions against Liberia. Memories of Liberians are fresh regarding the role the Nigerian government and military were seen to have played during the 1997 elections to end the Liberian civil war, in which Taylor became president.
We are not surprised by Taylor's reaction that the sanctions are "unfair and unjust." A mad man who is known to have reduced himself to nothing more than a cannibalist, the rebel leader-turned-president of Liberia obviously sees nothing wrong with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people, including amputation of the limbs of babies and women, in his campaign to grab power and resources.
Taylor's crimes are so unspeakable that he is irredeemable. There can be no question that he must be contained. We, therefore, re-echo our call to the Liberian people to intensify their efforts, using every peaceful, democratic means possible, to drive from power Taylor and the bunch of criminals engaged in the plunder of Liberia and the repression of the Liberian people.
ALJA identifies with the Liberian press, students of the University of Liberia, and others resisting Taylor's repressive regime. We seriously condemn unconstitutional acts by the government to impose wide-ranging restrictions on the media's coverage of the escalating armed rebellion, which is plunging Liberia into another round of civil war. We also condemn the recent invasion of the University of Liberia campus by armed government troops, while students were holding peaceful rallies.
While we support Taylor's removal from power, however, we strongly condemn attempts to change the government of Liberia by force of arms. Liberians should be reminded about the decade-long dictatorship of Samuel Doe, who came to power in a bloody military coup, and Charles Taylor, who launched his ferocious armed rebellion to oust Doe. Where violence has been perpetrated to change the government, Liberia has ended up in the hands of incompetents and criminals, resulting to the prevailing state of death and destruction.
We denounce those supporting the ongoing armed rebellion in Liberia. While we may appreciate that their rebellion is in response to Taylor's reign of terror, nothing justifies the unspeakable degree of death and destruction that Liberia and its people continue to endure in the contest for power and resources among certain individuals. It would be a mistake to regard those seeking to depose Taylor as liberators or redeemers.
From all indications, those backing the ongoing armed rebellion in Liberia are mostly the very individuals involved in the recently-ended seven-year civil war, which caused the lives of an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 people, and left the country decimated. From their past activities, it is clear that those individuals cannot be any better than Taylor if they too got in power. There can be no question that the hands of all of Liberia's warlords are stained with the blood of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed in the contest for power. They and Taylor can be seen as the black outsprings of Adolf Hitler.
We are very disturbed about constant reports regarding the activities particularly of Alhaji G.V. Kromah, leader of the second largest armed faction during the Liberian civil war, and Charles Julu, who earned the infamous nickname "the butcher," for the killings of hundreds of people during Doe's reign. During the civil war, Kromah's ULIMO-K Islamic armed gang was equally responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of people largely in the interest of propagating a religious cause. ULIMO-K also plundered diamonds and other resources, desecrated and destroyed traditional shrines and Christian churches in Bomi and Lofa counties. There can be no question that Kromah and his likes are just as dangerous to the peace and wellbeing of the Liberian people as Taylor and his criminal gang.
ALJA wishes to note that with growing international efforts in establishing the legal frameworks to make those culpable of war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable, the warlords and others involved in the Liberian civil war and the ongoing armed rebellion could possible be brought to book. We wish to serve notice to the likes of Kromah and Julu who are resident in the United States that there are provisions under American law that could make them accountable for the crimes they have committed and continue to commit in Liberia.
As consultations continue with individuals and organizations involved with international issues regarding human rights and crimes against humanity, the possibilities of legal actions against known human rights abusers and murderers from Liberia in the United States are becoming increasingly likely. If Kromah and others think they can reside in the U.S. and continue to wage war in Liberia for power, it should be made absolutely clear to them that ALJA is contemplating the possibilities of instituting legal actions against them in American courts.
ALJA shall continue to strive for the attainment of good governance
in Liberia. We believe that experience, integrity, democratic
commitment and the rule of law should serve as the criteria for
those who serve in Liberian government leadership. This is the
only means by which lasting peace would prevail in Liberia.
Gabriel I.H. Williams
Isaac D.E. Bantu