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Former Warring Faction Leader a Person of Interest to Liberia's Truth Commission

Former Liberian warring faction leader George Boley told VOA a week ago that he had filed a lawsuit against the U.S.-based Advocates for Human Rights for defamation. The group is a Diaspora partner of the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) charged with investigating the causes and crimes committed during Liberia's civil war.

Boley, who served as leader of the former Liberian Peace Council, said he sued the organization because its deputy director – Jennifer Prestholdt – said in a radio interview that Boley had been jailed in the United States for human rights violation allegedly committed during the conflict. Boley also said the group failed to acknowledge his request to correct what he called a huge mistake.

TRC Chairman Jerome Verdier told VOA Boley's concerns had been addressed, and now the Commission wants him to come and testify about his role in the war.

"George Boley was head of the Liberian Peace Council. He's a person of interest to the Commission. George Boley returning to Liberia was pursued by the TRC and invited several times to appear before the commission. He registered a protest that he needed clarification on a matter that was mentioned by the Advocates officer during the interview with respect to he being in custody in the U.S. for human rights violation, and he wanted to know whether the interview was sanctioned or the comments were made on advice or with consent of the Commission," he said.

Verdier said the TRC, though not a party to the lawsuit responded to Boley's concerns in writing.

"His concerns were responded to in writing. We informed him that it was a public relations activity, and he was not the subject matter of the interview. And if those comments were made by that official during the interview, we neither confirmed or denied what was said because we had no information at that time, and it was not our place. And in our minds that matter was closed," Verdier said.

He also said Boley met in Monrovia with Jennifer Prestholdt, the Advocates official who allegedly said that Boley had been imprisoned in the United States for alleged human rights violations in Liberia, and that the matter appeared to have been settled.

"Jennifer happened to have been visiting Liberia, and he (Boley) heard about it and informed me that it would be good for himself and Jennifer to meet. I said it would be good if we can resolve this because she represents our partner in the U.S. And the matter was discussed, and we all understood, I think both of them understood there was nothing intentionally done; there was no malice involved. We all shook hands, had a drink and then we left," he said.

Verdier said he thought the foundation had been laid for Boley to testify before the Commission. But he said since then it has been difficult getting Boley to come to the commission.

He said the TRC intends to re-invite Boley to appear before the Commission.

"We have invited him already, and he had visited the Commission more than twice but refused to make statements until this matter was cleared. Since that matter was cleared, he has been invited as far as my information goes, and we plan to renew that invitation," he said.

Boley, who has denied ever violating anybody's human rights, said he would be willing to testify before the Truth Commission if invited.

Verdier said based on information gathered by the TRC from witnesses, Boley is a person of interest to the commission.

"I think the best place to speak and affirm these assertions is before the commission, and I hope Honorable Boley can listen to this interview and know that he's needed right now as we are speaking. The commission has done its own investigation; there have been testimonies from people in the areas where the LPC (Liberia Peace Council) operated. There have been testimonies from the high ranks of the LPC and other organizations that Mr. Boley affiliated with. And it would be necessary for him to appear so that he's confronted with what information the commission has relative to his role during the crisis, most especially as head of the Liberian Peace Council," Verdier said.

He said in the event that Boley, who currently resides in Rochester, New York State, U.S.A. refuses to return to Liberia to testify before the commission, the TRC has the power to ask the U.S. government for his repatriation.

The commission has that authority to make special request through normal political and diplomatic channels as are available and as would apply in the case of Mr. Boley. I don't know his status in the U.S., but we are confident that if we cannot make personal contact with him, we will do a public notice, and there is a need to go beyond that, the commission will exert that authority," Verdier said.