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.