The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ha said it will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those trying to evade prosecution and punishment for crimes committed in their homelands.
The warning comes as former Liberian warring faction leader George Boley goes before an immigration judge Wednesday in Buffalo, New York.
Boley, leader of the former Liberian Peace Council, one of the factions in Liberia’s civil war, was arrested in mid-January and charged with being in the United States without valid legal documentation and committing extra-judicial killings in Liberia.
Lev Kubiak, special agent in charge at the ICE office of investigation in Buffalo, New York said ICE is prepared for Wednesday’s hearings but would welcome any additional information on the Liberian Peace Council and Mr. Boley’s role.
“The information that we have has led us to file the charges that we have filed – that Mr. Boley is present in the United States without any valid documentation, and we believe there’s evidence he may have been involved in extrajudicial killings as described by our Immigration and Nationality Act,” he said.
Special Agent Kubiak said the purpose of the trial before an immigration judge is for the U.S. government to present its evidence against Mr. Boley and for Mr. Boley, through his attorney to disprove the government’s evidence.
He said the United States would welcome any additional information that would help the government learn more about the Liberian Peace Council or any potential witnesses or victims.
“We’re always seeking additional witnesses and additional information throughout this process. The best way for them to do that will actually be through an email contact with the group’s supervisor who is in charge of overseeing this investigation and his email address is Kevin.firstname.lastname@example.org,” Kubiak said.
An ICE news release quotes Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE John Morton as saying that ICE “will not relent in our efforts to ensure that human rights violators are brought to justice and removed from our communities”.
The news release also cited a 1995 U.S. Department of State report as documenting “credible reports that Boley authorized the extrajudicial executions of seven of his soldiers on Nov. 14, 1995”.
It also said witnesses testified recently before the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that the LPC burned alive dozens of captives in Grand Gedeh County, northern Liberia, in 1994.
George Boley, Jr, said the allegations against his father are faceless and without merit.
“To be quite frank, the charges are bogus and completely fabricated and unsubstantiated. At no given time has he taken up a gun to shoot somebody as the United States claimed he has done,” Boley Jr. said.
Kubiak said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a history of pursuing and prosecuting people who committed serious human rights abuses in their countries of birth and are living in the United States.
“One of the most recent cases that affects the part of the world that you cover is the “Chuckie” Taylor case recently concluded down in the southern part of the United States. We have a long history of working these types of cases and a very serious commitment to ensuring that individuals who have committed these atrocities are not able to hide in the United States or reside here after having committed such atrocities,” Kubiak said.
Charles “Chuckie” Taylor, Jr., the son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted in the U.S. state of Florida and ordered by a federal judge to pay $22.4 million in damages to five Liberians who claimed they were tortured by President Taylor’s Anti-Terrorist Unit headed by Chuckie Taylor.
Kubiak said if Boley is found guilty of the charges against him, he would be deported from the United States back to Liberia.
Liberians like Patrick Nimely Sie-Tuon, general coordinator of the U.S.-based Liberia Human Rights Campaign hope the effort to pursue Liberians living in the United States who might have committed serious human rights abuses in Liberia would not stop with Boley and Chuckie Taylor.