News / Africa

Liberia Wraps Up Trial Against 18 Suspected 'Mercenaries’

A court in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, is wrapping up the trial of 18 men accused of staging cross-border attacks in Ivory Coast.  Experts have been pushing Liberia to address the security situation along the border for more than two years.  But a defense lawyer for the suspects in this case said Liberia's law against mercenary activity is being misapplied.
 
Liberia was gravely affected by Ivory Coast’s 2010-11 post-election crisis, which claimed at least 3,000 lives before ending in May 2011.

The crisis erupted after the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to leave office even though he had lost the 2010 election to Ivory Coast’s current leader, Alassane Ouattara.  Tens of thousands of Ivorian refugees fled into Liberia, as did an unknown number of combatants.  

In the months after the conflict ended, the first cross-border attacks began occurring.  Often involving a mix of Liberian and Ivorian fighters, the attacks were brief strikes against villages in Ivory Coast that killed civilians, destroyed homes and displaced thousands.
 
The problem went largely unnoticed until June 2012, when an attack in southwestern Ivory Coast killed seven United Nations peacekeepers.
 
Matt Wells, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the situation seems calmer this year.  The last cross-border raids were recorded in March, when three attacks carried out in quick succession killed 10 people.
 
But Wells said there is still a possibility that violence could return to the region, underscoring the need for both Liberia and Ivory Coast to combat mercenary activity.
 
“There remain lots of the same underlying tensions in the region in terms of land conflict, refugees who feel that they can’t yet go home.  So there’s still a concerted need for action on both sides of the border to protect villages along the border from these sorts of attacks occurring again," said Wells.

The current case wrapping up at the court in Monrovia involves 18 Liberians accused of taking part in cross-border raids in 2011 and 2012.  They are being tried under Liberia’s 1976 law against “mercenarism,” which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
 
Tiawon Gongloe, the lead lawyer for the suspects, says the case should never have made it to court because the law was not intended to prosecute crimes committed beyond Liberia’s borders.

“Here, the crime mercenarism was meant to protect Liberia from foreign attackers.  But we now have a situation where the crime is being leveled against Liberian citizens for allegedly participating in war in Côte d’Ivoire.  That is not the intent of it,” he said.
 
Gongloe said that a key witness for the prosecution was paid for his testimony, something the prosecution denies.  And he argues that because Ivory Coast had not named the 18 suspects as participants in cross-border raids, there was little evidence to back up the Liberian government’s allegations.
 
Daku Mulbah, the prosecutor for Montserrado County who is trying the case, said he expected a guilty verdict. 

“Given the evidence that we have in our possession and what we have done in this case, yes, we have the strong conviction that the 18 defendants actually committed the crime that they are accused of committing, mercenarism, yes,” he said.
 
If the suspects are found guilty, Gongloe said he plans to appeal.

Prince Collins contributed to this report from Monrovia, Liberia

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid