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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs