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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Victims to testify in Swiss war crimes trial of Liberian rebel commander

Image: A photograph from August 2003 shows a bullet-strewn street following a brutal civil war in Monrovia, Liberia. Keystone / Nic Bothma/Swissinfo

The trial in Switzerland of a Liberian rebel commander facing allegations of rape, executions and cannibalism has resumed, with Liberian victims set to begin testifying this week in a landmark case under Swiss law.

Alieu Kosiah, 45, a former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy rebel group, denies all the allegations against him.

He was arrested in 2014 in Switzerland, where he had been living as a permanent resident. A 2011 law allows prosecution for serious crimes committed anywhere, under the principle of universal jurisdiction. It is Switzerland’s first war crimes trial in civilian court.

Liberia has not prosecuted war criminals from its 1989-2003 conflict and only a handful have been tried in international courts. They include Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor, who was convicted by a UN court for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone and is now jailed in Britain.

Kosiah says he was not present in Lofa county, Liberia, at the time of the crimes he is accused of having committed there. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

With unilateralism on the rise in global politics, Switzerland is finding it more difficult to interpret its neutrality.

About 15 Liberians are due to testify against him, including one whose brother was allegedly beaten to death with batons by rebels under Kosiah’s command. Another alleges he was forced to serve as a child soldier for Kosiah.

SWISSINFO

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