France court hands Liberian rebel shorter 30-year sentence

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A French court on Wednesday handed former Liberian rebel commander Kunti Kamara a 30-year prison sentence for violence against civilians and complicity in crimes against humanity during Liberia's first civil war.

Kamara, now 49, had been sentenced to life in prison during a first trial in Paris in 2022.

The Paris criminal court, after an appeals trial that lasted three weeks, upheld a guilty verdict against Kamara for "acts of torture and inhuman barbarity" against civilians between 1993 and 1994, including a teacher whose heart he reportedly ate.

He was again found guilty of complicity in crimes against humanity for not preventing soldiers under his command from repeatedly raping two teenage girls in 1994.

The prosecution had on Monday urged the court to uphold his life sentence.

The allegations against Kamara date back to the early years of the back-to-back conflicts that would ultimately kill 250,000 people in the West African nation between 1989 and 2003.

The fighting was marked by mass murders, rape and mutilations, in many cases by child soldiers conscripted by warlords, with atrocities against civilians common.

Kamara was a regional commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), a rebel group that fought the National Patriotic Front of ex-president Charles Taylor.

The case against Kamara was initially brought by the crimes against humanity division of the Paris criminal court, after he was arrested in France in 2018.

It was set up in 2012 to try suspected perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide detained on French soil, irrespective of where their alleged crimes were committed.

It was the first case taken by the unit that was not related to the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Sabrina Delattre, lawyer for the NGO Civitas Maxima and eight Liberian civil parties, on Wednesday said that it was "important for the victims and the civil parties who for the second time have been heard, and believed".

She said they had been able to "obtain the justice they had not obtained in their country".

So far, only a handful of people have been convicted in Liberia itself for their part in the brutal wars.

A motion was approved this month to set up a long-awaited war crimes court, seen as the first step towards trying perpetrators of human rights violations.