France seeks trial for Liberian accused of crimes against humanity

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French anti-terror prosecutors want a former Liberian rebel leader to stand trial for crimes against humanity committed during a 1990s civil war that ravaged the country, a judicial source told AFP.

The suspect, identified as Kunti K., a naturalised Dutch citizen, was arrested in a Paris suburb in September 2018. Prosecutors believe he is a former commander in the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO).

He has been charged with committing “acts of torture” and “complicity in torture constituting crimes against humanity” in 1993 and 1994, the source said.

Two civil wars in Liberia, from 1989 to 2003, resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people, with soldiers on various sides accused of torture, murder, slavery, cannibalism and the use of child soldiers.

Massacres and rapes were also commonplace, often committed by soldiers under the influence of drugs.

ULIMO was formed to counter the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) led by Charles Taylor, a rival rebel fighter who would eventually become president in 1997 after a short-lived peace accord.

In 2012, Taylor was convicted by an international criminal court of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

If judges decide to order a trial for Kunti K., it would be the first by the special crimes against humanity tribunal set up in Paris in 2012 that did not involve suspects linked to the Rwanda genocide of 1994.