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Former Liberian Rebel Kosiah Seeks to Overturn Swiss War Crimes Ruling

Former Liberian Rebel Seeks to Overturn Swiss War Crimes Ruling (News Central TV)

In an appeal hearing that began in Switzerland on Wednesday, a Liberian rebel Alieu Kosiah who was previously found guilty of 22 counts of war crimes, including rape, murder, and cannibalism, is attempting to have the conviction overturned. He now faces further allegations of crimes against humanity.

In Switzerland’s first-ever war crimes prosecution, Kosiah, a former rebel commander who fought against the army of former president Charles Taylor of Liberia in the 1990s, received a 20-year prison sentence in 2021. Crimes against humanity have recently been added to the indictment, marking the first time these allegations have been made in a Swiss court.

“I wanted to come here because of what he did to me,” said a woman who gave her name only as Mama. Kosiah was convicted of raping her when she was 14. “I want him in jail,” she told reporters outside the court. She will testify from a separate room.

His attorney has previously stated that he was a minor when first enlisted in the battle and was not present when the alleged crimes were committed, and has refuted the accusations.

In Switzerland, where Kosiah had been residing as a permanent resident, he was detained in 2014. A 2011 Swiss law upholds the idea of universal jurisdiction and permits prosecution for major crimes committed anywhere.

Between 1989 and 2003, thousands of people in Liberia were mutilated and raped during back-to-back battles that involved drugged combatants and roving child soldiers who had been enlisted by warlords.

There have been no war crimes trials in Liberia, in contrast to Sierra Leone, which experienced a civil war at the same time. All of the victims who are testifying in the Kosiah trial have requested anonymity out of concern for retaliation. There are still some warlords that are powerful in the nation.

“I am confident but it’s a challenging case,” said Alain Werner, a Swiss lawyer and director at Civitas Maxima who is representing the victims. “Sometimes it’s just their word against his and these are things that happened 30 years ago.”

Alain Werner

In addition, six other plaintiffs appeared before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Wednesday. Among them was a guy who claimed to have seen the defendant consume heart slices from a victim.

A final ruling from the three judges is anticipated later this year, and the appeal trial is scheduled to go until February 3.

According to Kosiah’s attorneys, the 20-year sentence might be raised to life in prison if the judge finds that crimes against humanity were committed.

Observers are hoping that the conclusion of the case would jumpstart other lengthy Swiss investigations that have not yet reached a courtroom, such as a war crimes prosecution against a former Algerian junta leader and a torture case against a former Gambian minister.

Outside of Liberia, including in Switzerland, support for bringing wartime atrocities to justice is growing. A former Liberian rebel commander was given a life term in jail by a French court in November, while a Liberia war crimes case is currently being heard by a Finnish appeals court.

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