Mohammed Jabateh (alas Jungle Jabbah), a former commander of the infamous rebel group, United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia, may not see remedy to his 30-year maximum sentence in the United States where he was arrested and charged for immigration fraud in relation to his role in the Liberian civil war.
Having received his conviction in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on October 18, 2018, and subsequently sentenced on April 19, 2018 for immigration fraud and perjury stemming from statement he made while applying for an asylum and permanent resident in the United States, Jabateh’s lawyer filed in an appeal to the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, but was on September 8 this year rejected thus upholding his conviction and 30 years imprisonment.
Immigration fraud usually occurs when a person gives conflicting accounts or lie to the U.S. Immigration in accounting for your role in society, and it seems evident that Jabateh, one of the fierce ULIMO-K commanders linked to many atrocities during the Liberian civil war, had committed this sin against the U.S. Law.
During the civil war, Jabateh served as a battalion commander for ULIMO, one of those warring factions led by ailing Alhaji G.V. Kromah that was fighting against Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). According to Civitas Maxima, a Swiss-based human rights organization, under Jabateh’s command civilians and soldiers alike were abused, tortured, raped, and killed, and cannibalism was also a widespread ritual.
Even though he was charged, convicted and sentenced for breaching U.S. laws, the court did not rule out the atrocities Jabateh and his ruthless rebels under their commander, Alhaji Kromah , committed. The court indicated in its ruling, “The horrors recounted at trial, tetold only in part here, are indescribably tragic,” “None, including the jury that weighed impartially the mountain of evidence marshaled against Jabateh, would view his conduct as anything less than monstrous.”
Jabateh has lived in the United States since 1998. In order to prove that he provided false information to U.S. Immigration authorities, and thus that he procured asylum in the U.S. by fraud, the prosecution had to prove that he was a high-ranking rebel commander during the first Liberian Civil War and committed criminal acts while in that position.
Among several others who have been arrested in Europe and the United States for their roles in the 14-year civil crisis in Liberia, Jabateh is the first person convicted of crimes that relate to his role during the first phase of the Liberian war from 1989 to 1997.
The trial of Jabateh succeeded through collaboration between Civitas Maxima and its Monrovia-based sister organization, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) with the U.S. authorities on the investigation of crimes he (Jabateh) committed in Liberia.
Hassan Bility, Director of the GJRP, said that this case is a major success for victims of Liberia’s Civil Wars. “This has re-enforced the faith of the victims in the international justice system. It should also serve as an encouragement to all Liberians to stand up for justice and fight impunity. I call on the Liberian Government and the opposition political parties to make accountability for war crimes a priority issue and not only focus on being elected to public offices. This sort of accountability will ensure that Liberia does not revert to conflict and war,” said Mr. Bility.
Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima also noted: “The work of the U.S. prosecutors in this case was extraordinary. We hope that in the future these types of crimes can be prosecuted in the U.S. for what they are—war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Since the war, the Liberian Government itself has downplayed justice for victims who are still living with the anguish of pains sustained during the 14-year period. Victims did not have the hope in the administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf being one of those caught in the TRC report for sponsoring the war, but President George Weah who promised to bring justice to victims of war crimes while campaigning for the presidency, he has reneged on meeting up with the promise and it is the most disappointment they have now.