Kosiah Demands US$1.5M Compensation

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Alieu Kosiah, a former ULIMO commander, is alleged to have committed human rights abuses during Liberia's civil war.

By James Harding Giahyue, New Narratives Senior Justice Correspondent

BELLINZONA, Switzerland – Alieu Kosiah has demanded the Swiss Federal Criminal Court pay him 1,356,000 Swiss Francs (US$1.458 million) for compensation for the six years he has spent in detention awaiting this trial and for the emotional and reputational toll the charges have taken.  

“The long, unjustified detention of which he was subjected demands compensation,” Dmitri Gianoli, Kosiah’s lawyer, told judges on Thursday in his second day of closing arguments. Gianoli said the money would go toward “reparation for moral injury, serious injury to [Kosiah’s] personality due to the disclosure of his identity in the press, because of his harsh conditions of detention having induced back pain.”

He put the cost of his defense of the war crimes suspect at 300 Swiss Francs per hour for 6 years, or over US$1 million.   

On Tuesday, the seven Liberians who are Kossiah’s accusers in this case also asked for more than US$8,500 (LD1.5 million) each in compensation but their request is only for legal formalities. Plaintiffs are required to claim compensation in a civil action in Switzerland whether or not the accused can pay. Kosiah does not have any money to give them. However, Kosiah’s claim is against the Swiss State and he will receive the money if he wins the case. The trial ends on Friday and the verdict expected to be announced later this month.

Kosiah, 45, faces 25 counts of murder, cannibalism, rape, sexual enslavement, forced transport, looting and recruitment of a child-soldier. He denies the accusations, saying he was not in Lofa County between 1993 and 1995 when the alleged offenses were committed even though two of his own witnesses put him in the area at the time.

Kosiah faces a maximum 20-year term in a Swiss prison.

Kosiah has been vocal about his lengthy pretrial detention—highly unusual in jurisdictions which protect the rights of accused to be treated as innocent until they are proven guilty. He was remanded in November 2014 and has been detained ever since. Kosiah yelled in court on a number of occasions. Human Rights Watch and other groups have also criticized Swiss authorities over the long detention.

Kosiah ‘must be freed’

Gianoli was optimistic in his proceedings, telling the court he would only take 30 seconds to respond to all four lawyers representing the plaintiffs’ when they conclude their arguments on Friday. 

“Neither the prosecution nor the proceedings have provided proof of Kosiah’s guilt,” Gianoli said. “We are in a word-for-word situation as far as I have shown he is not there,” he said. “And even if he had been there, how could he be guilty of the continually changing versions of the plaintiffs? He must be freed from all penalties.”

Gianoli reemphasized that Kosiah was not in Lofa between 1993 and 1994, Kosiah’s key defense in this trial, and that the plaintiffs are mistaking him for another person.

“Alieu Kosiah must be acquitted of all charges because he was not there,” he told the three-judge panel hearing the case. “The Liberians (plaintiffs) have lived everything without being present, have known everything without knowing. Kosiah is not the ULIMO group. He can only speak as a person.”

Gianoli continued pointing out contradictions in the plaintiffs’ complaints and testimonies as he had done the day before. This time he was even more pointed, listing the inconsistencies with all the plaintiffs and the prosecution witnesses.

During their testimonies, the plaintiffs and prosecution witnesses admitted to changing details in their initial complaint or pretrial investigation. Some of the contradictions include descriptions of Kosiah’s gun, the complainants’ dates of birth and the exact towns where some of the alleged offenses occurred.

Alain Werner, the lawyer of four of the plaintiffs, told New Narratives in an interview outside the court the inconsistencies Gianoli points out were because of human errors and do not hurt their case.

“In our view, on the contrary, it is proof that their testimonies were very genuine, they did not fabricate stories,” he said, adding that the contradictions were also due to language and cultural differences. “In our view, Mr. Kosiah and his lawyer did not explain what could be the motive [of the plaintiffs lying against Kosiah].”

Judge Jean-Luc Bacher will announce the date of the verdict following the conclusion of legal argument in the case.

This report was produced in collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Be carried away By due process, or misconstrue due process, Korsiah! You must be dreaming that after killing innocent women, children, and other innocent civilians, you will be rewarded with even a dime. You are on your way to spending most if not all of the rest of your life in jail. Go and ask others before you.

  2. So Gionoli, with even Kosiah’s own witness making such damning revelations of BEST EVIDENCES AGAINST KOSIAH, you still want the court or others to give credence to your FRIVOLOUS ALIBIS even amid the direct evidence produced by his own witness and his victims that Kosiah committed his war crimes and crimes against humanity “in Tubmanburg, Lofa, Bong and Monrovia between 1992 and 1998“?

    As others have also disputed YOUR ALIBIS about “When accusations are made against someone, those accusations must be credible and consistent, especially since the events took place more than 30 years ago in a distant land“, you ought to bear in mind that after thirty years, you sound unreasonable to expect a victim having gone through the worst of trauma to remember the exact time or the warring faction for which the Kosiah or any other fighter fought amid the presence of dozens of warring factions!!

    For example, you Gianoli have cited a case with the lone female plaintiff who alleges Kosiah raped her after raiding her village and killing her father and brother in the 1990s. you told the court the woman had said in her initial complaint in 2014 that she knew Kosiah was a ULIMO commander but said in her pretrial hearings in Bern later that she did not know the faction he belonged to. Mr. Defense lawyer, do you expect this victim to meticulously remember which faction, or is the faction for which Kosiah was a commander or fighter even relevant??? HELL NO!

    What inter alia IS RELEVANT and a proof beyond any reasonable doubt is that witnesses upon witnesses and even Kosiahs own witness have confessed that Kosiah is the very one referred to by these very witnesses and victims. So you see Gianoli, YOUR ALIBI cannot stand the weight of the LEGAL REALISM SCHOOL OF LEGAL THOUGHT based on the circumstances, etc. etc. IN SHORT, ALIBI HAS NO SURVIVAL HERE NOT TO TALK ABOUT THE WHEREWITHAL TO DEFEAT JUSTICE.

    ‘Kosiah initiated me’

    In extraordinary testimony on Wednesday, the witness whom Kosiah and his lawyer presumably thought would absolve Kosiah of the alleged crimes, made a clear case that Kosiah had recruited him as a child soldier, a war crime itself.

    The man, now 40, told the court that Kosiah recruited him when he was a child in 1992. He said Kosiah and other rebels had captured him when he was 12, in Todee, Montserrado County. Later they trained and assigned him as a bodyguard to Kosiah with whom he stayed in Tubmanburg, Lofa, Bong and Monrovia between 1992 and 1998. He said he and other children had been caught up in a gun battle between Kosiah’s United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) and their rival the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) led by future president Charles Taylor.

    “He (Kosiah) was the one who initiated me in the revolution. He took me to be his son,” the 40-year-old man said. “He saved my life. I took him to be my second god.

    “Everywhere he was going I had the right to be there, and everywhere I was he had the right to be there. That is why I know a lot about him,” he said, adding that he tasted Kosiah’s meals before the commander ate them. He told the court that he and Kosiah fought many battles together, surviving ambushes and mines. He showed the court scars on his limbs that he said were the result of those events.

    The man said he was in contact with Kosiah in Switzerland before Swiss authorities began investigating him for war crimes. Kosiah served as director of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Liberian National Police between 1995 and 1996 following a cease-fire agreement among warring factions. He fled Liberia to Switzerland in 1997 after Taylor won the elections. A year later, he was granted asylum and lived there peacefully as a married resident until his arrest in November in 2014.

    All seven Liberians who lodged the complaint against Kosiah have testified to the court already, detailing all 25 counts of murder, cannibalism, rape, sexual enslavement, forced transportation, looting and recruitment of a child-soldier. Kosiah, 45, who faces a maximum 20-year sentence in this mountainous, central European country, denies all of those charges. He says he was not in Lofa between the early and mid 1990s when he is accused of having committed the acts.

    The man—the second former ULIMO fighter testify in the trial expected to end on Marcy 5—dismissed the charges against Kosiah. He denied Kosiah, killed, raped, looted and forced civilians to head-carry loot long distances.

    “He was a good man. He was one of the commanders that saved people’s lives in Lofa,” he said, answering a question from the presiding Jean-Luc Bacher. “If you go to Lofa, people will praise him.”

    “I never saw him looting,” the man said. Kosiah was uncharacteristically calm throughout the man’s testimony, not even seen much flipping through his papers nor chatting to his lawyer Dmitri Gianoli as he had done during previous testimony.

    Wednesday’s witness also told the court several times that ULIMO committed crimes, something the court has heard throughout since this trial resumed on February 15. He admitted hearing about the butchering of civilians in Foya District and placing of their body parts in wheelbarrows, which the plaintiffs in this trial have spoken of. He conceded that some civilians were tied with their hands locked behind their backs—a torture known as “duck-fowl tie bay.” He said ULIMO forced villagers to transport looted goods.

    “ULIMO looted, I will not lie to you,” he said, adding that it did not have external support so had to loot to support their war. “We did the transport because we needed food.”

    Hence, Dimitri Gianoli, your decision to USE FRIVOLOUS ALIBIS TO DEFEAT JUSTICE, CANNOT, AND WE REPEAT CANNOT SUPPLANT NOR WITHSTAND THE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE AND PROOF BEYOND ALL REASONABLE DOUBT THAT ALIEU KOSIAH COMMITTED THE CRIMES CONFESSED BY HIS OWN WITNESSES “in Tubmanburg, Lofa, Bong and Monrovia between 1992 and 1998“!

    For What inter alia IS RELEVANT and a proof beyond any reasonable doubt is that witnesses upon witnesses and even Kosiah’s own witness have confessed that Kosiah is the very one referred to by these very witnesses and victims.

    So you see Gianoli, YOUR ALIBI cannot stand the weight of the LEGAL REALISM SCHOOL OF LEGAL THOUGHT based on the circumstances, etc. etc. IN SHORT, ALIBI HAS NO SURVIVAL HERE NOT TO TALK ABOUT THE WHEREWITHAL OR YOUR BASELESS “TECHNICALITIES“ (ALIBI, ETC.) TO DEFEAT JUSTICE.

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