Liberian Civil War

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Former Daily Observer Photographer_web.jpg

A Liberian photo journalist who extensively covered the civil war in this country is calling on the United States and other governments investigating war crimes here to establish a court to prosecute perpetrators and sponsors.

Journalist Gregory Himie Stemn, who has published a book titled “Liberia:  When Darkness Falls,” has told the Daily Observer that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States and the Belgian Government have begun investigating crimes perpetrated against the five Catholic Nuns murdered in 1992 and other crimes committed during the Liberian civil war.

He disclosed that the Nuns were killed by a former NPFL General identified as one Vambo, who currently serves as a security guard with a local telecommunications company.

Mr. Stemn, whose publication contains about 197 photos about the Liberian civil war, stressed that “There can be no peace without justice,” warns Stemn.   He urged that the U.S. Government and others intensify their efforts to bring to justice perpetrators of war crimes and sponsors of the past war in Liberia.

He did not state how far the investigation has gone, but Mr. Stemn said he is sure the U.S. Government would fully investigate, indict and prosecute perpetrators of war crimes in Liberia.

Explaining how he was able to capture many horrific photos about crimes committed during the war, Stemn said he accompanied former BBC West Africa Correspondent Elizabeth Blunt around war zones and later he joined the Liberian National Red Cross.

“Through this and by the grace of God, I was able to capture the photographs contained in my book, and there are many more in my archive that I want to present to the government for  history,” he said.

He told this newspaper that he has lectured on many forums about the Liberian civil war, and through that some friends met him and assisted him in publishing his book about the war.

He said he had met and held extensive discussions with several prominent organizations and individuals.  They include UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, John S. and Jane L. Knight of the Knight Foundation, the Press Club in Washington D.C, and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A letter addressed to him from Secretary of State Clinton states:  “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book, Liberia:  When Darkness Falls, and for sharing your extraordinary photos with me.  I appreciate your thoughtfulness and good cheer, and send my best wishes to you for continued success with your career in photography.”

Mr. Stemn expressed the hope that his book,  having been received by some top U.S. and international officials and human rights organizations, will help motivate decision makers to see tangible reasons to push for the establishment of a war crimes court to prosecute perpetrators and sponsors of a war that brought so much killing and devastation to Liberia.

He urged Liberians to welcome justice and to not reciprocate with lucrative positions the horrible acts of war criminals and sponsors as is the case in Liberia.

Meanwhile, reports about the arrest of some former Liberian war abettors in the United States and Belgium have been emerging.

Some months ago reports reached Liberia   that National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Defense spokesperson, Tom Woweiyou was arrested but is now under protective custody to help with accounts about the war in Liberia.

A few months ago another NPFL General, Martina Johnson, was arrested in Belgium but is now released on conditions not disclosed to this paper.

Gregory Stem is a former photographer of the Daily Observer newspaper, where he worked and was trained under the legendary Liberian  photojournalist, Sando Moore, who was the Observer’s Photo Editor.

Mr. Moore is now publisher of his own magazine, the popular monthly, Sando Moore Images.

Other younger Observer photographers of the 1980s at the newspaper’s first headquarters on Broad Street, Crown Hill,  included Folley Siryon,  now Commissioner of  Dewin District, Bomi County; Mozart Dennis, a photographer practicing in the United States, and Arthur James.

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