Liberian Americans, identified as Rev. Mahn Coaley and Pastor Torli Harlan Krua have filed a lawsuit against former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and others in the District Court of Massachusetts in the United States on account of their alleged roles in the 1990 war that took more than 200,000 lives and displaced countless more.
Others named in the suit include President George Manneh Weah, former President Charles Taylor, Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu and Richard V. Spencer, secretary of the Navy, USA.
The Court’s summons, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, has given the defendants 21 days as of March 26 this year to file a response and serve their motions on the plaintiffs or their attorney and failure to respond, the summons said, default judgment will be entered against the defendants for the relief demanded by the complainants.
Meanwhile, the former chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Cllr. Jerome Verdier, responding to a VOA Day Break Africa report on the case, welcomed the civil lawsuit against former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf specifically .
“I welcome the lawsuit against former President Sirleaf in the Federal District of Boston, Massachusetts for her alleged role as an international fundraiser for Charles Taylor’s former NPFL,” Cllr. Verdier said.
He told the VOA that the lawsuit against Madam Sirleaf is a reminder to African leaders to govern well so that when they leave power there will be no need for accountability.
About the TRC’s efforts to get Madam Sirleaf to testify, Verdier said, “It was difficult getting her to appear before the TRC but she eventually did. She had her time and day at the Commission but she lied to the Commission on the role she played in helping to foster the war,” he said.
When queried as to whether he agreed with Sirleaf that her assistance to former President Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) was on humanitarian purposes, Verdier said “The former President believes that she did nothing wrong by sponsoring a war effort that killed over 200,000 Liberians.
“She thinks that is justifiable but, being involved in sponsoring a war that destroyed a country and polarized it at different lines, but we think differently.”
He added “Those are immoral acts and they are wrong, no matter what explanation she gives. Whether her intention for supporting the war was based on morality or vengeance, we know that over 200,000 people lost their lives, more than a million were displaced and a million more sought refuge in other countries.”
Cllr. Verdier said institutions have been destroyed but at the TRC Sirleaf ‘lied’ that she supported Mr. Taylor with US$10,000 and her support was for humanitarian purposes.
“We have evidence of greater support that she gave towards the war effort. During Charles Taylor’s testimony at the sponsored Special War Crimes Court for Sierra Leone, it came out that Madam Sirleaf was more than a fund giver.
“She was the principal fundraiser for the NPFL and this was long since affirmed by Sirleaf during her testimony at the US Congress on her support to the war in Liberia,” he said.
Cllr. Verdier noted it was discovered that Madam Sirleaf called on the U.S. Congress and the entire U.S. Government to give full support to Charles Taylor.
“Additionally, we have found out that she worked on the recruitment of child soldiers. She encouraged thousands of children to volunteer to fight alongside Taylor and, as it is, we believe that it is a war crime,” he said.
According to Verdier whether former President Sirleaf’s gesture was for good intention, she is liable for war crimes because she allegedly helped in the recruitment of child soldiers into the armed service and those children used the guns given them to destroy lives and properties.
“She is a war criminal. She lied to TRC by trying to minimize her role and participation in the war efforts. For this reason, we at the TRC found her liable the way we did,” Cllr. Verdier said.
He added that even though the TRC made some recommendations to which Madam Sirleaf should have adhered, “she failed to make any progress on the recommendations and so she now stands in the category of all other accused of war crimes.”
Continuing, he said, “On the reverse, African leaders should be conscious of their actions and mindful of the will of the people. Let them be mindful and govern well so that when they leave office there will not be issues of this kind against them.”
Neither the Liberian government nor a spokesperson of Sirleaf was immediately available for comment but President Sirleaf reportedly told a local radio station last week that she did nothing wrong during the Liberian civil war to be charged with war crimes.