“Ninety-Nine Years for Rogue, One Day for Master”

-- Reflections on the Upcoming Trial of 100-yr old Nazi War Criminal in New Zealand; Implications for Accountability and Justice for Liberia’s War Victims.

Recently in New Zealand, a 100-year old former guard at Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp during World War II was indicted on 3,518 counts of accessory to murder. He is to stand trial in October of this year. 

His case is based on precedent established in a 2011 landmark ruling that says former prison guards may still be charged as per accessories to murder without evidence of specific crimes or specific victims, for service at Nazi concentration camps and simply assisting the camps to operate, according to Jordan Murphy of the Victoria University, Wellington Faculty of Law.

The accused, according to Murphy, is alleged to have served at concentration camps located on the outskirts of Berlin between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Germany SS paramilitary organization.  

He is further alleged to have seen the imprisonment of 200,000 persons with 30,000 deaths. According to prosecutors in the case, the 100-year old former prison guard has passed a medical examination and has been deemed fit to stand trial.

But in Liberia, where a civil war raged for 14 years, resulting in over 200,000 deaths and where atrocities committed were widespread, no one has yet been held to account, despite a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report recommending the prosecution of individuals responsible for the gross and egregious abuse of human rights.

Several former warlords and ex rebel generals have since ascended to official positions in government and they have played key roles  leading the resistance against accountability. In the current makeup of the Legislature are several individuals who have been named in the TRC report. 

One such individual is Nimba County Senator and former rebel leader of the breakaway Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL) Prince Y. Johnson.

Another such individual is Grand Gedeh County Representative and former rebel leader of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC), George Boley. His faction is listed in the TRC report as the most notorious faction based on accounts of atrocities it committed.

Others in government include Grand Gedeh County Superintendent and former commander of the rebel Movement for Democracy and Elections (MODEL), Kai Farley, also listed in the TRC report for committing atrocities including the gross and egregious abuse of human rights. The TRC documented tens of thousands of violations, more than any previous Truth Commission anywhere in the world.

These violations were recorded in statements submitted to the TRC. A total of 17,160 statements were entered into the TRC database for statistical analysis and interpretation. Those statements contain information about 86,647 victims and 163,615 total violations. Total violations include 124,225 violations suffered by individual victims, 39,376 suffered by groups, and 14 by institutions.

The information generated by the TRC, which is disaggregated by gender, shows 46,188 female victims which accounts for 37.2 percent of total violations reported; the figure for male victims stands at 76,905, accounting for 61.9 percent of total violations and the figure for unknown victims by gender stands at 1132, accounting for 0.9 percent.

Twenty-three (23) types of violations(crimes) were identified as having been committed during the period of conflict. The violations include: Forced Displacement 58,849 accounting for 36% of total violations followed by Killing 28,042   17.1%;   Assault 13,222   8.1%; Abduction 13045 8%

 Next is Looting (7619 or 4.7%); Forced Labor (7,560 or 4.6%); Property Destruction (5,881 or 3.6%); Robbery (5817 or 3.6%); Torture (4,937 or 3%); Arbitrary Detention (4,017 or 2.5%);  Rape (2,308 or 1.4%); Extortion (2,095 or 1.3%); Exposure/Deprivation (2,048  or 1.3%);  Forced Recruitment (2,033 or 1.2%);  Sexual Abuse (2,031 or  1.2%); Missing (1,436 or 0.9%);  Gang Rape (1,107 or 0.7%); Sexual Slavery (1023 or 0.6); Ingesting Taboo Item (255 or 0.2%); Cannibalism (86 or 0.1%);  Drugging (81 or 0%); Multiple Rape (65 or 0%); Amputation (58 or 0%); Total 163,615 or 100.1%.

The  National Patriotic Front (NPFL) has 63,843 violations attributed to it and ranks at the top of major violators, accounting for 39 percent of all violations. Next is the Liberians United for Reconstruction and Democracy (LURD) which has 18,797 violations attributed to it accounting for 12 percent of all violations. 

Ranking third (3rd) is the Liberia Peace Council with 16,708 violations attributed to it and accounts for 10 percent of total violations. In contrast the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL) has a total of 2,588 violations accounting for only two (2) percent of total violations. although Prince Johnson stands out as the most notorious warlord listed in the TRC report. 

Officials of these and other factions today hold top positions in government and they have been the most vocal and vehement voices against the implementation of the TRC recommendations calling for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.

According to some rights activists, those Senators who affixed their signatures calling for the establishment of a Traditional Justice Commission to review the work/report of the TRC did so in a bid to overturn and undermine the legitimacy of the TRC report. 

Former TRC Commissioners, reacting to the Senate recommendations describing the Senate recommendations as a concerted attempt by vested interests to create new but false historical narratives of the 14-year civil war.

They maintain that the false narratives are intended to cover up their role as “financiers, organizers and leaders of armed gangs that terrorized, tortured, murdered and forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of Liberians and pillaged the resources of Liberia with wanton and reckless disregard for nobody except their leaders”.

But time is not on the side of Liberian war and economic criminals. The indictment and scheduled trial of a Nazi war criminal 76 years after the end of World War II clearly suggests that justice will be served one day no matter how long it takes.

Foot-dragging by the Weah Government on this issue is giving rise to even greater calls for accountability. However, with only 2 years left on the tenure of this government, Liberians it appears, are hedging their bets on a post Weah government to do what it promised but has yet to do.