By Anthony Stephens, New Narratives Senior Justice Reporter
The Swiss Federal Criminal Court has announced dates to hear the appeal of convicted Liberian war criminal, Alieu Kosiah. In June 2021 the Court sentenced Kosiah to 20 years in prison for war crimes during Liberia’s first civil war in June 2021.
The Court, in the Alps town of Bellinzona, will hold hearings on Kosiah’s appeal over two weeks from January 11, 2023.
The court found Kosiah guilty of 21 of the 25 charges for which he was tried including murder, rape, looting, and use of child soldiers. A commander for the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy, led by the now deceased warlord, Alhaji Kromah, Kosiah was the first Liberian to be found guilty for crimes committed in Liberia’s two civil wars. Kosiah has maintained his innocence throughout the legal process.
During the appeal, Kosiah will face additional crimes against humanity charges after the Office of the Attorney General amended its original indictment based on an appeal by the plaintiffs, a move allowed under Swiss law.
Kosiah, 47, has already served seven years of his 20-year sentence. Six of those were spent in an unusually long pre-trial detention, which drew criticism from the defense which argued he should be treated as innocent and allowed to remain free until proven guilty. Should he lose his appeal Kosiah will serve 13 more years in prison before being deported to Liberia.
His former lawyer, Gemitri Gianoli had argued during the trial that, should Kosiah be acquitted, he should be awarded the equivalent of $US1.5 million in compensation for the hardship caused to him by his detention and conviction.
Kosiah had been residing in Switzerland since he fled Liberia but was arrested in 2014 after Swiss-based human rights advocates, Civitas Maxima and its Liberian counterpart, Global Justice Research Project, acting on behalf of a group of victims, presented evidence of his crimes to Swiss law enforcement. Kosiah would be permitted to stay on in Switzerland if his conviction is overturned but could also return to Liberia.
Kosiah was often angry about his trial. Credit:-Leslie Lumeh/New Narratives
But Liberian authorities, though they have yet to prosecute anyone for their role during the wars, could also choose to prosecute him.
The announcement of Kosiah’s appeal proceedings comes a few weeks before his former comrade-in-arms, Kunti-Kamara goes on trial in Paris, France for crimes against humanity and torture. The trial will run from October 10-November 4, 2022.
This report was produced in collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.