All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ - Edmund Burke

January 2, 2009

S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 7 No 1

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report


Thursday October 30, 2008 - History was made in a Miami court today when a US citizen was successfully prosecuted and eventually convicted by a Miami court for his part in human rights abuses in the West African state of Liberia.

A federal jury convicted Charles "Chukie" Taylor, aka Roy Belfast Jnr, Chuckie with back turned the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor now on trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious charges relating to human rights abuses, and who was head of his father's special unit, the Anti Terrorist Unit. This unit is reported to have been a law unto itself as it carried out acts of torture, murder, rape and various human rights abuses.

It has been reported by many that during the heydays of this unit, members were the elite of all the rights abusing units set up by Charles Taylor as he rained fear and destruction on any suspected of opposing his rule.

One news outlet stated Chuckie Taylor, Charles Taylor Jr., Charles Taylor II and Charles McArther Emmanuel, was convicted of five counts of torture, one count of conspiracy to torture, one count of using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime and one count of conspiracy to use a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

"Today's conviction provides a measure of justice to those who were victimized by the reprehensible acts of Charles Taylor Jr. and his associates," Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said. "It sends a powerful message to human rights violators around the world that, when we can, we will hold them fully accountable for their crimes."

The Boston Globe reported

A succession of African witnesses described Emmanuel's involvement in at least three killings and torture using electric shocks, lit cigarettes, molten plastic, hot irons, stabbings with bayonets and even biting ants shoveled onto people's bodies. Many of the victims were accused of being anti-Taylor rebels or sympathizers and were held at a base known as Gbatala, often in pits partially filled with water and covered with iron bars and barbed wire. "I want the world to know what happened to me so it will not happen again in the future," former prisoner Rufus Kpadeh testified. He showed jurors scars on his arms from molten plastic he said was dripped on him.

The BBC's Will Ross who's been following events in West Africa told the news organisation

When his father seized power in Liberia in 1997, Chuckie Taylor moved to the country and was made the head of the notorious Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) while in his early 20s. This elite pro-government military division was widely feared in Liberia and there is no doubt it was responsible for the torture of many people. The crimes were especially brutal when the unit was cracking down on a rebellion which began in 1999.

The international news outlet gave a couple of examples of how the Anti Terrorist Unit operated

The younger Taylor and his soldiers are accused of torturing captives by burning them with cigarettes, dripping molten wax or plastic on them and confining them naked in pits covered with iron bars and shoveling stinging ants on them. They poured boiling water into the cupped hands of one victim while holding a gun to his head, implying the victim would be killed if he let a drop of water spill to the ground.....In one incident, the indictment alleges that Taylor stopped a group of suspected rebels near a checkpoint at the St. Paul River bridge at Gbalatuah, Liberia, picked out three people and "summarily shot them in front of others in the group."At the paramilitary unit's base, the indictment said, Taylor ordered his soldiers to cut off a captive's head. They held the victim's head over a bucket and severed it by slitting his throat from back to front after he begged for his life.

The summary execution of Sierra Leoneans by people now enjoying special privileges under the President Ernest Koroma regime is an open secret and his continued protection of the likes of "Leatherboot" his chief aide should be condemned by all. These people must be made to pay for their crimes.

Freetown residents could well recall individual acts of rape, murder and torture carried out by forces loyal to war crimes fugitive Johnny Paul Koroma.

The Sierra Herald would urge all those who witnessed the deliberate murder, rape, torture and dispossession of civilians to come forward and tell their story for their tormentors to be brought to justice.

Residents in the Kanikay area of the city, in the east of the capital Freetown are now urged to forward details of the woman shot dead in 1997 by a uniformed and armed junta gun man who did not like the comment made by the woman when after hearing the voice of the ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah for the first time on the new FM 98.1 radio commented "Di Pa Talk Fine".

For that the poor woman lost her life.

Keepers at the morgue of Connaught Hospital are reminded of that body that was brought in on a Military Police open landrover and being told that they should not talk to any journalist on pain of death!!!

We would urge them to come forward now!!!!

We need justice for that woman who was shot out of hand. Summarily executed. A defenceless woman, unarmed - merely expressing the novelty of hearing a new radio station and merely expressing her opinion.

And this Kanikay woman was not the only victim. Part of a report on the violence perpetrated on women and girls well documented by many rights groups is a grim reminder that a blanket amnesty is not applicable. All those who can be identified as carrying out such acts must be named and brought to justice.

Indiscriminate killings, amputations, rapes, and abductions characterized Sierra Leone’s decade-long conflict. The crimes of sexual violence committed against thousands of women and girls were extraordinarily brutal and were often accompanied by other egregious abuses of the victim and her family. Women of all ages were raped, including those who were pregnant at the time. Many women died as a consequence of the violence of their rapes while others miscarried. Many will suffer lifelong health problems as a consequence of the violence.

In addition, violence against women was employed to attack their loved ones and their children. Family members were often forced to watch the rape of their wives, mothers, or daughters as a means of further terrorizing and subjugating the women and their communities. Young women and girls who the rebels thought were virgins were particularly targeted for rape and sexual slavery; many of the younger victims did not survive. Adult women were raped so violently that they sometimes bled to death or suffered irreparable tearing in the genital area, causing long-term incontinence and severe infections. Numerous pregnant women had their bellies slit open by rebels who placed bets on the sex of the foetus.

Rebels abducted thousands of women and girls and subjected them to sexual slavery, forcibly conscripted them into the rebel forces, or “married” them to members of the rebel force. The women were held for prolonged periods of time. Aside from sexually servicing rebel fighters, “civilian” abductees (those not conscripted) were also required to perform forced labor, such as cooking, washing, and portering (carrying ammunition and other looted items) for the rebels. Some of these women had children fathered by rebels.

Terrorized by their captors and by the coercive environment, the women and girls often felt powerless to escape. Some rebels made escape more difficult by carving the name of their faction into the chests of the abducted women and girls. If pro-government forces discovered these marked women and girls, they accused them of aiding the rebels and often killed them. Even for women who were able to escape, it was easy to be recaptured, sometimes by a different unit or by a different rebel faction.

Justice must be seen to be done.

Over to you.

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©Sierra Herald 2002