Woewiyu’s Verdict Brings War Crimes Court To Liberia



    Photo: by Jeremy Roebuck

    Tom Woewiyu’s conviction in US court for his role in atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil war indirectly brings home justice for victims of the NPFL war and sets the stage for the inevitable creation of a war crimes court in Liberia, Massa Washington, who served as commissioner of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission has said.

    The National Patriotic Front of Liberia rebel strongman faces a potential jail sentence of no less than 110 years. The ex TRC official sees his trial and guilty verdict as a defeat for skeptics who say that no warlord has been held responsible for their role in the Liberian war which saw an estimated 250, 000 dead, massive suffering of the population and wanton destruction of the country’s infrastructure.

    “This Woewiyu conviction pops the bubble of invincibility surrounding major warlords,”she said.

    “Even though this is an immigration case, federal prosecutors were able to win this case by proving that Mr. Woewiyu lied on his immigration applications to hide his rebel past.”

    Massa Washington On Woewiyu’s Trial & Conviction: His warlord link was a major catalyst for the conviction. Same as in the case with Jungle Jabbah. Do we think Jungle Jabbah got 30 years imprisonment just for immigration violations? Think about it. He is 51 and will be eligible for parole when he is 81 years old. That is basically a life sentence. I do not know of people who get a de facto life sentence for lying on immigration forms. Mr. Woewiyu faces up to 110 years imprisonment at his sentencing in October.

    I am predicting the gauntlet of the law is coming down hard on him. We had real life victims including a former child soldier who testified that Woewiyu recruited them at ages, 9, 11, 12, 13 etc. to go fight.

    As a result, scores of these kids were killed and many more made handicapped and scarred for life. A former child soldier who testified is today blind, one hand cut off and multiple deep scars on parts of his body. He lives in constant pain. He is uneducated, poor and has no skills. As a result of the war, he has been denied the existence of a fruitful life.

    I was in tears when this former child soldier testified. I looked around the courtroom and saw people wiping tears from their eyes while others constrained their emotion.

    The prosecution drove an important point home that while these kids were conscripted to fight for Woewiyu et al, the children of warlords were safely out of Liberia in private boarding schools and being kids.

    The TRC Report features preeminently in these legal proceedings and has been helpful in highlighting human rights violations, the patterns of the violations and significant violators category, groups and individuals.

    Interestingly, while the powers that be at home are refusing to implement the TRC Report, the international community is ready for its implementation and is taking concrete steps towards that.

    I think it will be in the best interest of the current CDC lead government to start thinking about implementation of the TRC Report. The Report is not going away. Go ask former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Refusing to implement the TRC Report will be President George Weah’s Achilles Heels.