US justice has sentenced former rebel leader Mohammed Jabatteh to 30 years in prison.
“Jungle Jabbah”, his nickname during the Civil War, was found guilty of lying to the authorities for asylum.
It is on the charge of perjury and fraud to US authorities that Mohammed Jabatteh, now 51, a father and a businessman, was arrested in April 2016 while residing in Philadelphia. In reality, it is not the lie, but indeed the crimes he committed as commander of one of the rebel factions during the civil war (1989-2003) in Liberia that were at the heart of this trial.
During the month of October 2017, about fifteen witnesses are called to the bar to tell the jury the atrocities they had survived. During the two-week trial, there were reports of killings, the recruitment of child soldiers, rape, and cannibalism.
An unprecedented trial for victims of war crimes in Liberia, explains Alain Werner, the director of Civitas Maxima, a Swiss NGO representing these victims: “For them, coming to a criminal court and confronting each other to an alleged offender and to talk about these crimes is first because there is no justice at all in Liberia. Not even a single case and it is therefore a means for these victims that justice be done.”
This punishment is exceptional for Liberia, where many personalities involved in the civil war still occupy important economic and political positions.
Other trials of suspected war criminals should follow that of Philadelphia. In Belgium, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, witnesses are encouraged to publicly declare their executioners who live in Europe.