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Swiss court drops massacre charge against former Liberian rebel leader

The two civil wars in Liberia officially ended in 2003 and the country's president and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor fled to Nigeria. Keystone/Nic Bothma

The former Liberian rebel leader Alieu Kosiah has been cleared of involvement in a massacre, but he remains in detention in Switzerland awaiting a trial, accused of war crimes. 

This content was published on November 25, 2019 - 15:47
swissinfo.ch with Keystone-SDA/ug

The Federal Criminal Court has thrown out a 2016 legal complaint by a young woman who had accused Kosiah of being responsible for a massacre committed by rebels from the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), who had kidnapped and killed 25 village residents, including her father and brother. 

She had accused the rebel leader, known to his men as “General Kosiah”, of having ordered the massacre and of having directly participated himself. 

The verdict, published on Monday, confirms an earlier ruling by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), which had closed the case after having listened to the complainant and to various other people it had investigated. 

The court agreed with the attorney general, which said the young woman had not been present at the time of the massacre and that, in view of the delay between the kidnappings and the killings, it could not be excluded that other militiamen had been involved.

Still held 

Kosiah, however, remains in detention in Switzerland awaiting trial for war crimes allegedly committed in Liberia. He has been held since November 2014, when he was arrested in Bern, where he had been living. 

In March 2019, the Swiss Attorney General announced that it had finally indicted Kosiah for war crimes during his country’s conflict and referred his case for trial. 

“The defendant is accused of having ordered the murder respectively murdering or participating in the murder of civilians and soldiers hors de combat, desecrated a corpse of a civilian, raped a civilian, ordered the cruel treatment of civilians, recruited and employed a child soldier, ordered several pillages and ordered and/or participated in forced transports of goods and ammunition by civilians,” it said in a statement. The crimes were allegedly committed between 1993 and 1995. 

In 2014, several Liberian nationals had filed criminal complaints with the OAG against the former ULIMO commander. The OAG opened criminal proceedings against him for war crimes the same year. 

His is the first case to be brought to the Federal Criminal Court by the OAG under the principle of universal jurisdiction. 

Around 300,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes, in conflicts that raged in the west African country between 1989-1996 and 1999-2003.

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