29 July 2014

Liberia: America Ready for Liberians Accused of War Crimes ?

Photo: Liberia Government
U.S Ambassador Deborah Ruth Malac and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

It appears that the administration of Barrack Obama, the President of United States of America (USA), is posed to prosecute Liberians accused of war crimes owing to the unprecedented cancellation of three prominent officials of the Government of Liberia (GoL) U.S. visas recently.

The three government officials, who had their U.S. visas cancelled, are: Associate Supreme Court Justice KabinehJ'aneh, Youth and Sports Minister Eugene Nagbe, and Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff.

All three once had some affiliation with different rebel groups during Liberia's civil war, which lasted from 1989 to 2003.

J'aneh was reportedly told his visa was canceled upon arrival in France enroute to the United States. Nagbe learned of his visa revocation after arriving in the United States, while Doe-Sheriff was stopped in Accra, Ghana.

But Liberia's Information Minister Lewis Brown said the Liberian government had made "proper representation" to the US embassy seeking clarification on why the visas of three senior government officials were revoked after they had left Liberia.

In an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) last week, Minister Browndescribed the visa incident as serious. He said his government wants to know what really happened.

"So far, we have made the proper representation through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the American Embassy accredited near our capital seeking information on the revocation of visas of at least three individuals who are serving at very high levels in the government. We are still waiting for feedback from the embassy," he said.

Brown said Monrovia remains hopeful the visa issue is simply the result of a misunderstanding.

"We know that at least three senior officials' visas were revoked. It is within the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make such representation and to get the information. Until we do, we'd like to think there may have been some misunderstanding, a processing issue perhaps," he said.

Brown said the Liberian government is unaware whether the visa revocations were part of an overall US commitment to root out alleged human rights violators who may be trying to seek refuge in the United States.

"We've heard about all these speculations; we do not rush to any conclusion. And so, what we want to do is to, as we've done, do a formal request for information about what may, or may not, have occurred. I think people are running to conclusions and may find it totally unnecessary in the end," Brown said.

He said the Liberian government had made the necessary representation to the US Embassy and expects to get the results soon. After that, Brown said, the government will inform its citizens about what really transpired.

However, in a brief statement issued in Monrovia last Thursday, the U.S. embassy in Monrovia gave its official position on the visas cancellation saga.

"We are aware of reports that several Liberian government officials had their U.S. visas cancelled recently. Under U.S. law, we cannot comment on individual visa cases," the U.S. embassy explained in its statement.

"That said, the partnership between the United States and Liberia remains strong. We have worked together through many difficult times. We are committed to supporting Liberia and her people as they seek to foster democracy and economic growth and to rebuild the country," the U.S. embassy's statement concluded.

It may be recalled that in May of this year, Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, Charles Taylor's former defense minister was arrested in Newark, New Jersey and charged with "lying on his application for U.S. citizenship by not disclosing his alleged affiliation with a violent political group in Liberia," according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In 2012, the US government deported George Boley, former leader of the Liberia Peace Council(LPC), and was found to have recruited and used child soldiers in military operations undertaken by the Peace Council during the country's civil war.

ICE said Boley's deportation was the first removal order it had obtained under the Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2008.

In 2009, a court in Miami convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor's son on six counts of committing acts of torture and conspiracy to commit torture.

He was the commander of the notorious Anti-Terrorist Unit(ATU) that suppressed opposition to his father's regime. He was sentenced to 97 years in jail.

According to reports, there are strong indications that the administration of Obama may go after Liberians accused of war crimes.

The reports say the US government is seriously against the growing culture of impunity in Liberia and that time is fast approaching for all Liberians accused of war crimes be prosecuted so as to serve as a deterrence for other Liberians who may want to engage in such a heartless act.

The reports divulge that America, which is considered as the mother of democracy in the world, had declared war against impunity globally and that Liberia is no exception.

Among other things, the reports add that the U.S. State Department will shortly release the list of all those Liberians who are to face prosecution for alleged war crimes in Liberia.

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