Today, September 8, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia rejected Mohammed Jabbateh’s appeal, upholding his conviction and 30-year prison sentence.
Jabbateh, nom de guerre “Jungle Jabbah”, served as a battalion commander for the rebel group ULIMO (United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy) – one of the key warring factions that fought against Charles Taylor’s NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia) during Liberia’s First Civil War (1989-1996). Under Jabbateh’s command, civilians and soldiers alike were abused, tortured, raped, and killed – cannibalism was also a widespread ritual.
The Appeal Court’s decision describes Jabbateh’s actions as being carried out “with bone-chilling cruelty”, and stated that: “The horrors recounted at trial, retold only in part here, are indescribably tragic”, “None, including the jury that weighed impartially the mountain of evidence marshalled against Jabateh, would view his conduct as anything less than monstrous.”
Jabbateh was convicted by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on October 18, 2018, of two counts of fraud in immigration documents and two counts of perjury stemming from statements he made in connection with his applications for asylum and legal permanent residence in the U.S. – the country where he fled in 1998.
In order to prove that Jabbateh provided false information to U.S. immigration authorities, and thus that he procured asylum in the U.S. by fraud, the prosecution had to prove that he was a high-ranking rebel commander during the First Liberian Civil War and committed criminal acts while in that position. Jabbateh is the first person convicted of crimes that relate to his role during the First Liberian Civil War.
Civitas Maxima and its Monrovia-based sister organization, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), collaborated with U.S. authorities on the investigation of crimes Jabbateh committed in Liberia.
Jabbateh was then sentenced to 30 years in prison on April 19, 2018. He subsequently appealed his conviction and sentence.
According to Hassan Bility, Director of the GJRP, this case is a major success for victims of Liberia’s Civil Wars: “This has re-enforced the faith of the victims in the international justice system. It should also serve as an encouragement to all Liberians to stand up for justice and fight impunity. I call on the Liberian Government and the opposition political parties to make accountability for war time crimes a priority issue and not only focus on being elected to public offices. This sort of accountability will ensure that Liberia does not revert to conflict and war.”
Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima added: “The work of the U.S. prosecutors on this case was extraordinary. We hope that in the future these types of crimes can be prosecuted in the U.S. for what they are – war crimes and crimes against humanity.”