A Liberian rebel commander was sentenced in Switzerland to 20 years in jail for rape, killings and an act of cannibalism, in one of the only civil war-era cases from his West African country to go to trial.
The case was Switzerland’s first war crimes trial in a civilian court. It involved 46-year-old Alieu Kosiah who went by the nom de guerre “bluff boy” in the rebel faction ULIMO that fought former President Charles Taylor’s army in the 1990s.
Kosiah, faced 25 charges at the Swiss Federal Court including killings of civilians, rape and an act of cannibalism.
Court documents showed he was convicted on all but four of them – with acquittals for attempted murder of a civilian, accessory to the murder of a civilian, an order to loot and recruitment of a child soldier.
Kosiah was arrested in 2014 in Switzerland, where he had been living as a permanent resident. A 2011 Swiss law allows prosecution for serious crimes committed anywhere, under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
He had denied all the charges and told the Swiss Federal Criminal Court he was a minor when first recruited into the conflict.
Liberia has ignored pressure to prosecute crimes from its back-to-back wars between 1989-2003, in which thousands of child soldiers became bound up in the savagery.
Charles Taylor was sentenced for war crimes in 2012, but only for acts in neighbouring Sierra Leone. His son, Chuckie, was sentenced for torture in Liberia by a U.S. court in 2009.
The court said in an emailed statement that the 20 year sentence was the maximum it was allowed to give under Swiss law.
“No mitigating circumstances were taken into account in the sentencing. A deportation from Switzerland was also ordered for a period of 15 years,” it said. Kosiah was also ordered to pay compensation to seven plaintiffs, it added.
It was not immediately clear when the deportation would take place. Kosiah’s sentence of 20 years includes the 2,413 days, or around 6-1/2 years, that he has already served in pre-trial detention, the court papers showed.
Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee recommended the creation of an extraordinary court but proceedings never began there and some former warlords now occupy positions of power.