Switzerland arrests ex-Liberian rebel commander, family says

(By ROBBIE COREY-BOULET Associated Press)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) – Switzerland has arrested an ex-Liberian rebel commander accused of participating in civilian massacres during the country's first civil war in the 1990s, the suspect's brother said this week.

Alieu Kosiah, a former rebel commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy, was arrested in November, Bangalee Kosiah said.

Kosiah was arrested in Bern, where he was living, said Morisara Doumbia, head of an organization for Liberians living in Switzerland.

The Office of the Attorney General in Switzerland declined to confirm the arrest, saying it could not comment on cases involving individuals "who could be part of a criminal proceeding." Kosiah's Swiss attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

Kosiah's arrest makes Switzerland the second European country in recent months to have arrested a Liberian accused of atrocities during Liberia's two civil wars, which spanned 14 years and are said to have killed more than 250,000 people.

ULIMO formed to fight Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia, which set off the conflict by invading the country in 1989. ULIMO eventually split into two factions, with Kosiah joining the faction dominated by the Mandingo ethnic group. Complaints filed on behalf of seven Liberian victims accuse Kosiah of participating in civilian massacres in northwest Lofa County between 1993 and 1995.

"This second arrest is a milestone as it is the first ever case against an ULIMO commander and it reinforces the Liberian demand for impartial justice for all victims," said Hassan Bility, director of the Global Justice and Research Project that works with Geneva-based Civitas Maxima to document war crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.

In September, Belgium arrested Martina Johnson, former head of NPFL's heavy artillery unit. Johnson is the first Liberian charged with international crimes for the first war.

Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence in Britain for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Sierra Leone's civil war.

Liberia has made no progress on establishing a war crimes tribunal, though a 2009 truth commission recommended more than 100 people for prosecution. The list included Johnson but not Kosiah, though Kosiah was recommended for unspecified public sanctions. READ MORE OF THIS STORY

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