“War Perpetrators” In Worry, As U.S. War Crimes Investigators In Liberia To Probe Killers

Many of those who took part in the Liberian civil war and allegedly killed five American Nuns during the Lutherans Church Massacre are said to be in worry following news of the arrival of some American war crimes investigators in Liberia few days ago.

According to a local daily, a team from the Center for Justic and Accountability’s to Liberia to thoroughly probe the death of these Americans in the 1990 seems to worry those alleged killers, who brutally slaughtered these American Nuns with impunity.

The arrival of the team here in Liberia to probe those reportedly linked to the killing of these American Nuns worrying those who may have brutally murder in cold blood these Nuns.

The paper also said, the  investigative journal, ProPublica reported recently that a request to the FBI to release the file on the nun’s case was declined as the FBI claimed that the files are now applicable to a “pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding” and “could reasonably be expected to interfere” with that proceeding. U.S. authorities are interested in pursuing extradition against several figures tied to the civil war but most especially linked to the killing of the American nuns and the Lutheran Church Massacre in Monrovia. The team in Monrovia are said to be from the Center for Justice and Accountability, which has been talking to victims of the civil war.

The center, according to its website, works directly with foreign governments on a variety of transitional justice initiatives. “We work alongside in-country prosecutors to hold human rights abusers criminally accountable in national courts – especially where defendants in CJA’s universal jurisdiction (UJ) cases have been deported or extradited to stand trial in the home country.

 CJA attorneys provide expertise on witness preparation and testimony, the introduction of evidence, charging human rights crimes and other areas of human rights prosecutions. We also organize trainings that bring together faculties of judges, prosecutors, investigators and forensic anthropologists with strong track records in national court human rights prosecutions. The focus of our training work is on imparting the practical “how to” specifics of bringing successful national court prosecutions and focusing on the actual, day to day obstacles prosecutors and NGO lawyers face in fighting impunity.”

The nuns’ case is said to be tied to the trial of Thomas Woewiyu, who served as Defense Minister for Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia. Woewiyu who was arrested in the U.S. in May 2014 upon arrival is currently out on bail and under house arrest but is said to be bracing for trial later this month with the Americans said to be keen on proving what has already been established from witnesses and evidence gathered that the nuns were killed in the territory of Taylor and by forces under Taylor’s command.

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Prosecutors office in the United States told FrontPageAfrica via email recently that while no date has been set for the Woewiyu case, prosecutors are still building its case and talking to and finding witnesses.

One of those said to be on the radar is Christopher Vambo, a former Taylor commander who went by the name of General Mosquito. Vambo has been implicated in the nuns’ deaths and acknowledged to Pro Publica recently that while he commanded the forces responsible for the nuns’ death, he was not involved in their execution. "If there is charges for that, there's a penalty for that," Vambo was quoted as saying. FrontPageAfrica has learned that the U.S. investigators have identified a number of persons who were directly or indirectly involved in the killing of the nuns, particularly the Octopus operation and the massacre at the Lutheran Church.

‘Covered With Blood’ at Lutheran Church Massacre

The team has been interviewing most of the survivors of the Lutheran church massacre who have formed an organization, the Association of survivors of the Lutheran church massacre. “Majority of the victims there were from Nimba. The team is said to also be interested in the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, particularly the aspect that deals with the Lutheran church massacre,” a member of the group, who was interviewed told FPA Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

During her appearance before the TRC, Winifred Kemo, a weeping survivor told commissioners stories of how her entire body was draped with blood as soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) killed hundreds of fellow refugees in the St. Peter's Lutheran Church. Winifred explained that on the night of the massacre soldiers of the AFL demanded ransom from some of the refugees after scores of them said they were tired killing. "After they had killed and killed, then some of the soldiers said they were tired killing. So they decided to collect money from the few of us there in order to allow us to leave the compound," the witness explained.

Another witness, Boi Bleeju Boj, a former officer of the army told the TRC that soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia committed the July 29, 1990 St. The former vice chairman of the defunct rebel Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) said he was convinced that the AFL committed the massacre because the army controlled the area where the church is located. The five nuns belonged to the Adorer’s of the Blood of Christ, a St. Louis-based Catholic order and had each volunteered to live in Liberia as missionaries relief workers.

After Woewiyu’s arrest, the FBI notified the Illinois-based order, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, also known as ASC about Woewiyu’s arrest signaling that Woewiyu could be asked about the role the NPFL played in the nun’s death. "Apparently, Woewiyu did not give the order to kill the ASC sisters, but he is implicated in that the killings were accomplished under his command," Cheryl Wittenauer wrote to her supervisors in communications published by ProPublica.

The slain nuns included: Sister Barbara Muttra, 69; Mary Joel Kolmer, 58, a cancer survivor who returned to Liberia after surgery to remove a tumor; Agnes Mueller, 62, a trained nurse and a theologian who taught aspirant nuns at the sisters’ convent; Shirley Kolmer, 61, who served as a high school principal in Monrovia, and according to the St. Louise Post-Dispatch in a 1993 report, advocated forcefully–and successfully–for the nuns’ return to Liberia after fighting between Charles Taylor’s rebels and government forces forced the nuns to flee in 1990 and Kathleen McGuire, 54.

Mutilated Nuns Bodies

The nuns were killed in October of 1992 during Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) “Operation Octopus”. The nuns reportedly left their Gardnersville home to drive a Liberian colleague to home but the never made it to their destination and were reportedly killed along with the man in their vehicle, along with two African peacekeepers the women picked up along the way.

Mosquito, according to testimony the sisters’ order provided to Congress, arrived at the convent with several fighters, announcing that “he was going to kill the white people.” Kathleen McGuire was shot first, allegedly cut down my Mosquito as she opened the convent’s gate. Another fighter, known only as “Black Devil,” then executed Sisters Shirley Kolmer and Agnes Mueller. “Their bodies were mutilated and the women’s vehicle looted from the compound. The U.S. government responded forcefully upon learning of the women’s murders, according to a declassified State Department cable, warning Taylor directly that it would hold him and his commanders “personally responsible for mistreatment of any American citizens.”

A 2012 Time Magazine report by John Dwyer reported that a number of people lay the blame for the nun’s killings on Vambo. One of those witnesses, a former fighter named Morris Padmore, reportedly identified Vambo as the man responsible for the nun’s killing.

Dwyer wrote: “Following that testimony, Sam Saryon, the director of the Liberian National Police’s Criminal Investigations Division at that time, approached Vambo for what he described as an “off the record” conversation. Vambo, who lives in Buchanan, the nation’s second largest city, denied any role in murder of the nuns saying, “he was trying to rescue them.” “He was not credible,” Saryon told TIME.

Taylor vehemently denied responsibility for the killings. “We had protected Americans throughout that period and it was very – it was a sad situation even for me,” he said at his trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2010. He is currently serving a 50-year sentence for crimes against humanity.

U.S., Dutch Extradition Treaties Key

The FBI’s team visit to Monrovia this week, according to multiple sources come just days after two representatives from the prosecutor’s office in The Netherlands paid a low-key visit to Liberia in hopes of exploring the possibilities of seeking an extradition of some key figures of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia allegedly responsible for the killing of a Dutch woman reportedly around the same time five American nuns were killed in the infamous Operation Octopus battle. Liberia has extradition treaties with both the U.S. and the Netherlands.

On November 1, 1939, a Treaty of Extradition was signed in Monrovia between the Republic of Liberia and the United States of America on November 1, 1939, and ratifications were exchanged in Monrovia on November 21, 1939 in which it was agreed that the two countries shall, upon requisition duly made, deliver up to justice, any person who may be charged with, or may have been convicted of, any of the crimes or offenses specified in Article II of the present Treaty committed within the jurisdiction of one of the High Contracting Parties. The treaty also calls for the deliverance to justice anyone who shall seek an asylum or shall be found within the territories of the other; provided that such surrender shall take place only upon such evidence of criminality. According to the laws of the place the fugitive or person so charged shall be found, would justify his apprehension and commitment for trial if the crime or offense had been there committed".

FrontPageAfrica has learned that the extradition treaty between Liberia and the Netherlands dates even further than the one with the U.S, going as far back as the 1800s, 1895 to be exact and is said to be still valid. FrontPageAfrica has managed to obtain a copy from the Dutch official treaty database through a source.  According to the extradition agreement, both countries agreed to a settlement of the mutual extradition of criminals and agree to deliver out to each other those persons who, pitied or condemned being committed for a criminal offense in the territory of a party, will be found on the territory of the other Party, under the circumstances and conditions stated in the present Treaty.

The parties also agreed to extradite those who complained of or convicted of any of the following offenses: Attack against the life or liberty of the King, the reigning Queen of the Regent of the President of the Republic, or of another Head of a friendly State, or undertaken with the purpose Providing them unfit to govern; Stop against the life or liberty of the non-reigning Queen of the presumptive Heir Apparent or a member of the Royal Family; 2nd Homicide or murder, manslaughter or infanticide children.; 3 ° Rape, double marriage, intentionally causing expulsion or the death of the fruit of a woman by herself or others; 4 ° Abuse, which serious injury or death is caused, or aggravated assault.;. 5 ° Arson; 6 ° Revolt by two or more persons on board a ship on the high seas from the authority of the master.; 7 ° Burglary, or therewith in the Dutch law corresponding offenses of theft during the rest of the appointed time, in a house inhabited by someone who has the access provided through fallow or rock-climbing or violence.; 8 ° Roof or their corresponding offense in the Dutch law punishable under the definition of theft committed with violence or by threats.;. 9 ° falsehood in writing, including official documents of the Government or of the administrative or judicial power, the title or claim to money or property values sounding or intentional use of such false or adulterated writings or documents; 10 °. False coin and the deliberate circulation of counterfeit or adulterated muntspeciën or paper currency, falsehood in writings, debentures or certificates of indebtedness of any state, province or municipality, or while belonging dividend or interest certificates, or bank notes, and the deliberate use of the false or adulterated documents, creating or falsify of stamps issued by the state.”

Article II of the Dutch extradition however says the agreement shall not apply to political offenses or crimes with political offenses related, and that in consideration of the Article II offenses listed is extradited may be prosecuted in any case or punished matter of a political crime or any offense, a political offense coherent, committed before his extradition.

Also, Article IV of the Dutch treaty says the extradited person will not be prosecuted or punished in the country to which the extradition is granted, in respect of an offense not mentioned in the present Convention and committed prior to his extradition nor extradited to a third State without the consent of the State which has allowed the extradition unless he had Hebbe freedom to leave the former Land again for three months after the charge against him will be over, and he, in case of conviction, the penalty imposed on him will have undergone him it will be granted pardon.

While Liberia has been slow to implement findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), both the U.S. and the Netherlands appear to be zeroing in on established cases relating to the deaths of their citizens during the course of the civil war. In the case of the Dutch, the killing of one of its citizens, and the Americans, the killing of five nuns.

FrontPageAfrica recently reported that the Dutch citizen, a woman was reportedly married to a Liberian man at the time of her death and ran a school in the Bardnersville area. Her husband, who has not married since is said to still be traumatized by his wife’s death. The woman’s name is being protected due to the obscure nature of the investigation, said a source privy to the proceedings on strict condition of anonymity in an interview with FrontPageAfrica.

Haitian Death Squad Leader Among Center’s Successes

While in Monrovia recently, the representatives from the Dutch prosecutor’s office reportedly held discussion with Justice Ministry officials in Monrovia but are said to be unhappy with the government’s lukewarm response when queries were made about the possible extradition of those identified as having knowledge to the killing. Solicitor General Betty Lamin Blamo told FrontPageAfrica that she was unaware of an extradition request from the Dutch government. But the two senior Dutch officials reportedly met and had fruitful discussions with pathologist Isaac Moses, who performed autopsies on the slain catholic nuns and the Dutch woman.

It is unclear what timeline the Center for Justice and Accountability is working on regarding possible extradition of suspects but the center’s previous work has not gone unnoticed. Recently, the center’s investigators were successful in tracking down Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel Toto Constant. Constant was the founder of the FRAPH, a Haitian death squad that terrorized supporters of exiled president Jean Bertrand Aristide. In 2001, a Haitian court convicted him in absentia and sentenced him to life in prison for his role in the Raboteau massacre. In 2008, he was convicted of mortgage fraud and sentenced to 12–37 years in prison.  He is currently incarcerated in a maximum security prison in New York.

The center on its website describes its role in bringing Constant to justice as an important addition to the body of law prohibiting sexual violence.  “The judgment against Constant marks the first time a U.S. court has ruled that the systematic use of rape against a civilian population is a form of torture.”  

The center says its cases are also important because they domesticate international conventions and mechanisms in U.S. courts.  “CJA’s cases are a primary vehicle for bringing international law concepts, including rulings from the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, into U.S. courts.  CJA’s cases play a critical role in helping to develop U.S. human rights law in a manner that is consistent with international law.”  
CREDIT: FrontPageAfrica

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