The trial of former Liberian rebel leader Kunti Kamara opens on Monday in Paris. French authorities are prosecuting Kamara, who stands accused of rape, murder and torture during the country’s first civil war in the 1990s, under universal jurisdiction.
Kamara was arrested in France in 2018 after an NGO representing some of the victims filed a complaint.
“This trial is important and really brings hope because today, in Liberia, we still have not tried a single person involved in the civil war,” said Sabrina Delattre, a lawyer for the civil parties in the trial. “It is very important for the victims to know that, abroad, these people sooner or later risk being confronted with their past.”
The trial will shed light on some of the darkest parts of Liberia’s history; two civil wars that occurred between 1989 and 2003 killed some 250,000 people.
Kamara was a leader of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), an armed group opposed to former Liberian president Charles Taylor. He is accused of human rights abuses in the northwest of the country over a five-year period from 1992 to 1997.
A French investigating judge collected numerous incriminating testimonies. Kamara, however, denies the allegations.
“Since the start, Mr. Kunti Kamara has indicated that he has nothing to do with these events, that he is not involved in the crimes he’s accused of,” said Marilyne Secci, the defendant’s lawyer. “He’s said from the start that he’s a ULIMO soldier, but at no time did he commit acts of torture or crimes against civilians.”
The trial is set to last several weeks. If Kamara is found guilty, he could face life in prison.