Genocide! Cries for justice for Liberian church massacred survivors heightened

James Fasuekoi

International human rights groups join massacred survivors to sue Liberian government for her apparent refusal to prosecute civil war killers of 600 civilians.

Three survivors of the July 29, 1990, Lutheran Church Genocide, assisted by local and foreign human rights groups, have filed a lawsuit against the Republic of Liberia in the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria, in their latest move to seek justice for the killings of 600 civilians by Pres. Doe’s army loyalists.

The lawsuit was filed October 4, on behalf of the survivors by California based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), backed by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP) and the Institute for Human Rights and Developments in Africa (IHRDA), all of whom have been working with Liberian war victims to press for answers to the horrific killings.

Plaintiffs in the referenced case, according to a CJA press statement, are the Global Justice & Research Project (GJRP), a local human rights agency, plus “three siblings who lost approximately 16 family members in the Lutheran Church Massacre.”

The CJA affidavit in count 7, under “Subject Matter” “alleges that Liberia has violated its obligations under various treaties, as well as customary international law, to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and to provide redress to victims.”

Ex-Liberian footballer George Weah who came to power after winning the 2017 national election. Pres. Weah professes to be a “pastor” and often preaches at his own church in Monrovia although there’s no record of his ordination nor did he recant his Muslim Faith, as Jehovah God is an orderly God.

Therefore, it continues: “The plaintiffs respectfully request that the court order Liberia to uphold its obligations to deliver justice, including by investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the Lutheran Church Massacre..” Treaties so referenced thus, include the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, the scene of the barbaric massacre, is a few miles east of the presidential palace. The entire area was at the time under the control of the AFL national army, dominated by people of Doe’s ethnic Krahn. A huge number of Gios and Manos-viewed then as Doe’s rival-had flocked into the church’s sanctuary to escape widespread persecution by AFL as invading Taylor rebels approached the city.

The CJA release further referenced a previous case regarding the same matter, adjudicated in 2021 by a U.S. court in which the court ruled in favor of the massacre survivors and awarded them $84 million. That’s after the court found soldiers of the AFL “under the command of Colonel Moses Thomas” liable for the massacre.”

“Despite the U.S. court’s findings, Moses Thomas lives freely in Liberia because the government has taken no steps to ensure justice for him or many other known and alleged perpetrators of civil wars era atrocities, and none of the victims have received a cent of reparations” reacted Ela Matthews, a CJA senior staff attorney in wake of the lawsuit.

For Lawyer Catherine Amirfar (Co-Chair of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP), “Today’s [Oct. 4] court filing is a historic step forward in pursuing justice for survivors of the Lutheran Church Massacre. The ECOWAS Court of Justice has the power and the opportunity to hold Liberia accountable for its more than three decades of inaction regarding one of the worst atrocities of Liberia’s civil wars.”

As of the time of this publication the Liberian government’s mouthpiece MOI hadn’t issued a statement on the lawsuit and neither was Global Ekklesia able to reach Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie for a comment.

In 1990, as war raged on between Taylor’s NPFL forces and soldiers from Samuel Doe’s crumbling army, ethnic persecution and indiscriminate killings around Monrovia ensued, spilling over later to other tribes of the country.

The country’s civil war atrocious national army was eventually replaced with a modest one (in this 2018-Armed Forces Day photo) by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf after she came to power. Now, the new AFL soldiers are the country’s pride, helping the citizens and participating in regional peacekeeping such as in Mali.

In his most recent piece of Oct. 9, 2022, Liberia’s famous playwright, social justice advocate and educator Dr. Joe Gbaba, described both civil wars as a “genocide” and further argued “there is ample evidence to prove many of the [war] victims that were killed or maimed met their fate because of their ethnic affiliation, political or religious persuasions.”

The church genocide was preceded by a carnage also on a larger scale-Barkedu Massacre (July 12, 1990) in the Mandingo Chiefdom of Lofa, and with an estimated death toll between 200-300 civilians, although there’s hardly any mention of it in the mass media.

Some have linked the killings to a long-standing animosity over land between Mandingos and the region’s dominant tribes-the Gio and Mano-the massacre was led by Goi-Mano NPFL commandos.

About three years after both Barkedu and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Massacres came the country’s third deadliest, Carter Camp Genocide, of Harbel, Firestone (June 6, 1993) in which more than 600 civilians-largely women and children-perished.

And like other genocides cited earlier, the masterminds of the Carter Camp heinous mass murders have evaded justice for decades due to the same reason that prompted the CJA and its affiliates to sue the present Weah’s regime-its lackadaisical at making all the “killers” to face justice.

On August 24, 1990, over 32 years ago, Africa’s Superpower Nation, Nigeria, managed to pull-off a colossal challenge-of its kind ever faced by the continent in the wake of the brutal civil war in Liberia.

Though over politicized, yet Nigeria skillfully led a multinational peacekeeping force ECOMOG consisting of both English-Speaking and Francophone African nations through ECOWAS and eventually halted the carnage.

However, the latest criminal case filed with the ECOWAS Court by the Lutheran Church genocide survivors and their lawyers proves yet to be another major test for the regional ECOWAS Body’s own authority, plus its credibility at resolving critical African matters such as the referenced war-crimes related case.

Source: Global Ekklesia

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