Liberians still seek justice for war crimes

Two Liberian rape victims cover their faces to remain anonymous (Photo credit: DW)

(DW Online) – As Liberia appears before the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Liberians ask why the government has failed to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the country’s two civil wars.

Peterson Sonyah was only 16 years old when he sought refuge in St Peter’s Lutheran church on the outskirts of the Liberian capital, Monrovia. It was 1990, and Liberia’s civil war had already been raging for a year. As rebels laid siege to Monrovia, an estimated 2,000 people crammed in the church, hoping to avoid the violence

Troops loyal to then president Samuel K. Doe, broke into the church killing, raping, setting fires, and sparing only the lives of those able to bribe them. 600 people died. “When the soldiers stormed the building, everyone was crying: men, women and children. They were killing innocent people. I lost my father, my uncle and my cousins, seven persons in all.”

Like other survivors of the 14-year civil war, Peterson Sonyah is still waiting for justice. “There is no way we can let those who committed heinous crimes against humanity go with impunity. I want justice because it will serve as a deterrent for others; I want justice because those who committed crimes and supported the war are around here living the best of lives’, while those they victimized are going to bed on empty stomachs,” he said.

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