Paris Court Sentences Kunti Kamara To Life In Prison

PARIS (AP) — A Paris court on Wednesday found a former Liberian rebel guilty of torture, acts of barbarism and complicity in crimes against humanity during the country’s civil war almost 30 years ago, sentencing him to life in prison.

Kunti Kamara, 47, had been accused of “complicity in massive and systematic torture and inhumane acts” against civilians in Liberia’s Lofa county in 1993-1994 as one of the leaders of the Ulimo armed group. He was then less than 20 years old.

Kamara repeatedly rejected all the accusations against him during the nearly four-week trial.

Prosecutors requested a life sentence while defense lawyers called for acquittal, citing a lack of evidence.

“Your verdict will be historic,” prosecutor Aurélie Belliot told the court, which was made up of three judges and a jury. “You must send a clear message: France must not be the last shelter for authors of crimes against humanity.”

Kamara was arrested near Paris in 2018, following a complaint filed by Swiss-based group Civitas Maxima, specialized in helping victims of crimes against humanity.

During the investigation, he acknowledged having been a battlefield commander, leading about 80 soldiers during the civil war — a choice he said he made to defend himself against Charles Taylor’s rival faction.

With no material evidence because of the chaos of the war, accusations relied on witnesses. During the investigation, French police officers went to Liberia to identify witnesses and interview local residents. About 15 of them came to Paris to testify.

Among other crimes, Kamara was accused of having allowed and facilitated rapes and sexual torture of two young teenagers by some Ulimo soldiers.

One of the victims vividly described the pain and suffering she endured, crying until she felt unwell and was unable to continue testifying. She wasn’t able to come back to the court, and a message from her was read the next day saying she didn’t want to see Kamara again.

Kamara was also accused of having participated in the killing of two civilians and an act of cannibalism. Described by Belliot as the “active author of a collective killing,” he is accused of having eaten the heart of the victim after it had been removed by another soldier with an ax.

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