Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland in Bellinzona. (Photo: NAC/Wikimedia Commons)

Swiss court upholds ex-Liberian warlord’s 20-year-sentence

By AFP

Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland in Bellinzona. (Photo: NAC/Wikimedia Commons)

A Swiss appeals court on Thursday upheld a 20-year sentence for a former Liberian warlord, confirming his war crimes conviction and, for the first time in Swiss history, handing down a verdict of crimes against humanity.

Alieu Kosiah was again found guilty of multiple atrocities committed during the first of Liberia’s back-to-back civil wars, in which around 250,000 people died between 1989 and 2003.

His lawyer Dmitri Gianoli hinted that his client, who pleaded his innocence and demanded an acquittal, would appeal the decision to Switzerland’s supreme court.

Kosiah, who settled in Switzerland in 1998 and was arrested in the Alpine country in 2014, “is very disappointed by the court’s decision”, he wrote to AFP in an email.

The judges, he maintained, “did not take into account the plaintiffs’ many contradictions”.

Questioning whether the verdict was “a political decision”, he said his client would “examine all the measures at his disposal to reestablish the truth”.

Kosiah’s conviction by the Federal Criminal Court in 2021 marked the first time a Liberian was convicted – either within the West African nation or anywhere else – of war crimes committed during the conflict.

‘Historic’

On Thursday, the Federal Criminal Court’s appeals chamber in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona confirmed the earlier ruling and the accompanying sentence of 20 years behind bars.

The appeal ruling also confirmed that after serving his sentence he should be deported and barred from re-entering Switzerland for 10 years.

Most strikingly, the appeals court judges agreed with the prosecutor and plaintiffs that a number of his actions also amounted to crimes against humanity.

This marks the first time anyone has been convicted of such a serious charge in Switzerland, made possible by a law change in 2011.

This is a great day for these incredibly brave Liberian victims who crossed seas to find justice

This ruling is “historic”, human rights lawyer Alain Werner, who heads the NGO Civitas Maxima and represents four of the seven plaintiffs, told AFP.

“This is a great day for these incredibly brave Liberian victims who crossed seas to find justice, and obtain it in spite of Ebola at the beginning of the case, and Covid-19 at the end,” he said.

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