A trial opened in Switzerland Dec. 3 for the first Liberian to face war crimes charges over atrocities during the country's brutal internal conflict in the 1990s. Former warlord Alieu Kosiah stands accused of murder, rape, recruiting child soldiers, and numerous other crimes during the first of Liberia's two civil wars, which together killed some 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. Kosiah, who had been living in Switzerland since 1999, was arrested in November 2014 for atrocities he allegedly committed as a commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO) between 1993 and 1995. A group of Liberian victims is being represented by the Swiss human rights group Civitas Maxima. The organization has worked with the Global Justice and Research Project in Liberia since 2012 to document crimes committed during the country's civil wars. The case is being heard by the Federal Criminal Court in the city of Bellinzona under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
In the wake of last week's massacre at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, there have been a few rare media mentions of the Gullah people of the Sea Islands, a barrier chain that stretches from South Carolina to Florida. Queen Quet Marquetta Goodwine, head of state of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, spoke to the Charleston City Paper after the massacre, saying that many members of Mother Emanuel are Gullah—as were some of the nine shooting victims. The church had once hosted a traditional Gullah libation ceremony to honor the people's ancestors. "Mother Emanuel has embraced me as a mother for many, many years on my journeys to Charleston," Queen Quet said, but added that after the bloodshed, "It will be difficult for me to re-enter those doors." She said she counted massacre victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church's pastor and a state senator, as a friend. WJCL of Savannah, Ga., also noted that the Gullah Geechee Commission of Johns Island, SC, expressed shock at the massacre and offered condolences to the survivors.
The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on Sept. 26 rejected an appeal by former Liberian president Charles Taylor of his convictions for war crimes committed during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. According to a press release from the court, Taylor's lawyers appealed his convictions on 42 grounds, arguing that the Trial Chamber erred in evaluating evidence and that the 50-year sentence was "manifestly unreasonable." The court ruled that his guilt had been proved beyond doubt and upheld Taylor's 50-year sentence. The sentence came after Trial Chamber II convicted (PDF) Taylor of planning as well as aiding and abetting crimes committed by rebel forces in exchange for diamonds during the civil war, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces, enslavement and pillage.
Former Liberian president Charles Taylor on Jan. 22 began his appeal in The Hague against his conviction and 50-year sentence for war crimes committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone. Taylor's 42-point appeal states that the the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) made "systematic errors" in evaluating evidence and relied on hearsay testimony of the 94 prosecution witnesses as the basis for its fact-finding.