The maximum penalty of deprivation of liberty – 20 years – and expulsion for fifteen years from Swiss territory. This is the sentence required by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Confederation (MPC) against Alieu Kosiah, given the “infinite gravity” of the crimes attributed to him.
Thus began Monday in Bellinzona the third and final week of the first trial in international criminal law conducted by the Federal Criminal Court (TPF). As former commander of the United Movement for the Liberation of Democracy in Liberia (Ulimo) armed group, Alieu Kosiah is accused of committing war crimes between 1993 and 1995 during the first Liberian civil armed conflict (1989-1997) .
“Even if war escapes all rules, there are final red lines that must not be crossed. We are here today to defend them, ”Prosecutor Andreas Müller said at the outset. Before the Court of Criminal Affairs, he first evoked the framework of the Liberian conflict, an “extraordinary” conflict in which thousands of civilians were killed by Ulimo and which, according to many observers, “has exceeded all wars in terms of savagery and horror ”.
The magistrate then went through at length the 25 charges – including recruitment and use of a child soldier, forced transport, looting, cruel treatment of civilians, attempted murder, murders, desecration of the corpse and rape – against Kosiah.
He returned to the “apocalyptic” image of Lofa (a county in northern Liberia) occupied by Ulimo described by the plaintiffs. A reality made up of massacres, torture, rape or acts of cannibalism. Civilians, under the orders of Alieu Kosiah, were reportedly reduced to slavery for the forced transport of looted goods – including power station generators -, weapons and ammunition, in inhumane conditions.
Andreas Müller recalled that during the previous debates the defendant had systematically denied all the crimes with which he was accused: “His line of defense consists in asserting that he was not there when they arrived and that he is a victim. of a conspiracy. ” The prosecutor set out to highlight the flaws in the defendant’s statements to demonstrate that he was indeed present in Lofa County when the atrocities attributed to him occurred, his command role within the ‘Ulimo and his “little regard for the notion of truth”.
The prosecutor also argued a “multitude of divergent statements” in the accounts of witnesses called by the defense. The magistrate on the other hand maintained that the accounts of the plaintiffs converged and were “credible, detailed and constant”. He wants them to get justice “after all these years”.
Alieu Kosiah, 45, is the first Liberian national to stand trial for alleged war crimes committed during Liberia’s first civil war. He was arrested in Switzerland in 2014 where he has been in detention ever since.