Thank you from Civitas Maxima and a Recap of 2019
We would like to share with you the public highlights of 2019 and take this occasion to thank you for your invaluable support.
February: In partnership with FLOMO Theatre Inc, a Liberian independent theatre company, Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) traveled around rural Liberia to inform communities about the trials of alleged war criminals taking place abroad. This outreach activity sought to ensure that local populations and direct victims of international crimes have access to unbiased and reliable information about these extraterritorial trials. For many communities, it was the first time they gathered to discuss justice for war crimes since the end of the civil wars. As a result, an estimated number of 3000 Liberians were directly informed.
March: The Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH), the leading international event dedicated to cinema and human rights, hosted “Without Justice our Wounds Cannot be Healed – Liberia’s Quest for Justice” an exhibition showcasing the efforts of the young Liberian artists we engaged with in our cartooning outreach projects in 2018. These cartoons illustrated how conflicts are a burden carried from generation to generation, especially resulting from wars in which no one has been held accountable for the crimes committed.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) at the end of a long investigation formally indicted Alieu Kosiah, arrested in Switzerland in 2014, for his involvement in the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996). The victims interviewed during the investigation led by the Swiss authorities implicate Alieu Kosiah in the commission or command of acts of sexual violence, murders, cannibalism, recruitment of child soldiers, looting, forcing civilians to work in cruel conditions, and the forced movement of looted goods, weapons and ammunition.
April: Alain Werner, director and founder of Civitas Maxima, was awarded the prize “Bâtonnier Michel Halpérin for Excellence” by the Geneva Bar Association. This prize honoured his career and his unwavering commitment to victims of mass crimes.
June: During the spring of 2019, the French and Liberian authorities collaborated on a fact-finding mission related to proceedings initiated in France after the arrest of Kunti K, a commander involved in the First Liberian Civil War. This was the first time since the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 that Liberian authorities have proceeded, along with foreign authorities, to undertake crime scene reconstructions relating to war-time crimes.
July: On 18-19 July 2019 various Liberian stakeholders and international experts gathered in Monrovia for a historic Legislative Conference on Accountability for Past Crimes in Liberia. The Legislative Conference was organized in collaboration between the University of Nottingham (UK), the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia (SEWACCOL), the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) and Civitas Maxima, upon the request of several committees of the Liberian House of Representatives of the Parliament. The conference was the first time that members of the legislature met to discuss accountability for past crimes in Liberia and the practicalities of establishing a War Crimes Court since the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report in 2009.
September: Kunti K., arrested in September 2018 for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity committed during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996), was released due to a procedural error. Despite this unexpected development, the case has not been dismissed and the investigations are still ongoing. Kunti K. is subject to conditions of release and is prohibited from leaving France.
October: Civitas Maxima finalized and successfully launched the Patrons’ Club, a circle for private donors supporting the work of the organization. Because of the nature of our work, it is fundamental for Civitas Maxima to remain independent and not accept funds from governments. The Patrons’ Club allows Civitas Maxima to sustain its operations whilst remaining truly independent.
November: The date for Alieu Kosiah’s trial was set: it will commence on April 14th and conclude on April 30th, 2020. The trial will take place in Bellinzona at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court. The trial represents a landmark case as it will be the very first time that an alleged war criminal is tried by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court. Alain Werner – director of Civitas Maxima – and Romain Wavre – Legal Counsel – will represent several victims in this trial.
December: The Central Criminal Court in London decided that Agnes Taylor – ex-wife of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia and leader of the NPFL, sentenced to 50 years in prison – who was charged with seven counts of torture and one count of conspiracy to commit torture in relation to her involvement with the NPFL during the First Liberian Civil War – will not face trial in the UK as things stand. As explained in a press release published by Civitas Maxima and the GJRP, prima facie evidence of acts of torture does exist against Agnes Taylor, but nevertheless the Central Criminal Court concluded that the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to prove a point of law and therefore dismissed the case. At this point in time it remains to be seen if the CPS will return to court if further evidence on that point of law can be gathered.
Moreover, throughout the year and in collaboration with our sister organization – the GJRP – we facilitated in 2019 approximately 14 weeks of investigative missions on crimes related to the wars in Liberia. These missions were carried out by 5 different national investigative teams from various countries.
All of this work would not be possible without your dedicated trust and support. For that, we extend our sincerest gratitude and we are looking forward to 2020.
The Team of Civitas Maxima