This year has been challenging for everyone around the globe. With the spread of COVID-19, we had to adapt to a changing world. Despite this, the staff at Civitas Maxima continued to work tirelessly as the fight against impunity knows no hiatus.
January: Kunti K., former United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) commander, previously arrested in France in 2018 and released from custody due to a procedural error, was arrested again as he violated the conditions placed on his release.
March: Gibril Massaquoi, former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander from Sierra Leone, was arrested in Finland over war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia during the Second Civil War. The Finnish authorities had launched an investigation into Massaquoi after Civitas Maxima provided them with preliminary information about crimes he allegedly committed in Liberia.
April: COVID-19 claimed the life of Thomas Woewiyu, former Minister of Defence and spokesman of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) during the First Civil War. He died while awaiting sentencing in respect of 11 counts of immigration fraud and perjury for which he was convicted by the Philadelphia court in 2018. He faced a maximum possible sentence of 75 years in prison. Woewiyu’s trial was the first time Liberian victims had the opportunity to testify in court about the crimes committed by Charles Taylor’s NPFL. Civitas Maxima and the GJRP assisted the US authorities during their investigation.
July: Agnes Reeves Taylor returned in Liberia after the torture charges against her were dismissed by the Central Criminal Court in the UK. Following her return, she called a press conference in Monrovia to ‘set the record straight’. She accused the victims and witnesses of her alleged crimes of being liars, tried to deny the widespread acts of sexual violence committed by NPFL rebels during the wars, and intimidated human right defenders – notably Hassan Bility and the GJRP. After the conference, Civitas Maxima and the GJRP released a statement – “Agnes Reeves Taylor vs the Truth” – challenging Reeves Taylor’s misrepresentations, and joined other Human Rights groups in condemning the threats made by her and her supporters against human rights defenders and other individuals suspected of involvement in the case against her. Reeves Taylor also appeared on some radio shows, during which she engaged in historic revisionism in regard to the civil wars, and the role of her former husband, Charles Taylor.
September: The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia rejected Mohammed Jabbateh’s (aka ‘Jungle Jabbah’) appeal, confirming his conviction and 30-year prison sentence for immigration fraud and perjury. Jabbateh had served as an ULIMO battalion commander during the First Liberian Civil War. Since 2014, Civitas Maxima and the GJRP had collaborated with US authorities on this case. His trial was the first time Liberian victims testified in Court about the atrocities committed during the First Liberian Civil War.
November: Ashoka, the world’s biggest network of social entrepreneurs and change leaders, announced the fellowship of Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima. This fellowship is an important recognition of the unique modus operandi of Civitas Maxima, and highlights the innovative method applied by Civitas Maxima and the GJRP.
Civitas Maxima also launched its new website in November.
December: On December 2, the first hearings in trial of Alieu Kosiah finally commenced in Bellinzona, Switzerland, after being postponed several times. The eyes of the world were pointed at the capital of Ticino, as, for the first time, a Liberian national stood trial for war crimes allegedly committed during the First Liberian Civil War. These hearings were the first of their kind in Switzerland, as the Swiss Federal Criminal Court has never before held a war crimes trial. Kosiah was an ULIMO commander, and he is suspected, amongst other things, of murders, rape, and looting. The second part of the trial is planned to proceed sometime in February 2021.
Throughout the year, Civitas Maxima and the GJRP found ways to continue collaborating with lawyers and national authorities across Europe and the US on investigations and missions, to make progress on both our public and non-public cases, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Civitas Maxima takes this opportunity to warmly thank all of the people and institutions, which, year after year, support the quest for justice of the victims we represent. We could never do this without you.
We are looking forward to 2021, as we believe it will be an important year for Justice.
The Civitas Maxima Team