Thank you, and a Recap of 2022
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Civitas Maxima. In these past years we have accompanied victims of forgotten conflicts in their quest for justice, and contributed to legal discourse in several landmark cases in various countries. Whilst we proudly celebrate this decade of work with you all, we also celebrate the life of the Deputy Director of our Liberian sister organization, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), Fayah Williams, who passed away in April 2022. Fayah has worked with Civitas Maxima and GJRP for their entire existence. He dedicated his life to the victims we serve and laid such solid foundations that the work he was so committed to progressed beyond his death thanks to his unwavering devotion to the cause of justice. He was a friend and colleague, and he will forever be remembered.
Since our creation in 2012, our work has exponentially increased every year, and 2022 was no exception. Most of the work done by NGOs like Civitas Maxima is undisclosed to the public, as we collaborate with lawyers, national authorities, and other non-governmental organizations to provide victims with tools for their quest for justice. Nevertheless, 2022 was marked by milestones we can recap with you.
January: January 24 was the last day in Court for the trial of Gibril Massaquoi, former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) spokesman and commander accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia during the Second Liberian Civil War. The trial had started in February 2021, counting 62 days in Court over 11 months, with hearings held in Finland, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Civitas Maxima had submitted information regarding Mr. Massaquoi’s alleged involvement in mass atrocities in Liberia to the Finnish authorities. The trial monitoring of the case can be found here.
March: On March 26, Sekou Kamara, allegedly a former high-ranking member of the LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy), was arrested in New-York, U.S., following a criminal complaint based on immigration fraud submitted to the United States District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. authorities, Mr. Sekou Kamara was known as General K-1 and General Dragon Master and lied about his role in the war to enter the country, obtained a permanent resident card and then used it to obtain further documents. Mr. Kamara was released on bail the following month, subject to home monitoring except for employment, court and medical visits. Civitas Maxima and the GJRP have been providing assistance to the U.S. authorities on Liberian cases.
Civitas Maxima had the pleasure to screen, at an FIFDH partner event, a short documentary called “Beyond Impunity”. Filmed and edited by Nicolás Braguinsky Cascini, the documentary followed Civitas Maxima’s participatory theatre project in Liberia. The film depicted how war-affected communities engage in dialogue about impunity.
April: The Swiss Federal Criminal Court released the judgement of Alieu Kosiah, former ULIMO commander sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for committing war crimes in Lofa during the First Liberian Civil War. The judgement, alongside a translated version provided by Civitas Maxima, can be found here. Alieu Kosiah filed an appeal against this judgment, and the appeal hearings will begin on January 10, 2022 in Bellinzona, Switzerland, and are expected to last until February 3. The Director of Civitas Maxima, Alain Werner, represents several Liberian plaintiffs in the case.
On April 29, the District Court of Tampere released the judgment in the Gibril Massaquoi case and found that there was reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offences he was charged with. The Prosecution filed an appeal, which will begin at the Turku Court of Appeal in Finland on January 10, 2023, and it is expected to last until June 2023. The Court should be relocating to Liberia in March 2023.
In April 2022, Geneva Solutions and Civitas Maxima began collaborating on a monthly war crime round-up: a news column that collects all recent developments in universal jurisdiction.
May: As part of its outreach efforts, CM and GJRP collaborated with LivArts for another “Cartooning for Justice” workshop series. Within this project, students are encouraged to debate existing justice measures, reflect upon their conceptions of justice, and the need for war crimes accountability through the art of cartooning. In 2022, three seminars were carried out in three different schools of Monrovia.
June: On June 23, an indictment dated July 29, 2021, was unsealed, charging Moses Wright – an alleged former member of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) – with fraudulently attempting to obtain U.S. citizenship (2 counts), fraud in immigration documents (3 counts), false statements in relation to naturalization (10 counts), and perjury (13 counts) following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia. His arrest in Philadelphia, U.S. followed the indictment. The indictment states that Mr. Wright either personally committed or ordered the AFL troops under his command to commit numerous atrocities, including, but not limited to, the persecution, murder, and assault of civilian non-combatant Gio and Mano tribesmen, as well as the false arrest and false imprisonment of civilian non-combatants.
July: For the second year in a row, Civitas Maxima’s Director Alain Werner was invited by the Swiss Newspaper Le Temps to be Guest Editor of its Op-Ed section for one week. He invited lawyers and legal experts to talk about ecocide, crimes against migrants, China, and Ukraine. The newly appointed Swiss Federal Prosecutor, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also contributed with their pieces. English translations for these articles are found on our website.
August: As part of the Knowledge and Training Center (KTC), Civitas Maxima assisted the Ukrainian NGO Truth Hounds to file a denunciation with the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG). On March 6, Swiss press photographer Guillaume Briquet was ambushed and injured by a Russian commando while covering the conflict in Ukraine. Earlier in 2022, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland created a working group tasked with the preservation of evidence related to potential crimes committed in Ukraine. Swiss authorities are competent to deal with crimes committed in Ukraine through the principle of universal jurisdiction. Moreover, Mr. Briquet’s Swiss nationality creates an additional link on the basis of the passive personality principle. In 2021, Emmanuelle Marchand, Deputy Director of Civitas Maxima, had provided training to Truth Hounds as part of the KTC program.
October-November: On October 10, the Kunti Kamara trial began at the “Cour D’assises” of Paris. Mr. Kamara, former ULIMO commander, was accused of committing crimes against humanity and acts of torture and barbarism allegedly committed during the First Liberian Civil War. The initial criminal complaint was filed in 2018 by Civitas Maxima, which was a formal civil party in the case alongside 9 Liberian victims. The trial lasted 17 days and ended on November 4, and a jury found Mr. Kamara guilty of all the charges he was accused of, which include rape and sexual slavery committed by his subordinates on particularly vulnerable people; Mr. Kamara was sentenced to life imprisonment. He denies all charges and has appealed the decision. 20 people came from Liberia to testify in Court: the trial monitoring of the case, provided by Civitas Maxima, can be found here.
Throughout the year Civitas Maxima, through its KTC, also offered lectures and trainings – such as the lecture on Witness Evidence and Memory at the Hague University of Applied Sciences, and a lecture on conflict and violence against children for the Nuremberg Summer Academy.
None of these achievements would have been possible without your extraordinary support and trust. We therefore want to take the occasion to sincerely thank you for supporting Civitas Maxima. We thank the victims we accompany for their unwavering trust and confidence in us. We thank the foundations and the private donors without whom none of our work would be possible. We are incredibly grateful for all your support.
We are very much looking forward 2023 with its new opportunities and challenges.
The Civitas Maxima Team