Alieu Kosiah is a former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) faction, a rebel group that participated in the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996) which fought against the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, led by Charles Taylor. After the war, Kosiah moved to Switzerland, where he obtained permanent residence.

On 10 November 2014, Swiss authorities arrested Kosiah in connection with accusations that he was involved in mass killings in parts of Liberia’s Lofa County from 1993 to 1995. Criminal complaints were filed against him by several Liberian victims, represented by Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima. Kosiah was accused of ordering civilian massacres, rapes, and other atrocities in northern Liberia during the nation’s First Civil War.

Kosiah was charged on several counts, including having ordered, committed, or participated in the murder of civilians and soldiers hors de combat, having desecrated the corpse of a civilian, having raped a civilian, having ordered the cruel treatment of civilians, having recruited and used a child soldier, having ordered several pillages, and having ordered and/or participated in the forced transport of goods and ammunition by civilians.

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court postponed the trial several times due to the spread of COVID-19.  Finally, the Court has decided to proceed with the preliminary questions and the hearing of the defendant from December 3 to December 11, 2020. The rest of the trial – the hearing of the plaintiffs and the witnesses, and the final pleadings – took place from February 15 to March 5, 2021.

On June 18, 2021, Kosiah was sentenced to 20 years in prison, from which his over 6 years of pre-trial detention will be deducted, and was ordered to pay over 50,000 CHF to the seven plaintiffs who testified against him.

The crimes for which Kosiah is convicted include: ordering the killing of 13 civilians and 2 unarmed soldiers; murdering four civilians; raping a civilian; ordering the cruel treatment of 7 civilians; infringing upon the dignity of a deceased civilian; repeatedly ordering the cruel, humiliating, and degrading treatment of several civilians; repeatedly inflicting cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment on several civilians; repeated orders to loot, and using a child soldier in armed hostilities. The crimes for which Kosiah is acquitted include: recruiting a child soldier; attempted murder of a civilian; complicity in a civilian murder; and giving orders to loot in one instance.

This was the first time a Liberian national was tried for war crimes in relation to the Liberian Civil Wars, and the first time the Federal Criminal Court held a war crimes trial.

Facts

FactionULIMO
NationalityLiberian
Period of Activity First Liberian Civil War
IndictmentWar Crimes
StatusConvicted, sentenced

Q&A

Why was Kosiah living in Switzerland?

Kosiah moved to Switzerland after the war, where he obtained permanent residence.

Why is Kosiah tried in Bellinzona?

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court is located in Bellinzona, Ticino, since 2004. The location of the Court was decided by the Swiss Parliament.

Why was the trial postponed?

In March 2020, due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, and the increasing measures being imposed by the Swiss authorities in response to the pandemic, the FCC has announced that the trial of Alieu Kosiah, former ULIMO commander, was postponed.

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