Martina Johnson, Former Liberian NPFL Rebel Commander, Arrested And Indicted In Belgium For Alleged War Crimes And Crimes Against Humanity
Martina Johnson, a former front line Commander of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of Charles Taylor was arrested and indicted yesterday by a Belgian
Judge for her direct implication in alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity including mutilation and mass killing committed in Liberia during the civil war in
This landmark case marks the very first time an alleged Liberian perpetrator has
been criminally charged for crimes under international law committed in Liberia
during the first civil war. The investigation and arrest was possible under Belgian
law as Martina Johnson lives in Belgium.
Civitas Maxima has been working since 2012 with the Global Justice and Research
Project (GJRP) based in Monrovia to document crimes committed during the war and
find avenues for criminal accountability. On the basis of that documentation, Luc
Walleyn, lawyer in Belgium, wrote and filed a criminal complaint against Martina
Johnson on behalf of 3 Liberian victims in 2012.
These Liberian victims implicate Martina Johnson as having participated directly in
mutilation and mass killing in late 1992 during the “Operation Octopus”, an infamous
military offensive by the NPFL of Charles Taylor on the capital Monrovia that left
scores of civilians dead. Many civilians were targeted because of their affiliation
to certain ethnic groups including the Mandingos and the Krahns perceived as
antithetical to the NPFL’s interests.
Since the end of the civil war in 2003 the Liberian authorities made no effort to
investigate and prosecute crimes committed over a decade of civil war, which claimed
well over 150 000 lives, most of them civilians.
Hassan Bility, the Liberian-based Director of the GJRP commented: “This is a
significant day not only for the victims of the crimes addressed by this arrest, but
for the many victims of the war in Liberia, generally.”
He continued, “Despite the explicit recommendations of the Liberian Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2009 in favor of criminal accountability, next to
nothing has been done. We hope today’s action will serve as a spring board for more
criminal prosecutions on behalf of victims who have waited far too long for
Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima, noted: “Today’s arrest represents a huge
step forward for justice for the uncountable victims of Liberian’s vicious wars.
While the world, and the Liberian government, may have forgotten the atrocious
crimes committed during this period, the victims have not.»
Hassan Bility – Monrovia
Civitas Maxima has been working in Monrovia since 2012 with the Global Justice and Research