Paris court sentences Liberian ex-rebel to life in prison

Nov 1, 2022, 2:56 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2022, 1:38 pm

PARIS (AP) — A Paris court on Wednesday found a former Liberian rebel guilty of torture, acts of barbarism and complicity in crimes against humanity during the country’s civil war almost 30 years ago, sentencing him to life in prison.

Kunti Kamara, 47, had been accused of “complicity in massive and systematic torture and inhumane acts” against civilians in Liberia’s Lofa county in 1993-1994 as one of the leaders of the Ulimo armed group. He was then less than 20 years old.

Kamara repeatedly rejected all the accusations against him during the nearly four-week trial.

Prosecutors requested a life sentence while defense lawyers called for acquittal, citing a lack of evidence.

“Your verdict will be historic,” prosecutor Aurélie Belliot told the court, which was made up of three judges and a jury. “You must send a clear message: France must not be the last shelter for authors of crimes against humanity.”

Kamara was arrested near Paris in 2018, following a complaint filed by Swiss-based group Civitas Maxima, specialized in helping victims of crimes against humanity.

During the investigation, he acknowledged having been a battlefield commander, leading about 80 soldiers during the civil war — a choice he said he made to defend himself against Charles Taylor’s rival faction.

With no material evidence because of the chaos of the war, accusations relied on witnesses. During the investigation, French police officers went to Liberia to identify witnesses and interview local residents. About 15 of them came to Paris to testify.

Among other crimes, Kamara was accused of having allowed and facilitated rapes and sexual torture of two young teenagers by some Ulimo soldiers.

One of the victims vividly described the pain and suffering she endured, crying until she felt unwell and was unable to continue testifying. She wasn’t able to come back to the court, and a message from her was read the next day saying she didn’t want to see Kamara again.

Kamara was also accused of having participated in the killing of two civilians and an act of cannibalism. Described by Belliot as the “active author of a collective killing,” he is accused of having eaten the heart of the victim after it had been removed by another soldier with an ax.

In addition, he was accused of having killed a sick woman, firing at her head with a rifle, and of having compelled people into forced labor under inhuman conditions. He and his group allegedly forced civilians to carry very heavy loads, including electric generators and food, for hours without food and water.

Accusations also included the torture of a man, whose arms were tied behind his back before being dragged on the floor until he was very seriously wounded.

The trial by the Paris criminal court has been made possible under a French law that recognizes universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity and acts of torture.

Prosecutor Claire Thouault stressed that Liberia never sent to trial those who committed crimes during the country’s back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that killed an estimated 250,000 people.

She said that as soon as he arrived in Europe, Kamara “did everything to hide the reality of his actions and avoid any accusation.”

Kamara said he left Liberia after the end of the first civil war in 1997 and later went to the Netherlands. He acknowledged he lied about his past to get asylum there, including by not disclosing he used to be an Ulimo soldier.

He was later granted citizenship and lived in the country for 12 years, before coming to Belgium and then France because prosecutors alleged that he felt his war activities were getting increasingly known by Dutch authorities.

Rights groups hailed the trial as an important step to bring justice to victims.

Speaking ahead of the verdict, Sabrina Delattre, lawyer for Civitas Maxima, said because “there is total impunity in Liberia” for war criminals, “it’s very important for the victims that this trial took place. It’s really important that they were able to come here and give their testimony before the court.”

The country’s post-war truth and reconciliation commission in 2009 recommended prosecution for dozens of ex-warlords and their commanders bearing greatest responsibilities for the war. But successive governments have largely ignored the recommendations, much to the disappointment and frustration of war victims.

The trial in Paris followed a related case in Switzerland, where a court in June 2021 convicted a former Ulimo commander, Alieu Kosiah, to 20 years in prison for the rapes and killings of civilians among other crimes. Kosiah was the first Liberian convicted of war crimes dating from the first civil war. He appealed the decision.

Kosiah’s statements involving Kamara partly led to the arrest of his former comrade-in-arms.


Alexander Turnbull and Oleg Cetinic contributed to the story.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Court reinstates Indiana’s abortion burial, cremation law

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has reinstated an Indiana law adopted in 2016 that requires abortion clinics to either bury or cremate fetal remains. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling released Monday overturns an Indiana judge’s decision in September that the law infringed upon the religious and free speech rights of people […]
1 day ago
FILE - Moscow's Mikhail Grigorenko, left, fights for the puck against Dinamo's Mathew Maione during...
Associated Press

Caesars Sportsbook fined for wrongly denying hockey payout

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey gambling regulators have fined Caesars Sportsbook for wrongly refusing to pay out over $27,000 to a gambler who made winning bets on an international hockey game last year. The dispute involved whether goals scored in overtime should count in determining whether bets are winners or losers. It’s the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press


Top Paid iPhone Apps: 1. Minecraft, Mojang 2. Heads Up!, Warner Bros. 3. Shadowrocket, Shadow Launch Technology Limited 4. Geometry Dash, RobTop Games AB 5. Bloons TD 6, Ninja Kiwi 6. HotSchedules, HotSchedules 7. Rovio Classics: AB, Rovio Entertainment Oyj 8. Monopoly – Classic Board Game, Marmalade Game Studio 9. Plague Inc., Ndemic Creations 10. […]
1 day ago
FILE - Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2...
Associated Press

1/6 panel to interview ex-Secret Service agent Tony Ornato

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to interview former Secret Service agent Tony Ornato on Tuesday about Donald Trump’s actions on the day of the insurrection, according to a person familiar with the matter. This will be the third time the committee has interviewed […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Team of UK lawmakers visits Taiwan amid strained China ties

LONDON (AP) — A group of British lawmakers began a visit to Taiwan on Tuesday and were scheduled to meet with President Tsai Ing-Wen and other politicians after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared that the “golden era” of U.K.-China relations was over. The visit by members of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, led by the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

$10M settlement announced in heat death of Georgia student

ATLANTA (AP) — The parents of a Georgia high school basketball player who collapsed while practicing outdoors in sweltering heat and later died announced Tuesday that they have agreed to a $10 million settlement with the school district. As part of the settlement, the Clayton County school system agreed to rename the gymnasium at Elite […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Paris court sentences Liberian ex-rebel to life in prison