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Sunday, May 19, 2024

LIBERIA: US$15 MILLION DEFAMATION TRIAL OF SWISS HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE ALAIN WERNER BEGINS TUESDAY  

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MONROVIA – The US$15 million defamation trial of Swiss human rights advocate Alain Werner, and his Geneva, Switzerland-based Civitas Maxima, is set to begin on July 18.

Werner, also based in Switzerland, is being sued by Agnes Reeves Taylor, an ex-wife of jailed Liberian President, Charles Taylor.

Taylor claimed that Werner and his organization lied to the London Metropolitan Police about her involvement in the Liberian civil war and is seeking US$5 million from Werner as punitive damages and US$10 million as general damages. Werner is protected by Swiss legal jurisdiction and may likely be absent for the entire trial as Switzerland and Liberia do not share any extradition treaty.

Judge Kennedy Peabody of Civil Law Court ‘A’ on July 13, announced that the trial will begin on Tuesday — months after the Supreme Court refused Werner’s legal team’s request that their client is ineligible for trial in Liberia. Werner’s lawyers have argued also that the suit was improperly filed as Werner.

Taylor, according to Werner’s lawyer, was arrested by the UK Metropolitan Police War Crime Unit and Crown Prosecution Service, which later on pressed war crimes charges and not Civitas Maxima or Werner.

Taylor was arrested on June 2, 2017, in London by the Metropolitan Police and charged with torture on the grounds of her suspected involvement with the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group, which was led by her ex-husband during the first Liberian civil war, from 1989 to 1996.

However, the case was dismissed by the London Central Criminal Court on the grounds that the evidence presented by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to prove that the NPFL had the requisite authority over the relevant territory at the time the crimes in question were committed.

Taylor’s prosecution in the UK, according to the suit, stemmed from claims by Werner and Hassan Bility that she committed alleged war crimes while a member of the rebel group, the NPFL, a claim that prompted the prosecution by the Metropolitan Police.

Bility, who is a War crime court activist and founder of the  Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) – a partner to Civitas Maxima – was also named in the lawsuit. According to the suit, Bility in his written testimony, on January 8, 2015,  to the UK’s Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit accused Ms. Taylor of murdering one Amos Borhn.

Borhn was the former superintendent of Margibi County and a biological brother of Nancy B. Doe, the wife of late Liberian President Samuel K. Doe. But the suit claims that Borhn who is said to be alive and resides in the UK, will be testifying in this case.

In the alleged letter, Bility also attached what he considered sworn statements, saying, “The statement (consisting of 17 pages each, signed by me) is true to me best of my knowledge and belief and I made it, knowing that if it is tended in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have willfully stated anything in it, which I know to be false or do not believe to be true.”

The suit claims that Bility and his collaborators’ actions inflicted emotional distress and defamed her hard-earned character, leading to emotional distress.

Bility’s organization focused on the documentation of wartime atrocities in Liberia and assists victims in their pursuit of justice for these crimes. Under Bility’s leadership, the GJRP’s documentation work has led to the investigation and arrests of alleged Liberian war criminals throughout Europe and the U.S., including the arrest of former Liberian rebel commanders Alieu Kosiah in Switzerland, and Martina Johnson in Belgium; the arrest of Taylor in the UK; and the arrest and eventual conviction of former ULIMO rebel commander Mohammed Jabbateh in the U.S.

He had testified in several war crime trials, including the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Charles Taylor trials at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL); the trial of Charles McArthur Emmanuel, commonly known as Chuckie Taylor in the US; and the Guus Kouwenhoven trial in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, Bility has contended that he and his company cannot be held responsible for any damages against Taylor as the case came from the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit.

However, the suit claimed that   “The Metropolitan Police relied on Bility’s coached and or paid witness testimonies and sworn statements to maliciously prosecute my client — which testimonies and statements turned out to be unreliable and groundless to the effect that there [is] no truthfulness in his evidence.”

“My client was maliciously and criminally prosecuted at the instance of the fabricated and bogus testimonies of Bility’s coached witness, which were the legal reliance of the Metropolitan Police to arrest, detain and charge her with the crime of rape and tortured of individuals, in the performance of her duties between 1989 to January 1, 1991, of the Liberian civil war,” Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi, Taylor’s lawyer said.

However, he noted that Bility can in no way, form or manner disclaim liability or shift liability to the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit or the UK Magisterial Court or Crown Court of London, who were only privileged to have knowledge of and thereby reacted based on. Source: liberianobserver.com

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