Press Releases

TRC Hearing Opens In Rural Liberia

TRC Rural Public Hearings Day One

February 12, 2008

HARPER (TRC)?The first witness to testify at Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Public Hearings in rural Liberia said fighters of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC) wantonly killed civilians and subjected nearly a dozen elderly men and women to slave labor.

Viola P. Jones, one of the elderly captives, said the LPC, following its capture of Harper City, Maryland County rounded up more than 10 elderly men and women and forced them to pound rice, fetch water and cut firewood daily.

Viola, a resident of Harper, where the TRC Tuesday commenced public hearings for rural Liberia, explained that they were also forced to bury dead bodies, following summary executions.

She said the fighters engaged in wanton killings of civilians and accused them of burning down the Harper City Hall.

Another witness, Talitha Yibada Graham, said fighters of the LPC also killed scores of civilians, including her aunt at the Carblakay Border Road while they were fleeing to the Ivory Coast.

She said the fighters, who accused her aunt of being a supporter of NPFL leader Charles Taylor, slit her throat and left her almost lifeless body by the roadside. She explained that besides her aunt, Yuapay Howe, all the other victims were gunned down by the fighters who were riding in a pickup truck.

"My aunty pleaded for her life and even promised to gave them money to spare her life, but they slaughtered her by cutting her throat halfway after shots fired at her could not penetrate her body," she explained. She said her aunt was the head superintendent for Maryland County women.

The first male witness to testify, Otis W. Thompson, claimed fighters of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) severely tortured him and burned down his residence after a search for his father, Borbor Alfred Thompson, then-chair of the Maryland County branch of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL).

Otis said the fighters later conscripted him into their rebel army, saying, "Before I joined them they severely tortured me. I am still suffering from the pains as a result of the torture."

He said the fighters, who were under the command of Baltimore, alias "Sea Never Dry," executed in his presence the son of an Armed Forces of Liberia colonel, who was taken captive along with him. Otis said his life was spared after the intervention of a Lebanese national, Samuel Abrahams.

Another witness, Morris Weah, also claimed he was forcibly conscripted by fighters of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) after they captured the town of Tapita, Nimba County from soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).

While traveling from Monrovia to Tapita, Weah explained, he was stopped from traveling at night by the soldiers before they attacked and seized the town requesting residents to come out of their homes and identify their tribes.

Weah said he was captured by the fighters and tied for two days before he was saved by a female fighter.

"I was then forced to join the rebels to save my life, but I did not kill one person the whole war," Weah claimed.

Mamadee Konneh, the last witness to testify in public Tuesday said fighters of the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL) tortured him after they seized his vehicle and demanded a ransom.

Konneh claimed he paid the sum of L$30, 000 to the MODEL fighters commanded by General Alphonsus Zaryee before he was released by the men who initially demanded L$60,000.

One of Tuesday's witness, Asata Kamara testified in camera only before commissioners of the TRC.

The TRC is an independent body set up to investigate the root causes of the Liberian crisis, document human rights violations, review the history if Liberia, and put all human rights abuses that occurred during the period from 1979 to 2003 on record. The TRC mandate is to also identify victims and perpetrators and make recommendations on amnesty, prosecution and reparation.

The Commission heard over 70 cases of rights violations during public hearings in Montserrado County which commenced on January 8.

At the close of the 15 days of hearings in Montserrado, 58 of the witnesses were victims while were nine perpetrators and three eyewitnesses who recounted ghastly accounts of their experiences. The statistics reported that three witnesses testified in camera.

Following the Maryland Hearing, the public hearings will move next week to the southeastern counties of Grand Kru, Rivergee, Sinoe and Grand Gedeh.

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