Press Releases

Then Rebel Chief of Staff Denies War Atrocities...Denies Conscripting Child Combatants...Says They Were Instead Sent To School

01 December, 2008
Categorized as pertaining to: Hearings

Denying allegations of atrocities, a former commander of Charles Taylor's defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) said the rebel group did not conscript child combatants.

Retired General John Teah said instead of recruiting child combatants, the NPFL leader opened educational institutions for children to keep them from war activities.

"We did not recruit children to fight for us. Our leader His Excellency Charles Ghankay Taylor opened schools for the children in Gbarnga and other places for them to go to school."

Teah, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during the regime of Taylor said the NPFL treated civilians with care, adding that the group during its existence launched military operations during the early morning hours to prevent civilians' casualties.

Also refuting accusations of gross human rights violations by witnesses appearing before the TRC, he added that civilians were treated with respect because they were not the front's target.

He was testifying Tuesday at the ongoing public hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia.

"I never killed, looted and raped during the war. I operated by the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). I always had the handbook of the Red Cross with me during the war. I never looked into dead bodies pockets," the former Training Commandant of the NPFL added.

But Gen. Teah admitted supervising the 1992 NPFL Octopus Operations that led to the death of hundreds of civilians in and around the suburbs of Monrovia.

The former NPFL strongman's testimony is in continuation of a wave of denials at the TRC by principal military and political actors about their alleged roles in the Liberian civil conflict. Several political and military actors previously appearing before the commission also denied wrong doings during the country's years of civil conflict.

Liberia is recovering from years of conflict that was the backdrop for horrific human rights violations, including arbitrary killings, use of child combatants, rape and sexual violence, separation of families, and looting and destruction of properties by various warring factions. Out of a population of 3 million, an estimated 300,000 Liberians were killed, with as many as 1.5 million displaced.

Under the theme: "Understanding the Conflict Through its Principal Events and Actors," the ongoing hearings are addressing the root causes of the conflict, including its military and political dimensions.

The hearings are focused on events between 1979 and 2003 and the national and external actors that helped to shape those events.

The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005.

The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

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