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Witnesses tell Liberia truth commission of civil war abuses

[JURIST] Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [UN Mission in Liberia news release, PDF] began hearing public testimony Tuesday, with several people testifying about the crimes and abuse that occurred during the country's 14-year civil war [Globalsecurity.org backgrounder]. One man testified that he was taken by rebel forces as a child soldier [Amnesty backgrounder] to help with terror raids around the country, while another explained how his father was murdered as part of a political vendetta. Four of the nine TRC commissioners heard testimony in Monrovia, while the remaining traveled throughout the country to gather testimonies outside the capital.

Commissioners also heard testimony from Mohammed Sheriff, a former Liberian fighter who told the TRC that his men executed some 250 Sierra Leoneans [Reuters report] on the orders of former Liberian President Charles Taylor [JURIST news archive]. Sheriff said that his men beat and killed a Sierra Leonean warlord and executed the warlord's mercenaries, who had been fighting in the Ivory Coast's civil war. Taylor is currently awaiting trial [JURIST report] before the Special Court for Sierra Leone on crimes against humanity charges.

The TRC began its work [JURIST report] in June after its inauguration [JURIST report] in February. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [BBC profile] has said that the commission is intended to heal the war-torn country and uncover the truth about the civil war, but the TRC has been criticized by human rights groups [JURIST report] who instead advocate a Liberian human rights court because the TRC cannot prosecute war crimes violations. AP has more.

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