Alleged Liberian war criminal detained by federal authorities in Pennsylvania

Alleged Liberian war criminal detained by federal authorities in Pennsylvania

A 49-year old Liberian national and resident of East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, Mohammed Jabbateh, was indicted [indictment, PDF; press release] in Philadelphia on Wednesday on two counts of immigration fraud and two counts of perjury for failing to disclose his crimes in Liberia when he applied for political asylum in December 1998 and when he was interviewed by an immigration asylum officer in January 1999. According to US officials, Jabbateh, who was popularly known as “Jungle Jabbah,” was believed to be involved in civil war atrocities [Reuters report] including committing or ordering troops to commit murder and torture, public rape, enslavement of civilian noncombatants, and conscription of child soldiers. US Attorney Zane David Memeger stated that Jabbateh had concealed his identity as an officer of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia and “allegedly committed unspeakable crimes in his home country, brutalizing numerous innocent victims.” How federal authorities learned of Jabbateh’s true identity remains a mystery as prosecutors declined to comment. Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Staton of Homeland Security Investigations stated that the “United States … will not be a safe haven for alleged human rights violators and war criminals.” According to Memeger, Jabbateh faces a 30-year prison sentence if convicted, although he is unlikely to be deported.

Liberia continues to be in the headlines for alleged and proven war crimes spanning a number of decades. As recently as September 2013, the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) rejected an appeal by former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of his convictions for war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. In February 2010 the UN emphasized [JURIST report] that reconciliation in Liberia hinges on the development of its national security and its legal institutions. A UN report issued in April 2008 examined [JURIST report] Liberia’s struggles with corruption in its criminal justice system, poor detention conditions, and sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and forced marriage. In November 2006 the UN Independent Expert on the promotion and protection of human rights in Liberia urged [JURIST report] the Liberian government to press ahead with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission and appoint members to its Independent National Commission on Human Rights.