The Paris Criminal Court Wednesday sentenced former Liberian rebel commander Kunti Kamara to life in prison. The sentence followed a four-week trial with no material evidence presented. The prosecution relied on numerous witnesses and victims to testify to Kamara’s participation in or supervision of the abuses. Kamara stood accused of multiple crimes against humanity including rape, torture and killings.
Kamara served as a commander in the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) during the first Liberian civil war from 1989-97. He was less than 20 years old when he joined ULIMO to defend the overthrown government of totalitarian leader Samuel Doe. The movement was ultimately unsuccessful and Kamara fled to Europe.
Civitas Maxima, an organization for the representation of war crime victims, brought Kamara’s case to the attention of French authorities in 2018. Under the French Code of Criminal Procedure Sec. 689-11, any citizen or non-citizen can be tried for international crimes against humanity.
The law requires the alleged crime be punishable under the penal code in the country where it was committed. The alleged perpetrator must also reside in France. Liberia has passed laws criminalizing the alleged conduct and fully cooperated with the investigation. However, Liberia has not brought charges for war crimes against anyone since the end of its civil wars. Kamara was detained by French authorities in 2020 before he could flee France.
While the law proved applicable in Kamara’s case, an appeals court in an earlier ruling barred its use for prosecution of an alleged Syrian war criminal. Syrian criminal code did not punish the offenses, thereby limiting the law’s application.