Liberia: Benjamin Yeaten Still A Fugitive From Justice
Today, the trail remains cold for a notorious Liberian rebel and chief executioner Benjamin Yeaten of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia rebel movement (NPFL).
Media and intelligence reports, however, have placed the former Charles Taylor rebel commander in the West African sub-region and was said to be taking refuge in Togo.
Benjamin Yeaten whose nom-de-guerre is "50" served as Director of Taylor's dreaded presidential guard force, known then as the Special Security Service (SSS).
He is accused of murder and wanted by the Liberian government. He fled Liberia shortly after his boss and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor resigned the Presidency and left for Nigeria.
On March 29, 2006 Taylor was arrested in Nigeria and transferred into the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. An 11- count indictment was unsealed and which accused Taylor of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Taylor has maintained that he is innocent and called the charges conspiratorial. Following his prosecution in the Hague, Taylor was found guilty on all charges on April 26, 2012 and sentenced to 50 years imprisonment.
Today, he is serving his sentence in a UK prison.
Numerous reports over the years have placed Yeaten at various sub-regional conflicts such as in Ivory Coast and the Gambia since he fled Liberia.
In January 21, 2009, the government of Liberia through its Ministry of Justice ordered the arrest of former presidential security commander Benjamin Yeaten. The Liberian government issued an " indictment to prosecute General Yeaten on charges of murder". Liberian authorities solicited the assistance of the world police body Interpol to bring Yeaten to book. In 2009, Interpol issued a "Red Notice" for Yeaten.
According to Interpol's website, a "Red Notice" is issued when "the persons concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions for prosecution or to serve a sentence based on an arrest warrant or court decision. INTERPOL's role is to assist the national police forces in identifying and locating these persons with a view to their arrest and extradition or similar lawful action."
Yeaten also featured prominently in the atrocities committed in neighboring Sierra Leone due to the spill over of the war. A witness told the the Special Court at the trial of Taylor about the communications that took place between the radio station installed at the residence of Benjamin Yeaten, who was Director of the SSS, and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander Sam Bockarie’s radio station installed at the RUF headquarters in Buedu, eastern Sierra Leone.
The witness told the court that Mr. Taylor did not know about the contact and friendship that existed between Mr. Yeaten and Mr. Bockarie. Bockarie was killed under mysterious circumstances in Liberia. It is alleged that Taylor ordered the elimination of Bockarie to foil any disclosure of his Taylor involvement in supplying arms and ammunition to allied RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Yeaten is reported to have undertaken the secret operation to eliminate Bockarie and his wife. Taylor denied any knowledge or responsibility of the operation.
To date, there has been no new development on the enforcement of Interpol's "Red Notice" against Yeaten nor has the Liberian government commented on the status of efforts to arrest and prosecute the notorious rebel commander.
A Liberian national residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the U.S. and who asked for anonymity because he still has family in Liberia, strongly criticized the Liberian Government for the lack of will to pursue, arrest and prosecute Yeaten and all those responsible for the war atrocities in Liberia. He specifically pointed to a former rebel commander now turned senator Prince Johnson who remains free from any accountability.
"Our country and people will not truly reconcile unless there is accountability and justice for the victims and their families," he said.
The Liberian civil war claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 and dislocated another 1 million others internally and externally.
In its final report, Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) determined and recommended Criminal Prosecution for Gross Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and Egregious Domestic Law Violations in order to address and promote unity, promote peace, justice, security, unity and genuine national reconciliation.
The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Accra, Ghana and established by the TRC Act of 2005 by the Liberian legislature.
The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time recommend the holding of perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.
By Emmanuel Abalo
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