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UK police arrest woman suspected of torture during Liberian civil war

UK police arrest woman suspected of torture during Liberian civil war

Liberia

The United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police have reported the arrest of a woman on suspicion of torture during Liberia’s civil war.

A statement released by the police said, the 51-year-old’s arrest ‘relate to atrocities that occurred during the civil war in Liberia between 1989 and 1993.’

They added that the unnamed suspect was arrested today in east London and was still in police custody.

We continue to liaise with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Crown Prosecution Service regarding this investigation.

‘‘Searches are being carried out at two addresses – one in east London and the other in central London – in relation to this investigation.

‘‘We continue to liaise with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Crown Prosecution Service regarding this investigation,’‘ the statement added.

About the Liberian civil wars

The Liberian civil wars spanned a seventeen year period during which thousands were killed and many more displaced. The first period under which the current arrest has been made spanned between 1989 and 1997.

At the heart of the conflict was former leader Charles Taylor, who staged an uprising to topple the then Samuel Doe government. It took peace negotiations and foreign involvement to secure a ceasefire in 1995. Doe was killed by a rival rebel group but eventually Taylor was elected President in 1997.

Two years after, the West African country slid into fresh crisis which had a sub-regional outlook. Rebel groups sprung up with support from the then Guinean government and challenged the Taylor government.

A four year period of fighting ensued as rebels marched towards the capital, Monrovia, which was seen as the stronghold of Taylor. He eventually resigned in August 2011 with the coming into force of a peace accord signed in Accra. Taylor flew into exile in Nigeria.

Taylor’s arrest

In March 2006, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf submitted a request for Taylor to be extradited to stand trial in a special court in neighbouring Sierra Leone. But Nigeria opted to release and not extradite Taylor for diplomatic reasons.

On 29 March the same year, Taylor tried to cross the border into Cameroon through the border town of Gamboru in northeastern Nigeria. His vehicle which bore Nigerian diplomatic plates was stopped by border guards, and Taylor’s identity was eventually established leading to his arrest. 

Taylor himself was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2012 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone.

Over 250,000 people died from the civil wars while thousands more were mutilated and raped. The conflict was funded largely through the sale of diamonds and timber from the country’s natural resource.

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