By Reuben Sei Waylaun
The political leader of the opposition political party, the All Liberian Party (ALP), Benoni Urey and former confidant of convicted former Liberian leader, Charles Ghankay says there is a need to free the former Liberian leader.
The then head of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and former head of state is serving a fifty-year jail term in Great Britain after being convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He is also convicted for his role in aiding and abetting the war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
The ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor was ordered to serve the rest of his jail term in the UK, after losing a request to be transferred to Rwanda.
Taylor was sentenced in 2012 and arrived in the UK having unsuccessfully challenged the decision to be detained there.
1989: Launches rebellion in Liberia, 1991: Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebellion starts in Sierra Leone, 1997: Elected president after a 1995 peace deal, 1999: Rebels take up arms against Taylor, June 2003: Arrest warrant issued; two months later he steps down and goes into exile in Nigeria, March 2006: Arrested after a failed escape bid and sent to Sierra Leone, June 2007: His trial opens – hosted in The Hague for security reasons, April 2012: Convicted of aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes – later sentenced to 50 years in jail, Oct 2013: Arrives in the UK to serve the remainder of his sentence
Charles Taylor’s convicted:
Taylor was convicted on 11 charges including terrorism, rape, murder and the use of child soldiers by rebel groups in neighboring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war, in which some 50,000 people died. The former Liberian leader was found to have supplied weapons to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for so-called blood diamonds.
The rebels were notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians to terrorizing the population. Taylor has always insisted he is innocent and that his only contact with the rebels was to urge them to stop fighting.
Urey On Taylor’s Emancipation
However, speaking on the sidelines of a day-long meeting with opposition political parties by the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government in soliciting views and suggestions in moving the country, forward, the ALP political leader, Benoni Urey appealed the conscious of those in authority to see reasons in freeing the ex-Liberian leader.
In the interview with journalists, Urey calls for the establishment of war crimes court in the country to try those who allegedly committed crimes against the state and its citizens.
The political leader of the All Liberia Party (ALP) not disappointed with those war crimes court campaigners as he has pledged to lead a campaign to ensure that the court is established here.
Urey said he told the President that the court must be established so that those who are responsible for mayhem that took place across the country can answer for their actions.
“Though we have not been critical of this government, we spoke from our hearts on some issues that we have concerns about,” he said.
“The court must be established here. And I avail myself to lead that campaign,” he said.
The ALP standard bearer said former President Charles Taylor should be freed from imprisonment if the court cannot be established here.
“Let them free Taylor or carry everybody to jail. We had a war and one person did not commit all of the atrocities in this country… a lot of people did. If only one person can face justice then where are the rest”? Urey questioned.
The former boss of the Maritime Affairs, now Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) during Taylor’s regime said he hopes the President took his statement positively, adding “this is a decision that we all Liberians, and the entire country must make. If people should go with impunity or face justice.”
Urey & Charles Taylor:
In 1996, the Council of State appointed Urey as Commissioner of Maritime Affairs. When Charles Taylor came to power after winning elections in 1997, Urey was reappointed to his position as Commissioner of Maritime. He served as Commissioner until 2003, when Taylor resigned from office.
According to Benoni Urey’s Wikipedia, he breached an earlier UN travel ban in August 2001. His name was added to the US Treasury Department‘s Nationals list, prohibiting him from conducting business with US companies, citizens and residents, and blocking all US based assets.
A 2005 report from the Coalition for International Justice reported that Urey helped Taylor “siphon off” funds from a shipping firm to pay for arms and was the primary contact between Taylor and Viktor Bout. The United Nations Panel of Experts concluded in their November 2013 report that “evidence indicates, however, that in approving the funds Urey was acting on the orders of Taylor.”
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC):
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended in its final report that Urey be prosecuted for the commission of economic crimes during the civil war and barred from holding public office for 30 years.
It can be recalled during the TRC hearings, Urey was identified by witness James Paul as operating the Liberian Rubber Company and exporting “hundreds of thousands of tons of rubber”, the proceeds of which were never accounted for.
Urey has denied any involvement in the violence of the Liberian and Sierra Leone civil conflicts, maintaining that as a civilian being appointed to head the Maritime Commission, he made no war-related decisions.
An investigation by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Liberia’s political situation in 2013 concluded that it “did not have information suggesting that Urey was involved in activities that would destabilize Liberia and the subregion”.
The Panel also stated that “Urey’s business activities, and the profits gained from them, would appear to suggest that civil conflict in Liberia would have a significant negative financial impact on him”. In December 2013, Urey was de-listed from the United Nations Sanction Lists. In November 2015 the US Treasury Department lifted sanctions against a number of Liberians, including Urey.