Chapter II - Trial of Thomas Woewiyu

Innovative, diverse, and artistic access to reliable and unbiased information on justice efforts is a pillar of our outreach efforts through the Liberian Quest for Justice campaign, launched together with our Liberian sister organization the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP).

Chapter II showed that global justice would prevail for Liberian victims, that they would no longer be forced into silence.

Thomas Woewiyu’s trial marked the first time that someone who held a ministerial position during the First Liberian Civil War within a rebel faction in Liberia was held accountable. Additionally, it was the first time that crimes committed by the NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia) - the rebel faction responsible for over 60,000 documented human rights violations according to the final report by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission - were documented in detail through a judicial proceeding.

Thomas Woewiyu’s trial is crucially significant for Liberia. Never before were the crimes of the NPFL described in such detail in a courtroom. An important piece of our history was documented during this trial

Hassan Bility
Executive Director of the GJRP

Woewiyu was arrested in May 2014 after a months-long investigation into his alleged ties to war crimes during Liberia’s First Civil War (1989-1996). Facing 16 counts of immigration fraud and perjury, Thomas Woewiyu faced trial in June of 2018. The trial lasted three weeks and over 30 witnesses testified to his leading role in Charles Taylor’s NPFL- the leading rebel faction between 1989 and 1996. The jury decided on the 3rd of July, 2018, that Thomas Woewiyu was guilty on 11 of 16 counts of immigration fraud and perjury. He is scheduled to be sentenced on the 15th of October, 2018, and he will be detained until then.

I am very happy for Thomas Woewiyu to go to jail because they are the ones who brought this trouble to us

excerpt from “Celebrations in Liberia and US over Woewiyu’s Guilty Verdict" in FrontPage Africa, Liberian newspaper

Courtroom Sketches

Visuals of the trial proceedings were produced by Chase Walker, a Liberian resident of the United States, who had his own Liberian wartime experiences and had already partnered with us during Chapter I. The opportunity to draw one of the NPFL leaders - in charge of those who harassed his loved ones during the war - was an empowering experience for Chase Walker personally, as well as on a collective level of other Liberian victims.

Woewiyu had “a powerful motive to lie,” trying to conceal that he was, in fact, a founding member of the National Patriotic Front for Liberia (“NPFL”), and that the NPFL started the First Liberian Civil War.

Legal Monitoring of the Woewiyu case: Trial Day 2

Legal Monitoring and Trial Information

After the “Jungle Jabbah” trial, Liberians’ access to unbiased information about a trial happening outside Liberia was proven to be crucial to informed debates on justice and accountability, but also for the grassroots mobilization for justice in Liberia.

For the Thomas Woewiyu trial, we knew we needed to continue to provide audiences with detailed daily legal monitoring from inside the Philadelphia courtroom. These reports, by qualified U.S. attorneys with the pro bono collaboration of the U.S. law firm Akin Gump, outline witness testimonies to Thomas Woewiyu’s connections to war crimes in Liberia during its First Civil War (1989-1996).

In addition, we produced several infographics from the information received from our legal monitors in the Philadelphia courtroom to synthesize the information and present it in a more artistic way. These infographics reached a much wider audience and contributed to the broader outreach goal of rendering justice mechanisms accessible.

Videos

Key Question Videos

To ensure those who were affected by the horrific acts were well informed and understood the judicial procedures such trials, we created a video about Woewiyu’s trial, explaining background information and aspects of the proceeding. This campaign video on the Liberian Quest for Justice platform prompted many questions from our audience - which we answered in the form of an animated series of Key Questions videos.

 

All videos were produced by Nicolás Braguinsky Cascini.

Grassroots Partnership - Independent Reporting

Contributing not only to unbiased information, but also the capacity-building of reporters from an independent group based in Monrovia, New Narratives provided daily resumes of the trial on social media minutes after leaving the courtroom and on FrontPage Africa - a leading West-African newspaper, often working in collaboration with Civitas Maxima’s legal monitors. The videos were seen in groups reach over 200,000 people in the Liberian community.

 

New Narratives is a program which supports leading Liberian journalists to deliver independent and unbiased news that Africans can use to drive change. Civitas Maxima supported, through this partnership, three Liberian journalists who provided independent and impartial coverage of the trial from Philadelphia and Monrovia.

Musu's Diary Chapter II

Musu, a young girl from Monrovia journeys to Buduburam, the largest Liberian refugee community in Ghana, seeking to restore hope for justice in Liberia. However, the Boogeyman, an evil creature thriving on impunity and despair, will do whatever he can to stop Musu's quest. Meanwhile, the Liberian Quest for Justice movement grows stronger with the trial of Thomas Woeiwyu happening in Philadelphia. 

Written by Nathaly Leduc and illustrated by JP Kalonji, read Musu's Diary here.