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Liberian rebel commander arrested for war crimes in Belgium

A former commander of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) was arrested in Belgium last Wednesday, accused of committing war crimes during Liberia’s civil war, reports the BBC.

A complaint was made against Martina Johnson for her role in the Operation Octopus offensive, where she is accused of committing “mutilation and mass killing”.

The arrest has been welcomed by rights groups, who have long criticised the Liberian authorities' failure to investigate and prosecute individuals who committed crimes during the civil war.

“The rebel forces for which Martina Johnson was a commander committed horrific abuses against civilians during Liberia’s first civil war, but not one person has ever been held to account for the crimes,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement by the rights organisation.

“Johnson’s indictment in Belgium is a major step to ensure justice is done for the abuses against Liberian civilians,” she added.

Johnson is to be produced before court in Belgium Friday, where it is expected the terms of her detention will be determined.

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