Liberia to extradite Ivorian mercenary suspects

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 22, 2012 2:19 PM
Liberia to extradite Ivorian mercenary suspects

ZWEDRU, Liberia (Reuters) - Liberia will extradite to the Ivory Coast 41 Ivorians accused of taking part in deadly post-election violence in their homeland that killed more than 3,000 people and uprooted a million from their homes, a Liberian court has ruled.

The decision follows mounting pressure on Liberia from the Ivorian government and human rights groups to tackle cross-border attacks said to be committed by supporters of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and Liberian mercenaries based in the forest region near the western Ivorian border.

This month 18 people - including seven U.N. peacekeepers - were killed in an ambush Ivory Coast has blamed on fighters from Liberia.

A court in the remote eastern Liberian town of Zwedru, near the Ivorian border, ordered the extradition late on Thursday. It is due to be carried out within 30 days.

The Liberian state prosecutor charged the men with mercenary activities after they crossed the border with a large quantity of arms in July 2011, according to a petition for extradition filed last month.

While many Gbagbo supporters and fighters laid down their weapons or were captured, others fled to neighboring countries where the current Ivorian government says they have been plotting to destabilize the country.

Gbagbo is at the International Criminal Court at the Hague facing war crimes charges. He refused to cede power following a 2010 election which he lost, opening old wounds that plunged the country into a six-month civil conflict.

He was finally captured after troops backing current President Alassane Ouattara, with the support of U.N. and French forces, stormed the presidential palace in Abidjan.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report earlier this month, criticising Liberia for not doing enough to apprehend those accused of mercenary activities, massacres and human rights violations during Ivory Coast's post-election crisis.

Among them is Isaac Sayou Chegbo (alias Bob Marley) an ex-Liberian rebel leader implicated in overseeing two massacres in Ivory Coast in which more than 100 people were killed, according to the HRW report.

(Reporting by Clair MacDougall; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)