The first Liberian officer charged with war crimes she allegedly committed in the African country’s 1989-96 civil war was due to appear in a Belgian court on Friday.
Martina Johnson, a former commander of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), was arrested on Wednesday in the Belgian city of Ghent, the Belga news agency reported.
She has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for her role in Liberia’s first civil war, which left tens of thousands of people dead.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the arrest, calling it a “major advance for justice.”
“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,” HRW director Elise Keppler said in a statement.
The case against Johnson was filed in 2012 by Civitas Maxima, an association representing the victims of war crimes, on behalf of three Liberians who implicate her as having “participated directly in mutilation and mass killing” during the NPFL’s so-called Operation Octopus, in 1992.
Friday’s court hearing was due to determine whether Johnson, who has been living in Belgium, will remain in pre-trial detention, according to the Belga report.