Thursday, November 12, 2009

HRUSA Blogs from Liberia: An Introduction

In just a few days, Human Rights USA International Justice Project Director Piper Hendricks will arrive in Monrovia, Liberia, to gather information needed for our civil proceeding in the United States. This trip is the culmination of years of work with survivors of abuses inflicted by Charles Taylor Jr., a U.S. citizen, and his subordinates.

While in Liberia, Piper will meet with our Liberian clients who survived atrocities during the Liberian civil wars, which took place between 1989 and 2003. While there, Piper will accompany our clients to their interviews with the U.S. consulate to apply for visas to travel to the United States for the civil trial scheduled in Miami in December.

For these brave survivors and for HRUSA, the trial represents years of work toward accountability under U.S. law, as well as reestablishing justice in Liberia. In 2008, Taylor Jr. was criminally tried and convicted by a Miami jury and is now serving a 97 year sentence. While HRUSA applauds the work of the U.S. Government in convicting Taylor Jr., real justice for his victims does not end there. The civil case is a chance for several survivors to tell truth to justice and gain a sense of closure after facing the man who so gravely wronged them. In addition, the civil case provides an opportunity to obtain monetary damages to remedy their medical expenses and other costs stemming from the torture to which they were subjected.

The preparations for the trip have been extensive, both logistically and legally. Obviously, any journey of thousands of miles is complicated, but in this case, traveling with a goal of obtaining justice has made it more so. In addition to receiving several vaccinations and obtaining a visa, Piper has had to make plans for travel to various parts of Liberia, where roads often make the travel quite long. During her stay, Piper will be working with the clients to get passports and visas, as well as medical records and other evidence to use at trial.

The legal work that HRUSA has done to prepare for the case in the US also has been extensive. Since filing the civil case in January, we have spent the last year drafting various motions, gathering expert information on the long-term effects of torture, and preparing logistically for the challenges of international justice. The work is all worth it because with patience, perseverance and support, this case will provide a sense of closure and justice for survivors, and represent progress for the nation of Liberia.

Please post any questions you might have for Piper as comments to the corresponding blog posts.

After the trip, on November 30th at 4pm EST, HRUSA will host a conference call with Piper to provide you, our supporters, the chance to ask questions about the case and learn more about her trip to Africa. To participate, please contact Brenden Sloan at bsloan [at] or call (202) 296-5702. Piper looks forward to answering your questions. Thank you for your support!

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