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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Liberia's truth commission opens

Charles Taylor
Former warlord and president Charles Taylor is awaiting trial
Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is beginning investigations into crimes committed during the 24-year civil conflict.

Victims and alleged perpetrators of crimes are due to give evidence.

About 200 people have been trained and deployed throughout the country to document evidence of abuses.

The commission was set up in February by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, but there have been demands for a war crimes tribunal to sit instead.

We are convinced that you cannot have general reconciliation if the truth is not told
Jerome Verdier,
Commission chair

The commission has a two-year mandate to investigate crimes but cannot put alleged perpetrators on trial.

BBC correspondent Ledgerhood Rennie in the capital Monrovia says the question continues to be a hotly-debated in Liberian society.

'Mischief-makers'

The commission will document evidence on crimes committed between 1979 and 2003, when President Charles Taylor, a former rebel leader, went into exile.

It is believed that at least 200,000 people died during that period, with many more internally displaced or forced into exile. Events became linked with civil unrest in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Guide to Liberia and its recent turbulent history

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (Unmil) has been instrumental in training observers placed throughout the country. Commission chair Jerome Verdier, a human rights lawyer, said it faced difficult challenges.

"We do expect there will be mischief-makers, we expect that some victims will amplify their conditions or experiences in the hope they can get better benefits or reparation at the end of the process," he told the BBC.

"We are convinced that you cannot have general reconciliation if the truth is not told; and once the truth is told, there should be justice."

Charles Taylor, who emerged as the most successful warlord and won the 1997 election, is in The Hague awaiting trial on war crimes charges.

However other former faction leaders remain active in Liberian politics.




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