Liberia's Human Rights Commission Links Top Lebanese Business Tycoon, Senior Government Minister to Massacre

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 11, 2004

In fulfillment of its national mandate under the comprehensive Accra Peace Accord on Liberia to probe allegations and abuses of human rights in Liberia, the Independent Commission on Human Rights has linked a top Lebanese businessman Abbas Fawaz and Internal Affairs Minister H. Dan Morias to the massacre in River Gee County.

Besides the top Lebanese business tycoon, Mr. Abbas Fawaz - former President of the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) in Liberia and Mr. H. Dan Morias, the Human Rights Commission has also brought to book some loyalists of former President Charles Taylor.

The Taylor’s loyalists, who are members of the Army Forces of Liberia (AFL), include Gen. William Sumo, Captain Paye M. Suah, Zico Dadiah and Benedictus Nyenpan.

But two of the accused, Minister Morias and Mr. Fawaz (through his spokesperson), have vehemently rejected the accusation against them by the independent commission on human rights (ICHR).

Testimonies of eyewitnesses and escapees of the reported massacre, which claimed about 360 innocent lives in the Towns of Youbor, Freetown, Tuobo, Gbahieleken in Grahoo District, River Gee County, were contained on a tape played at the March 5 news conference held in Monrovia.

The Commission did not give the identities of the eyewitnesses and escapees of the alleged massacre, while at the same time the commission chaired by Attorney T. Dempster Brown has yet to independently verify the testimonies and accounts. The commission, however, says it has evidence linking the accused to the massacre.

The Commission Chairman also named Mr. Joe Nouridine (another Lebanese businessman who is Supervisor of the Maryland Wood Processing Industry (MWPI), Charles Taylor, Jr. (Chucky), son of former president Taylor and Gen. Benjamin Yeaten, Taylor Special Bodyguard now fugitive.

In his reaction, Minister Morias told a news conference on 8 March that the eyewitnesses and escapees’ accounts were meant to tarnish and destroy his characters built over the years.

Challenging his accusers, Minister Morias vowed to seek redress by taking advantage of the nation’s criminal justice system, saying that he is not taking the allegations against him lightly.

Minister Morias wondered how could the commission conduct a probe into the alleged massacre in the county when the area is still under rebel MODEL’s control. He said that neither the commission chairman, nor a member had ever traveled to the county to independently probe the massacre.

Minister Morias who served as a Superintendent of Maryland County during the Taylor regime, said the only time he visited River Gee County was during a called mass meeting of the Grebo National Council which he chaired.

The Grebo National Council comprised authorities and prominent persons of both Maryland and River Gee Counties - with the mandate to seek solutions to problems confronting both counties. Minister Morias is credited for spearheading this tribal initiative to enhance togetherness among the residents of the two counties.

Also speaking at the March 8 news conference were three prominent sons of River Gee County, Messrs Abraham T. Nyetea, Development Superintendent, William Wah, Commissioner of Grahoo District and Representative E. Suigbeh Teh, rejected the accusation against Minister Morias.

Speaking earlier, both Teh, Wah and Nyetea, who claimed to be in the county when the massacre took place, said the allegation against Minister Morias is false and misleading, and added the commission is linking innocent people, while the perpetrators of the massacre go unpunished in the streets of Monrovia.

Both men challenged that the escapees’accounts, which link the senior government minister, saying that those responsible and linked to the massacre are Gen. Sumo, Captain Suah, and Diah, among others.

Mr. Fawaz, who is currently out of the country, could not be reached for comments on the allegations but the Lebanese businessman’s spokesperson denied his boss’ involvement in the massacre in River Gee.

Pressing more allegations against the prominent Lebanese businessman, the commission chairman said details revealed that Mr. Fawaz constructed a military training base in the county where Taylor’s loyalists were trained to attack Ivory Coast.

He also accused Mr. Fawaz of supplying arms and ammunitions to the former regime to attack neighboring Ivory Coast. He said the arms entered River Gee through the Port of Harper.