Police arrest Sierra Leone war crimes suspect living in Finland

Police suspect the man of a string of war crimes, sexual violence and other atrocities during the West African country's bitter 11-year civil war.

Map showing Sierra Leone in west Africa / Credit: Google Maps

The National Bureau of Investigation NBI says it has arrested a citizen of Sierra Leone suspected of murder, aggravated war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Sierra Leone was plunged into a bitter civil war between 1991 and 2001 when a rebel group called the Revolutionary United Front RUF, supported by a militia backed by neighbouring Liberia, tried to overthrow the government.

An estimated 50,000 people were killed in the 11-year civil war, and now the NBI says the person they’ve got in custody was an RUF commander active between 1999 and 2003, who not only committed atrocities himself, but incited others to commit them too.

The suspect will appear in Pirkanmaa District Court on Thursday for a remand hearing.

“Exceptionally, the suspected serious crimes against life and health, personal liberty and physical integrity include homicide and sexual violence as well as recruitment and deployment of child soldiers” says Detective Superintendent Thomas Elfgren from the NBI.

The suspect has been living permanently in Finland for the last decade, and investigators traveled to Liberia, and other countries, to interview several dozen people while building their case.

“The Liberian judicial authorities have supported the criminal investigation and permitted us to collect information in Liberia” says Elfgren of the investigation which was opened back in autumn 2018.

“The next step is to interview the suspect and to conduct any futher investigations requested by the prosecutor and the defence” he adds.