Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group Releases Statistical Report for the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission

By Benetech, posted on

Results of Analysis Identifies Perpetrators Most Responsible For Violence During Liberia’s 24 Years of Conflict

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor — already on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Sierra Leone’s civil war &mdash also led the Liberian rebel group responsible for the largest number of reported violations during Liberia’s 24 years of civil unrest, according to a new report released by the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG).

Benetech, a California-based non-profit organization, analyzed more than 17,000 victim and witness statements collected by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The report, entitled “Descriptive Statistics From Statements to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” is included as an annex to the final report of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released on July 1 in Monrovia, Liberia. A summary of the HRDAG report is located here.

The statements to the TRC contain information about some 86,647 victims and 163,615 total violations during a period of conflict in Liberia that stretched from January 1979 to October 2003.

The Benetech HRDAG provided the statistical expertise to transform information from the statements into scientifically-defensible knowledge to create a clear historical record and help end impunity for the perpetrators of human rights abuses.

“The TRC is especially glad that the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group partnered with the TRC in this enormous undertaking,” said Cllr Jerome J. Verdier, Chairman of the TRC. “Their work helped to give a voice to thousands of victims and at the same time give a human face to the TRC process.”

The HRDAG report found that Charles Taylor’s group of combatants, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), was responsible for more than three times the number of reported violations as the next closest perpetrator group.

The Benetech HRDAG analysis also:

  • Documented more than 28,000 killings, the second most commonly reported violation.
  • Found that forced displacement was the most commonly reported violation during the conflict &mdash comprising about a third of reported violations.
  • Helped the TRC identify individual perpetrators responsible for the most serious crimes.
  • Revealed surprising information about the age of victims of the violence during the period studied.

Men of an increasingly older age were at greater risk for being killed or subject to looting violations than younger men. In contrast, the data suggests that young men, between the ages of 15-19 in particular, were at greater risk for forced recruitment as combatants.

It is notable that the Liberian TRC collected almost 48% of their statements from women. Many truth commissions in other countries often fail to reflect a proportional number of women in witness testimonies.

Liberia, a nation on the west coast of Africa, is recovering from decades of violence sparked by a military coup in 1979. A peace agreement was reached in 2003. The United Nations Mission in Liberia maintains 15,000 UN peacekeepers throughout the country. Charles Taylor is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

By supporting the effective capture, preservation and analysis of statements relating to human rights violations, the TRC has been able to tell a broader truth about Liberia’s conflict. HRDAG’s analysis has helped the TRC to determine the proportional responsibility of alleged perpetrators and decide who should be prosecuted for the most serious crimes. The findings could also provide evidence for possible future prosecutions.

The findings will also be of value to scholars, lawyers, historians, journalists, human rights and civil society groups and the families of the victims. An anonymized version of the TRC’s data from statements collected in Liberia, and among diaspora Liberians, will be published on the TRC and HRDAG websites. HRDAG encourages scholars and other analysts to extend the analysis and compare statistical results from other sources of data with the information reported by the statement-givers.

About the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group

Benetech is a nonprofit technology development organization based in Palo Alto, CA. Benetech’s Human Rights Data Analysis Group has worked with nine truth commissions over the last fifteen years to incorporate information technology and scientific methods that create an accurate historical record of past conflicts. HRDAG has helped these commissions establish analytical objectives, collect data, design and implement information management systems, conduct statistical analysis, integrate quantitative findings and provide follow-up support.