Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Child Soldiers: Dealing with Responsible Parties

On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law the Child Soldiers Accountability Act, introduced in 2007 by Senator Richard Durbin and passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate in September 2008.  The act, which has extraterritorial reach, makes it a federal crime to recruit or use children under 15 as soldiers.

Yesterday, a federal immigration judge ordered the deportation of George Boley, a former Liberian warlord, under the terms of the Child Soldiers Accountability Act.  It is the first time the Act has been used for this purpose.

Boley was the leader of an organization called the Liberian Peace Council (LPC), one of seven separate organizations waging war in Liberia during an internal struggle that lasted, with only a brief interruption, from 1989 to 2003.  As many as 250,000 people died in the civil war, which was characterized by the use of child soldiers and frequent atrocities against noncombatants.  Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that Boley and other warlords be prosecuted for atrocities committed during the war, but no charges have ever been filed.  (Former Liberian president Charles Taylor, however, is being tried in the Special Court for Sierra Leone for his role in fomenting that country's civil war.)

According to a story in the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, Boley is a longtime resident of Clarkson, New York.  He attended college almost forty years ago at the College of Brockport where he earned a bachelor's and a master's degree before earning a Ph.D. at the University of Akron.  He was a minister in the government of Samuel Doe, but came to the United States in 1990 following Doe's murder.  In 1993, Boley returned to Liberia as the leader of the LPC.

Boley has been in federal custody for the last two years while fighting deportation.