Debevoise, CJA and IHRDA File Suit Against Liberia in Human Rights Case

5 October 2022

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, along with the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), have filed a suit against Liberia at the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for its failure to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the 1990 St. Peter’s Lutheran Church massacre in Monrovia, Liberia, and asks the Court to provide redress to the victims and their families.

Debevoise and its co-counsel are representing the Global Justice & Research Project (GJRP), a Liberia-based nongovernmental organization that documents and seeks justice for conflict-related crimes in Liberia, along with three siblings who lost approximately 16 family members in the massacre. At the time of the attack, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church operated as a Red Cross shelter, housing close to 2,000 civilians seeking refuge from rising violence in the country. In the submission to the ECOWAS Court, one plaintiff describes the chaos in the church and the horror he experienced as government soldiers killed his mother and brother in front of him, along with around 600 other victims. This will be the first time that a court will examine Liberia’s failure to investigate human rights and humanitarian law violations committed during two civil wars that ravaged the country between 1989 and 2003.

In September 2021, Debevoise and CJA won a historic decision in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, finding Colonel Moses Thomas of the Armed Forces of Liberia liable for war crimes, crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killing, attempted extrajudicial killing, and torture committed during the Lutheran Church massacre, pursuant to the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien Tort Statute. In August of this year, the court awarded several survivors $84 million in damages.