The New York Times reports on a Liberian woman collecting oral histories of the war in Liberia from refugees on Staten Island:
Seeking Hidden Accounts of Atrocity: In Liberia, she specializes in persuading former child soldiers — men with every reason to keep silent — to give oral histories, sometimes confessing acts of bewildering violence on her radio program there.
…The puzzle before her this fall is how to do this work in Staten Island, where survivors have lived side by side for years without revealing what role they played in Liberia’s civil wars, which spanned the years from 1989 to 1996 and 1999 to 2003. She will submit the accounts of soldiers, victims and witnesses to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which this year began a historic effort to collect narratives about wartime atrocities from refugees in the United States.
This work–collecting testimony for the war crimes tribunal–is clearly tremendously important. However, it raises an alarming question in my mind. Does this imply that statements taken anonymously from refugees in a foreign country by a radio program host can be submitted as evidence in a war crimes trial?
I’m woefully ignorant of evidentiary law and customs, but this seems tremendously controversial. Are those accused of war crimes tried by a different set of rules than other criminals? I need to learn more about this. It would be deeply ironic and tragic if an internationally-supported tribunal provided poorer legal protection for the accused that the USG provides to Guantanamo detainees.