Man arrested in Newcastle on suspicion of Liberia war crimes

The man in his 40s was arrested in Newcastle over alleged war crimes. Credit: ITV News

A man in his 40s has been arrested over alleged war crimes committed in the Liberian civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Metropolitan Police has said.

He was held in Newcastle on Wednesday on suspicion of offences contrary to Section 51 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001 as part of an investigation supported by officers from Counter Terrorism Policing North East.

An address in the Newcastle area was searched by officers and the man was taken into police custody.

The arrest follows a referral in January last year to the Met's War Crimes Team, which is part of the Counter Terrorism Command.

The team has national responsibility for investigating and bringing to justice anyone who may fall under the UK's jurisdiction and who is suspected of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or torture anywhere in the world.

"Their investigations often require enquiries to be made and evidence to be recovered from overseas, so they are often very complex and lengthy," the Met said.

"All allegations of war crimes referred to the War Crimes Team are considered, assessed and dealt with in line with the war crimes/crimes against humanity referral guidelines, which are jointly agreed with the Crown Prosecution Service."

The Liberian civil war raged from 1989 when minister Charles Taylor started an uprising in a bid to topple the government.

Backed by rebel group the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), he gained control of large areas of the country and rose to become one of Africa's most prominent warlords.

The NPFL has been accused of a wide range of human rights abuses and the large numbers of deaths during the conflict eventually led to the involvement of the UN and the Economic Community of West African States.

A final peace agreement led to the election of Taylor as president of Liberia in 1997.

A second civil war broke out in 1999 and Taylor was forced into exile in 2003.

He was later jailed for committing war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone.