George Boley has 30 days to appeal a ruling that will send him home to Liberia labeled as a war criminal. / Jamie Germano file photo 2007
|George Boley, right, joined
Charles Taylor, left,
and Alhaji Kromah
in a September
1995 gathering of
to take an oath
to respect a peace process
signed in August.
/ Christophe Simon/Getty
Longtime Clarkson resident George Boley Sr. will likely be returning to his home country of Liberia — this time branded a war criminal and deported by the United States.
A date has not been set for the deportation, mandated by an immigration judge’s ruling Monday that Boley, 62, was responsible for killings during Liberia’s civil wars and that he also recruited children as soldiers during the bloody bedlam.
That ruling comes more than two years after Boley was detained on claims that he had traveled from Liberia on improper immigration papers. Those more technical charges then ballooned into allegations of wartime atrocities.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials applauded Immigration Judge John Reid’s ruling, maintaining that the decision was historic because it marks the first time a 2008 law — the Child Soldiers Accountability Act — was wielded by an immigration judge as a legal basis for deportation.
“This historic immigration judge’s ruling is the culmination of extensive efforts by Homeland Security Investigations special agents and ICE attorneys to bring George Boley to justice for his crimes,” ICE Director John Morton said in the statement. “The United States has always been a place of refuge and freedom from oppression for millions. We must ensure that those who come here seeking freedom and the rule of law do not have to fear that their persecutor may become their neighbor.”
Boley has spent the past two years jailed at a federal detention facility in Batavia, as his family fought to garner support for his release and freedom. Family members could not be reached for comment Monday, but they have consistently maintained that immigration officials fabricated a case against Boley on the fake claims of unreliable witnesses and men who have been proved to be war criminals and even child killers in Liberia.
In a recent email exchange, George Boley Jr. insisted on his father’s innocence. Boley has 30 days to appeal the decision. He can request a stay in the deportation while the appeal is being heard and decided. Boley had two different lawyers during his immigration fight but has not had legal representation in recent weeks.
The allegations against Boley have been murky, mainly because Liberia’s two civil wars — conflicts between 1989 and 2003 that left more than 200,000 dead — were so chaotic and indiscriminate in their violence. Boley has been portrayed as a warlord who headed a ragtag group known as the Liberia Peace Council, or LPC, which was directly linked to heinous crimes.
“Various organizations have reported that the LPC engaged in serious human rights abuses against the civilian population,” immigration officials said in a statement Monday.
“The 1995 United States Department of State report on Human Rights Practices in Liberia documented credible reports that Boley authorized the extrajudicial executions of seven of his soldiers on Nov. 14, 1995.”
Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, created to ferret out human rights violations committed during the civil wars, in 2009 named Boley and seven others as Liberians who should be prosecuted for their acts. The LPC was particularly brutal, the commission determined.
In 1994, the LPC burned to death people accused of witchcraft, the commission was told in hearings.
Other witnesses said that in 1995 the LPC massacred 27 village residents, “ordering them to lie down before they slit their throats with cutlasses and raping the women before they killed them,” according to the statement from U.S. immigration officials.
In a 2009 interview with the Democrat and Chronicle, Boley said his organization tried to mend Liberia through peaceful means, not violence. Other groups shanghaied the name Liberia Peace Council and were the likely sources of the reported violence, he said.
Boley testified at length before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to date there has been no effort to launch a prosecution of him in Liberia.
Some activists contend that the civil wars were so littered with individuals committing hideous crimes that there is a loathing to revisit and reopen those wounds with prosecutions.
Human Rights Watch last year reported “little progress in ensuring justice for victims of war crimes committed during Liberia’s years of armed conflict, or in implementing the recommendations of the 2009 report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
Some peace activists say that Liberia has rebounded from the horrors of the wars. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Prudence Bushnell said in a telephone interview Monday that federal officials received credible evidence from the Liberian embassy that Boley was one of a number of warlords fomenting violence in the country.
“That was certainly the evidence that we were getting,” said Bushnell, who also served as an American ambassador to Kenya and Guatemala.
“The embassy would have political officers whose job it was to report on everything that was going on regarding the violence.”
Boley came to the United States almost four decades ago to attend The College at Brockport.
After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees there, he received his doctorate at the University of Akron.
In the years since, Boley has traveled to and from Liberia and even once ran for president of Liberia, an election in which he was thoroughly drubbed. Through the years, he has spent more time with his family here, holding down various jobs, including a stint as a Rochester City School District administrator.
His wife still lives in Clarkson and his children live in the United States.