International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

“The Redemption of General Butt Naked”

No joke….this is a real person, and a perpetrator of extreme atrocities.

The above is the title of a documentary film that is playing at Sundance this year that chronicles of the life of a former Liberian warlord who is responsible for murdering thousands amidst a civil war that was rife with child soldiers and fueled by blood diamonds. At Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission he confessed his responsibility for the killing of approximately 20,000 people.  He is now a Christian preacher who renounces violence, helps to socially reconstruct his community, and seeks redemption and  forgiveness.

This fascinating Daily Mail article from Nov, 2010 details the story and asks whether or not it is possible to forgive the “most evil man in the world” and provide justice to victims. And an interesting short BBC segment on General Butt Naked available on YouTube.

We’re not yet into our readings and discussions on truth commissions and related topic of reconciliation, but it’s an interesting case of different conceptions and expectations of justice.

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2 responses to ““The Redemption of General Butt Naked”

  1. ejbrewster February 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I think that this is a perfect example of some of the huge issues with international justice. Since the field caters to such a huge variety of people, and they cannot persecute everyone, there are leniencies, amnesties, etc. that are given to people who confess their crimes and seem to have repented. However this man, while he has taken a new religion, stopped killing and eating small children, and supplying them with cocaine and guns, he is still a man that was once capable of these atrocities. Should the admittance of guilt and repentance excuse the crimes he has committed? How does anyone know that he has really changed? As is stated in the Daily News article he “always sleeps well. No matter what.” He masked killings behind a tribal ritual that he even admitted in the interview to abused and killed unnecessarily. Should the admission of guilt by General Butt Naked, and other warlords like him excuse them from being tried for war crimes? That being he has said that ‘Yes. I would say I am guilty and if the law says I should be jailed for war crimes, then jail me. If the law says I should be hanged, then hang me.’

  2. nchapin February 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    This is an extremely contentious issue. While Blahyi’s efforts as a pastor have the positive effect of helping to redeem the great number of child soldiers in Liberia, his potential for attaining amnesty for his crimes could be seen as a failure of the international justice system. His outreach to perpetrators can be seen as a crucial component of the multilateral approach needed to properly alleviate these atrocities. However, devoting oneself to doing “God’s work” should not excuse any crimes. We must not forget that doing “God’s work” has been a expressed motivation and a thinly veiled excuse for many of the atrocities in human history (Lords Resistance Army, Spanish Inquisition.. etc.). While I do not think that confession and outreach work truly compensates for the atrocities this man committed, his work as a pastor is probably more beneficial to the community than his imprisonment. Nonetheless, if Blahyi is granted amnesty, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, it could be cited as a precedent (despite lack of consistency between International Justice tribunals) for leading perpetrators of atrocities to be granted leniency in exchange for confession and professed desires for redemption). I am curious to know what the people of Liberia, particularly any of Blahyi’s surviving victims, think about his quest for redemption, and whether or not he should be convicted. His compliance with all international justice efforts do make his intentions seem genuine, and I believe that while he should not be allowed to profit from his “redemption” he could potentially benefit the international justice system immensely as a professional consultant on tribal warfare in West Africa. It should also be considered that Blahyi and a majority of the perpetrators he now counsils were indoctrined into soldiering as children and cannot be judged accountable for all of their misdeeds.

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