A Liberian actor files $25m lawsuit against UNICEF for alleged child abuse

A Liberian actor has filed a $25 million lawsuit against UNICEF for alleged child abuse over his starring role aged 13 in a fundraising film as a murderous child soldier who tortures his victims.

Mike James, now 28, says he and other cast members have been stigmatised as rebels, killers, cannibals and drug addicts after being recruited for the 1997 film Soldier Boy and made to act out eating human body parts.

In a writ filed in a west African human rights court earlier this month, James says he was paid $300 by a Danish production team hired by UNICEF for the docu-drama and duped into believing it would get limited distribution when in fact it went worldwide.

The UN child protection agency's Liberian office provided active support and collaboration to the Danish crew which recruited children from schools and orphanages to act in the short film, the writ says.

James' lawyer Syrenus Cephas told AFP yestersday the children were assured the film was for private viewing by potential donors but copies landed across Africa and abroad, where it was shown in cinemas and video clubs as well as private homes.