11 May 2010

Liberia: Need to Address Past Violations Extends Beyond TRC Process

press release

Despite serious weaknesses in the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, accountability and victims' rights are critical to Liberia's recovery process and the TRC's recommendations must still be debated and taken forward, said the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) today in the release of its report - Beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Transitional Justice Options in Liberia.

"The issues raised by the TRC process, including the need for justice, accountability, and reconciliation, are critical to the country's future and its possibilities for sustained peace," said Suliman Baldo, director of ICTJ's Africa Program.

The ICTJ report is based on extensive research and monitoring. It reviews the truth-seeking process, examines the TRC final report, and suggests a number of steps that Liberians can take to meet the needs of victims and account for past violations.

Among the TRC report's weaknesses are a lack of evidentiary data, coherence between and within sections, specificity, and the unanimous support of all commissioners, two of whom refused to endorse it. These factors have raised doubts about the viability of the TRC's more controversial recommendations on prosecutions and lustration, with questions about whether and how these can be implemented.

Since its publication in December 2009, the TRC report and its recommendations have received wide media coverage and have generated diverse responses from the public, civil society, the government, and the international community. Most of these reactions have centered on the recommendations dealing with prosecutions and lustration.

The ICTJ report emphasizes the need for a comprehensive debate on the TRC recommendations, one that is inclusive of all stakeholders. It covers a range of issues critical to Liberia's post-conflict recovery efforts, which include the need for criminal accountability, reparations, memorialization, and institutional reform.  Among its recommendations are:

·         The executive should publish a white paper outlining its policy position and overall response to the TRC report.

·         Existing government commissions should incorporate relevant TRC recommendations into their own workplans and strategy documents.

·         Civil society should monitor and report on all TRC follow-up activities.

"It is essential that Liberia's government and its people—including Liberia's vibrant human rights community, as well as its key international partners—take steps to overcome the limitations of the TRC report. Detractors should not be permitted to exploit the TRC's weaknesses to stifle debate on how Liberia can effectively prevent a repeat of its violent and turbulent past," Baldo continued.

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