Former warlord-turned-Nimba County Senator, Prince Yormie Johnson, has advised victims of the Liberian civil conflict to seek justice in Liberia's criminal court and abandon the idea of a war crimes tribunal.
The Senator, alias PYJ, said the criminal court was established to adjudicate criminal cases arising in the country and not a war crimes court. He said it would be impossible to prosecute alleged warlords at war crimes court in the country because the government has granted general amnesty to all of them.
The general amnesty, he said, pardons not only warlords but also ex-combatants accused of human rights violations and atrocities committed during the civil conflict. "There is an amnesty law, a general amnesty passed by the Liberian Legislature and signed into hand bill, granting amnesty to all ex-combatants and Liberians that may be accused as warlords," he said.
His statements came in response to questions posed to him about his opposition to the tribunal by Legislative reporters outside the Capitol Building on Tuesday July 10, 2012, in Monrovia. The Capitol Building is the seat of the Legislature.
"We have a criminal court here.
Anyone who has case against anybody let them go to the criminal court, the criminal court exists by law," Senator Johnson, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense, Security and Veteran Affairs, told reporters. The Formal leader of the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) reemphasized that any "illegal implementation" of the controversial final report of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission will trigger "instability" in Liberia.
Senator Johnson, amongst others, was indicted in the TRC report as the "most notorious perpetrator" of the Liberian arm rebellion. According to Senator Johnson, names are being picked from the TRC report for onward submission to the Internal Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague, Netherlands to facilitate war crimes prosecution.
He said such a move will circumvent the TRC recommendation. Amongst other things, Senator Johnson said the TRC recommendations call for a Palaver Hut approach before any form of prosecution can take place. The Palaver hut approach set out in the TRC report requires "perpetrators" of the war to confess to their "wrong doings" and seek forgiveness from their victims.