16 July 2012

Liberia: Dr. Dahn - Liberia Is Not Ready for War Crimes Court

The Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, Dr. Marcus G. Dahn, has disclosed that Liberia is not yet ready for the establishment of war crimes court in the country.

Dr. Dahn was one of the founding members of the Progressive Movement in the late 1980s in Liberia. According to him, Liberia's peace is still fragile and as such establishing a war crimes court would result to chaos. He stated that chaos would erupt when the court is established because wounds inflicted during the 14-year-civil conflict are still fresh and need to firstly be healed.

He made these comments on Friday, July 13, 2012 in an interview with this paper in Monrovia.Dr. Dahn noted that violence is still 'prevalent in the Liberian society' adding that, Liberia should now concentrate on political and economic stabilities. He stressed that the war crimes court cannot be established presently also because of dishonesty and division amongst Liberians.

He stated that the nation needs to be politically and economically stable in order to move forward in a positive direction. Dr. Dahn pointed out that Liberians need 'enough time to reflect on the past in order to be sober and calm' because the prolonged civil war in the Liberia affected every citizen.'

He said citizens should take responsibility of their actions and stop shifting blames on others. The Chairman of the Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD) further noted that the setting up of an independent, genuine and credible war crimes court will help increase economic burden on the nation. He maintained that 'Liberia stands to benefit nothing if the court is speedily created.'

"Base on our experience and looking at the future, we think that Liberia is not yet ready for a war crime court in this country. Liberia's peace is still fragile and not yet firm. Liberians need to begin to trust each other and say the truth. We should take the responsibility of our actions and make rational decision that will help protect posterity.

Let us not rush to judgment because if you look at the situation, the war affected everybody in this country. Many people fought the war either because of ethnicity, territorial integrity or for political reasons. It is not appropriate at this particular time for Liberia to establish a war crime court," he noted. He suggested that the court should be established 20 years from now in order to allow 'Liberians to be honest with one another and ensure that Liberia is prominently stable.'

The DMD for administration at the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs termed as 'ill-timely' the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2003. According to Dr. Dahn, it was 'too early for the TRC process because Liberia was just from another war.' He recommended for the TRC to be re-visited.

The Progressive stated that this should be done because many Liberians told lies during the TRC's hearing. Dr. Dahn called for war crime perpetrators to be prosecuted in what he calls a 'timely manner.' He urged members of the legislature to critically reflect on the bill seeking to establish war crime court here. It can be recalled that Grand Bassa County Representative Byron Brown submitted a bill to the House calling for the establishment of a war crime court in the country.

"We should not rush in trying to establish this war crime court because this will have impact on our country. What does Liberia stand to benefit if we do it now? War perpetrators should eventually be brought to justice. Immediately after the war, the TRC was setup. Some people testified with emotions and some of them didn't say the truth," Dr. Dahn amongst other things said.

At the same time, a group calling itself Citizens United for the Establishment of War Crime Court in Liberia (CUEWCL) has maintained its stance for the creation of the court in the country. According to the Executive Director of CUEWCL, Mr. Julius Jensen, the court should be established in order to prosecute those that bear the 'greater responsibility' of the civil unrest in Liberia.

He said war crime perpetrators must be prosecuted to serve as deterrent for others would-be violators. He stated that those that committed heinous crimes and crime against humanity should not go with impunity. Mr. Jensen called for the full implementation of the TRC's recommendations. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson, Mr. Alhaji Kromah amongst others have been indicted by the erstwhile TRC.

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