9 May 2018

Liberians Pressure Government, Legislature for Establishment of War Crime Court

Photo: Special Court for Sierra Leone
Transfer of Charles Taylor for trial for war crimes in the Hague (file photo).

Monrovia — A segment of the Liberian society is getting impatient with the utmost disregard for justice for victims of the country's brutal civil war. That group of people has therefore submitted a petition to their Legislature for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court.

The petitioners under the banner "Citizens of the Republic of Liberia" believe until the instigators of the war and perpetrators of atrocities face justice, the country would not be truly reconciled.

Liberia's civil war lasted almost a decade and half (1989-2003) and recorded a death toll of over 250,000.

The war was one of Africa's bloodiest. Child soldiers were used throughout the war.

The civil war claimed the lives of one out of every 17 people in the country, uprooted most of the rest, and destroyed a once-viable economic infrastructure. The strife also spread to Liberia's neighbors. It helped slow democratization in West Africa at the beginning of the 1990s and destabilized a region that already was one of the world's unsteadiest.

Unfortunately, the culture of impunity is the order of the day with many accused of committing heinous atrocities parading the corridors of political power, even in the legislature.

In the introduction of their petition, the proponents of the establishment of a war crimes court in the country noted, "Recounting on major challenges of the 12 years leadership of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; Reconciliation and Corruption remain key amongst many. In this light, we will like for the Honorable House of Representatives to act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) Report, submitted to the Government and people of Liberia on June 30, 2009, currently before the House but has suffered set-back due to reasons we don't know."

According to the petitioners, fully implementing the TRC recommendations would reconcile the thousands of Liberians, who still feel aggrieved by the manner in which they were victimized during the war.

Reading the petition on the grounds of the Capitol, Mr. Fubi Henries, who is leading the campaign, said, implementing the TRC recommendations would also not only rewrite Liberia's history that culture of impunity is over, but it would also bring peace of mind to those who lost their loved ones and been going through trauma from the impact of the war. It would also serve as a deterrent for future conflicts.

"This is our cry, we want justice. This country cannot have genuine peace without justice. Therefore, the establishment of the War Crimes Court is inevitable. Even the heavens require judgment for our actions here on earth," the petition noted.

The group argued that prosecuting perpetrators of the war is tantamount to enforcing laws on rape, murder, damage of property, adoption, and exposing kids to danger, amongst others.

In addition to war crime court, Henries and his cohorts say it is empirical to also prosecute individuals who have been placed on records for misappropriating state's resources up to January 21, 2018. This, they said, should be done through the establishment of an Economic Crimes Court. "This is important to keep the current government officials in check. And to let them know that the era of Liberia being an 'elephant meat' is over," they noted.

The petition: "A total review of all the pending audit reports with no action needs to be totally fast tracked and those who will be guilty of any fraudulent activities be dealt with according to the law."

The petition was signed by Fubbi Henries (Fubbi Foundation for Dev. & Sus. Inc.), Franklin K. Wesseh (Citizens Action), Alex L. Swaray (Flomo Theatre Inc.), Jonathan T. Dolakeh (Citizens Action), Siaffa Kanneh (National Student Movement), Global Justice & Research Project, Lovetta Tugba (Coalition for Justice), Duke Murphy (Radio Monrovia), Jacob A. D. Kollie (National Student Movement), Richard Allen (Citizens Action), Lawrence C. Konton (Citizens Action) Success Williams (Fubbi Foundation), Liberia Trust Communications and Asatu Toure (Citizens Action).

Rep. A. Kaneo Wesso of Gbarpolu County, co-chair of the House Judiciary Committee received the petition and promised to ensure that justice is served.

Speaking to FrontPageAfrica, the forerunner of the campaign for war crimes court, Henries, said he is confident that President George Manneh Weah would heed to their call.

"President Weah over the last 12 years was advocating for war crimes court when he was in the opposition, we strongly believe that now that he's President, he is going to ensure that we have a war crimes court in this country," he said.

According to him, Liberians cannot continue to condone the culture of impunity and allow individuals who looted the national coffers and committed atrocities continue to gallivant in the presence of their victims who are yet to get justice.

"This country would not truly reconcile if the victims of war do not get justice. We can't continue living as if everything is okay when it is not. We can't continue holding the grief when those who committed the acts pass around freely. There must be justice for the aggrieved," he added.

In a related development, the Liberia Civil War Endowment Memorial Foundation (LCWMEF), will hold the 2nd International Symposium on the Future of Liberia from July 25-26, 2017 at the Penn Hotel, New York, USA.

The forum would be held under the theme: Reform, Redress, & Reconciliation: The Pathway to Sustainable Peace, Human Rights, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Postwar Liberia.

The symposium seeks to build consensus amongst local and international actors in respect of the future of Liberia and to create a platform for dialogue in order to explore the best options and practices for exacting accountability for the legacy of abuses that characterized the years of arm conflicts in Liberia.

The symposium shall further reflect on abuses occasioned by years of bad governance. Through open conversations, it will delve into Liberia's painful past with the hope of consolidating peace, sustainability of social and economic development and upholding our nascent democracy while harnessing the respect and protection of human rights in Liberia underpinned by enhanced rule of law.

The US-based group lamented that since the end of the brutal civil war, which took place from April 14, 1979 to August 18, 2003 with immense socio-economic and humanitarian consequences, the country is yet to fully address, among others, the primary causes and factors of the bloodshed and the implement the numerous recommendations contained in the Final Report of the TRC.

President Weah has been invited to deliver the keynote address on the topic: "Defining the CDC pro-poor government vision for redress, sustainable peace, reconciliation and development in Liberia."

This symposium promises to be graced by the attendance of representatives of the UN, EU, ECOWAS, AU, US government and other international bodies including heads of Liberian political parties, civic and youth organizations, human rights organizations, members of the defund Liberian TRC commissions are expected to attend.

Survivors of Liberian political carnage are expected to give statements during each session of the symposium.

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