Demonstrators gathered at the American Embassy to present their petition demanding the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia (Photo: Greg H. Stemn)
Demand establishment of war and economic crimes court in Liberia
Hundreds of Liberians under the banner "Campaigners and Victims For Justice," yesterday, November 12, marched through the principal streets of Monrovia to present petitions to the American Embassy, European Union, United Nations and to the office of President George Weah, calling for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes' Court in Liberia to seek justice for victims of the 14 years civil conflict (1989-2003).
The protest march which created a traffic gridlock across Monrovia, was well attended by a mix of old people, youth, children, and even street hustlers including Zogos, who sang and danced as they trooped from their assembly point at the Centennial Pavilion to the United States Embassy and then to the European Union office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and finally to the United Nations headquarters on Tubman Boulevard, crying for justice for their loved ones and families victimized during the war.
In a related development, a separate group of demonstrators had also besieged the entire Jallah Town route connecting the Capitol By-Pass demanding the restoration of electricity to the community, which the protesters claimed had been in darkness for over three weeks.
Meanwhile the war crimes protesters continued singing and chanting "We are the victims we can't get tired, the pro-poor government we want justice, Liberian people what you want... .we want justice, your leave us oh da justice we want... "
A concerned Liberian resident from Canada, Emmanuel Savice, who led the protest action declared, "We are serious about justice and accountability because no country will develop without ending the culture of impunity. If you ever think that God will come down and bless us, the two hundred and fifty thousand souls will continue to keep us down until we seek justice in this country."
When asked about the views of those Liberians that are calling for restorative justice, instead, Savice angrily said, "We want retributive justice for our people we lost their lives. You can't tell me what I want. I lost my three brothers, one sister, my mother is still mourning for them. That is why I am pushing for international justice for every human being who his or her life."
Continuing, Savice said the current government campaigned on a platform for justice, "so they must stand up and listen to the cry of innocent Liberians who lost their parents and other relatives during the war and give them justice."
The protesters in their Petition said that crimes committed by the perpetrators violated international criminal laws, international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws and therefore they should not go unpunished.
Savice said there are facts and evidence that tell the sad and ugly story of the country which is readily and conspicuously available in every nook and cranny of the country.
"Heads of warring factions were involved in the massive killing of our people and the destruction of our country and they still walk freely in the midst of their victims that they violated, degraded, abused, vilified, raped and sexually enslaved during the heydays of their violence," he said.
Savice said, "These war criminals' massacred and engaged in extra-judicial killings, and other unthinkable crimes against their victims and they still linger in the minds of Liberians, owing to the fact that justice is being delayed and denied."
He said the sorrow and agony of the Liberian people lie in the ugly fact that these very war criminals have been rewarded with state power in all its ramifications, thereby giving them political control over their victims against their will.
"This kind of scenario continues to torment and psychologically affect the people of Liberia. It is no secret that the Liberian brutal civil war produced numerous massacres like the killings of the five Catholic Nuns, the Sinje Massacre, the St. Peter's Lutheran Church Massacre in Sinkor and others," he said.
The petitioners said only a War Crimes Court will bring justice to the families, relatives, and friends of victims who were gruesomely murdered and raped. Savice said seeking justice for these barbaric crimes is the only way to right the wrong, reconcile the country and its people and finally end the culture of impunity in Liberia.
"It will be sad, regrettable and shameful for the world to let these atrocities go unpunished. It will be disappointing and a mistake for such heinous crimes to go unpunished. These appalling crimes must be investigated, and the required judicious measures taken to avoid replication in the future," he said.
Savice further maintained, "Also on record is the persistent greed and dishonesty of leaders of the country who also, with impunity continue to unduly amass wealth for themselves, thereby subjecting the entire citizenry to horrible poverty." He said the constant wave of corruption which pervades the country keeps the people in a state of poverty and disease has denied them basic life incentives because people elected to power personalize the country's wealth at their detriment.
He said corruption in government must be wiped out to bring about the needed development in the country. "Corruption is eating up every part of Liberia, impoverishing 90% of the citizenry. It is eating up the entire country making development stagnant,". Savice said corruption is the vice responsible for reducing many citizens to beggars on a daily basis and it must stop, he emphasized.
Hannah N. Geterminah