Liberia: War Crimes Court Bill Under Review

13 September 2019

The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) says it is completing its revision of the first draft of a bill for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia, following several suggestions made by Liberian and foreign experts on the instrument.

"The recent statements coming from eminent Liberians in support of the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia support the positions of the Liberian National Bar Association and a broad coalition of civil society organizations in Liberia on the issue of the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia," the Bar says.

Through a press release issued in Monrovia Thursday, 12 September, the LNBA has hailed the National Traditional Council and the participants in the National Economic Dialogue (NED) for the calls on government to establish a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.Pressure has been building here on the administration of President George Manneh Weah for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court to hold accountable, those who committed war and economic crimes during the Liberian civil conflict.

An estimated over 250,000 victims were killed during the crisis, others displaced and properties worth millions of dollars destroyed.

But over the years one of the challenges here has been that electorate have repeatedly been awarding warlords with political powers, which to a greater extent is seen to be undermining efforts to establish the court.

"These statements are clear manifestations of the support of the broad masses of the Liberian people for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia," the LNBA notes.

Additionally, the Liberian National Bar Association condemns the current wave of violence in various parts of the country, and commends the Government of Liberia for speedily and successfully prosecuting the young men who recently comitted murder and gang rape in Sione County.

"Such swift action by government will strengthen respect for the rule of law and human rights throughout Liberia, consistent with the general desire of the Liberian people to build a better Liberia in which peace, progress and prosperity will be perpetual," the LNBA continues.

It calls on government to swiftly bring to justice those who allegedly adopted and committed gang rape and other grave offenses against Ms. Jestina Taylor, nearly a month ago."The president and vice president of the LNBA recently visited Ms. Taylor at the Catholic Hospital and listened to her account of what happened to her, although she was experiencing great pain as a result of the alleged criminal acts committed against her," the LNBA indicates.

The LNBA calls on women groups throughout the country to show deep concern for Ms. Taylor by visiting her and pressuring government to identify and prosecute those who perpetrated such grave offenses against her.

The Bar warns here that "It should always be remembered that the violation of the rights of all begins with the violation of the right of one person."It urges government to take serious actions against individuals and groups who are still engaged in trial by ordeal, otherwise known here as sassywood.

The Bar reminds that such practice was declared unconstitutional in all its forms in the case: Boyah et al v. Horace, decided by the Supreme Court of Liberian in 1916, as reported in Volume 2 of the Liberian Law Reports.

The LNBA indicates that it has observed that over the years, sassywood has been used to justify the killings of many innocent Liberians in rural Liberia.It cites the case of the River Gee massacre that occurred over a decade ago in which 14 young men murdered six elderly Liberians in Fleuroken, River Gee County as one example of the product of sassywood.

"The LNBA therefore calls on Government to expeditiously bring to justice those who just a week ago, committed mass murder in Rock Town, Barrobo, Maryland County, in the name of punishing the victims, based on the outcome of a trial by ordeal which declared said victims guilty of being involved in witchcraft," the release says.-Press release

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