Liberia: U.S. Lawmaker Red Flags 'Deterioration of Political Conditions' in Liberia

President George M. Weah, during his second Annual Address to the joint session of the National Legislature on January 28, 2019.

Washington — Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa and co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, who was instrumental in pressuring Nigeria to turn over former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes trial in Sierra Leone has expressed concerns regarding to deteriorating and worsening political conditions in Liberia.

In a statement Tuesday, the New Jersey lawmaker said:

"Human rights advocates are increasingly alarmed by the deterioration of civil and political rights and the corruption that is occurring in Liberia under President George Weah. I am especially concerned by allegations surrounding Monrovia Mayor Jefferson Koijee and the thuggish behavior of the Congress for Democratic Change Security Force he heads.

"Credible allegations of serious human and civil rights violations-including attempted murder, rape, unlawful arrest, detention and torture-have been attributed to Mayor Koijee by the International Justice Group, a US-based non-government organization.

"Especially in light of our historic ties to Liberia, the United States Congress will be closely monitoring the mass public demonstration that is scheduled to occur on December 30 in Monrovia, and I call upon the government of Liberia to respect the free speech and assembly rights of Liberian citizens. Anyone who suppresses these fundamental rights, or engages in ongoing corrupt acts, may very well become subject to targeted Global Magnitsky sanctions."

Rep. Smith who has been in the US congress since 1980, serves residents of the Fourth Congressional District of New Jersey. He has previously served as a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and is Ranking Member of its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee. He is the Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and Ranking Member of the bipartisan House/Senate/White House Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), serving as chairman twice, and also serves as "Special Representative" on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Previously, he served as Co-Chair and highest-ranking House member of the bipartisan House/Senate Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) serving as chairman five times, and served as Chairman of the Veterans Committee (two terms), the Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Operations, and the Subcommittee on Africa.

Congressman Smith has long chaired a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses.

In 2003, the US lawmaker was among several who signed a letter to US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice urging the White House to push for the turnover of former President Charles Taylor.

In April 2012, Rep. Smith hailed the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague for rendering what he described as a "clear and just verdict" in the case of notorious human rights offender Charles Taylor. "After a trial lasting five years, the Court found former warlord and Liberian President Charles Taylor guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, ranging from terrorist acts to rape to enslavement to murder," Rep. Smith wrote.

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