Liberia: Rep. Richard Koon Advocates for the Repealing of Act Granting Immunity to All Partakers of the Liberia Civil War

As part of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) process, former rebels in Liberia wait to exchange their weapons for cash. They will also attend training for reinsertion into civilian life.

Monrovia — Montserrado County District # 11 Representative Richard Koon has vowed to lead a campaign to ensure that the Amnesty Law granting clemency to perpetrators of war crimes and atrocities committed during the warring days in Liberia is repeal by members of the 54th National Legislature.

Representative Koon of the former ruling Unity Party (UP) is one of the lawmakers who signed a resolution, calling for the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) to guarantee the prosecution of war perpetrators.

It can be recalled that the 51st National Legislature, during the administration of ex-Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor, enacted a 'hidden Act' which grants amnesty to all persons associated with Liberia's civil war beginning December 1989 to August 2003 is brought to the fore.

The Act, a copy of which FrontPageAfrica has obtained, is titled "An Act to Grant Immunity from Both Civil and Criminal Proceeding against All Persons within the Jurisdiction of the Republic of Liberia From Acts or Crimes Committed During the Civil War From December 1989 to August 2003."

The Act was published on August 8, 2003 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was not repealed before the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which calls for the establishment of such court.

But speaking when he appeared as guest on the OK Morning Rush on OK FM99.5 on Tuesday, May 25, Representative Koon observed that most former warlords are hiding behind the Amnesty Law to shy away from being held accountable for their actions during the 14-years civil crisis in the country.

He observed that these former warlords are gradually fading away or aging, and as such, a war and economic crimes court must be established to accord them the opportunity to tell their stories to the world.

According to him, Liberia's history will not be totally completed if these war perpetrators are not giving their days in court.

"There is no perfect timing for the war crimes court. I don't care how much you delay it. For now, it is needed most often to the extent that most of these people who took part in the war are fading away and there will be no time to know their part of the story. It is from the war crimes court-those assertions that are made from these hearings- that people build up history for the country".

Representative Koon observed that most of those who are afraid for the court to be established in Liberia are citizens who committed atrocities.

He made specific reference to the former notorious leader of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) rebel group, Senator Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County.

The INPFL, under the command of Senator Johnson, captured, tortured and brutally killed ex-Liberian President Samuel K. Doe on September 9, 1990.

"People are afraid of war crimes court because they feel that they committed atrocities and they are the target; no. Like for Honorable Prince Johnson (Senator of Nimba County)-who whenever he hears about war crimes court-he (Johnson) gets so irritated. Prince Johnson's reliance that the war crimes court will not take place in Liberia is the fact that, he's looking at Article 97 and the Amnesty Law that was passed by the 51st National Legislature", Representative Koon stated.

The vow

Representative Koon emphasized that the Amnesty Act remains a major obstacle to the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.

Until the Act is repealed and Article 97 suspended, he added that, the court cannot be established to ensure that war crimes perpetrators do not go with impunity.

"That (Amnesty) Act exonerates all those who took part in war from the 1980s to 2003. One of the things I am going to proffer these few days is to make sure we repeal that Act. If we do not repeal it, it is an obstacle to establishing the war crimes court and the issue of Article 97 can be suspended also".

Article 97 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution states that:

No executive, legislative, judicial or administrative action taken by the People's Redemption Council or by any persons, whether military or civilian, in the name of that Council pursuant to any of its decrees shall be questioned in any proceedings whatsoever; and, accordingly, it shall not be lawful for any court or other tribunal to make any order or grant any remedy or relief in respect or any such act. B) No court or other tribunal shall entertain any action whatsoever instituted against the Government of Liberia, whether before or after the coming into force of this Constitution or against any person or persons who assisted in any manner whatsoever in bringing about the change of Government of Liberia on the 12th day of April, 1980, in respect of any act or commission relating to or consequent upon: (i) The overthrow of the government in power in Liberia before the establishment of the government of the People's Redemption Council; (ii) The suspension of the Constitution of Liberia of July 26, 1847; (iii) The establishment, functioning and other organs established by the People's Redemption Council; (iv) The imposition of any penalties, including the death penalty, or the confiscation of any property by or under the authority of the People's Redemption Council under a decree made by the Council in pursuance of but not limited to the measures undertaken by the Council to punish persons guilty of crimes and malpractices to the detriment of the Liberian nation, the people, the economy, or the public interest; and (v) The establishment of this Constitution".

Finance not the problem

Representative Koon noted that Liberia and its citizens should not see the issue of galvanizing the necessary financial resources as an obstacle towards the formation of the court in the country.

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