-says PUL President
As the debate for the establishment of an extraordinary court for accountability of past crimes continues in the public space, Charles B. Coffey, President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), has told the Liberian Senate that justice is the perfect recipe for every peaceful society.
The Senate had invited him to provide his expert view on a number of the important issues raised by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and its recommendations.
“We support the court because it provides a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences and get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation,” Coffey said, concurring with advocates of accountability for past crimes.
He expressed support for the establishment of the proposed Transitional Justice Commission (TJC), to the end that the TJC address the barriers affecting the implementation of the TRC recommendations and the establishment of the war crimes tribunal. However, he is also concerned that the TJC should not be political and that its commissioners must have short tenures in office to avoid political interest, something Coffey believes will enable people to submit themselves for investigation freely.
“PUL subscribes to the rule of law and believes that impunity should not be given a room in Liberian society,” Coffey said.
“When we adhere to the Rule of Law, we believe that the Constitution of the land will be protected, and those that committed a heinous crime against humanity will bear the penalty for their actions,” he said.
Coffey told the Liberian Senate that issues like war crimes including torture and the violation of human rights require justice, adding, “Lack of access to justice reinforces existing inequities.”
He said in the spirit of national reconciliation, it is important to deal with the root causes of the crisis in Liberia, including human rights violations and recommended measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims of human rights violations.
Coffey named distributive, procedural, retribution, and restorative as the four types of justice, among which a decision of the kind of justice that is needed by the country can be determined in line with the way people were treated during conflict.
“We believe that the Senate is proceeding rightly because the union believes that besides all of the conversations that are ongoing across the country about the establishment of a war and economic crime court, action is required to implement the TRC recommendations and provide justice for victims and perpetrators pay for their crimes,” he told the Senate.
The PUL President said if not all, most of the recommendations in the TRC report must be implemented including the Palava Hut interactions.
He said reparation is very important in the TRC, which stresses the need to establish a fund drive for victims to be treated fairly, noting, “This is the reason we are calling on the Legislature to ensure that this year’s budget has funds allocated with the aim of identifying victims because both the TJC and TRC are meant to investigate gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian laws as well as abuses that occurred including massacre, sexual violation, and economic crime such as the exploitation of natural resources from 1979 to October 2003.
Giving the reason why the union supports the TJC, Coffey said such a group will analyze all of the concerns and set the roadmap that will move the country forward.
According to him, constitutional provision granting amnesty to perpetrators will cause more delay for the establishment of war and economic crimes court in Liberia.
Speaking about the economic crimes court, Coffey said, “There are laws already in our land and we should not wait for an international court to prosecute people who commit economic crimes.”
He stressed that having an economic crimes court will help the country to alleviate poverty, noting that the two courts must be separated to ensure speedy actions.