Liberia: CSOs Coalition Disappointed in Liberian Voters

 Mr. Adama K Dempster

Concerns on the election and re-election of major warlords and individuals accused of war and economic crimes at the national legislature

Heads of over 30 human rights, civil society, religious, and development organizations have observed with grave concern the election and re-election of major warlords and individuals accused of war and economic crimes to the national legislature following the just-ended October 10, 2023, presidential and legislative elections.

The CSOs, under the banner of the Coalition for the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia (CEWAECCL) yesterday expressed further disappointment in some Liberian voters over the election of these individuals to public offices. 

Recently, the National Elections Commission declared former INPFL rebel leader and now Nimba County Senator, Prince Y. Johnson, winner of  senatorial election for his county, keeping him at the Capitol Building for nine more years in addition to the 18 years he had already served. Another former warlord and leader of the former MODEL rebel group, Thomas Nimley Yaya, also won the Senate seat for Grand Gedeh County.

“This is a classic example of the continual roadblocks faced by the past legislature, which had a propensity to undermine the quest for justice, accountability, and the advocacy for instituting a war and economic crimes court in Liberia,” the group said at a press conference held over the weekend in Paynesville.

The group’s statement was read by Adama Dempster, Lead Campaigner for the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.

CEWAECCL is an embodiment of the April 2023 National Convening of Justice Campaigners, Civil Society Organizations, War Victims, and Human Rights Community Resolution that sets out the Path to Achieving Accountability for Past Crimes in Liberia.

The CSOs Coalition has further reaffirmed its commitment to pursue justice and accountability for war victims and survivors alike, including women and youth who suffered heinous crimes perpetrated by warlords and fighting groups in Liberia.

The April 2023 resolution is a national document that was presented to the US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice (War Crimes) in Washington, DC, in May 2023. 

It was also presented to senior members of the US Congressional Staff in Washington, DC, as well as officials at the African Bureau of the U.S. State Department. Additionally, it was endorsed by the U.S.-based Liberian Diaspora group, "the Coalition for Justice in Liberia" (CJL), which enhanced rallying support to address the quest for justice in Liberia.

The CSO Coalition, “CEWAECCL”, further reminds Liberians that the election of these individuals violates the July 2018 United Nations Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations, which called on Liberia to ensure the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and noted with regret that “very few steps have been taken to implement the bulk of the recommendations issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009.”

The UN Committee notes with fear that none of the alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes mentioned in the TRC’s report have been brought to justice and that some of those individuals are or have been holding official or executive positions in the government.

The UN Committee further noted that the Government of Liberia “should, as a matter of priority, establish a process of accountability for past gross human rights violations and war crimes that conforms to international standards.”

The Committee also recommended that the Government of Liberia ensure that all alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes are impartially prosecuted and, if found guilty, convicted and punished in accordance with the gravity of the acts committed, regardless of their status or any domestic legislation on immunities, and remove any persons who are proven to have been involved in gross human rights violations and war crimes from official positions.”

The CSO-coalition, CEWAECCL, sees the elections of these individuals as a recipe for the continual promotion of the culture of impunity in Liberia and the determinant root cause that undermines the rule of law in Liberia.

However, the CSO-coalition (CEWAECCL) calls on the Liberian government, regional bodies, including human rights organizations and the international community, to strengthen democracy and the rule of law through the path to achieving accountability for past crimes and the promotion of justice in Liberia.