Adama K. Dempster, Secretary General for the civil society human rights advocacy platform of Liberia, recently met with US Ambassador for War Crimes Beth Van Schaack and US State Department staff, members of Congress, and senior Democrat and Republican Congressional staffers to present a resolution from civil society, the human rights community, and victims calling for the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.
The resolution, which was endorsed by civil society organizations, justice campaigners, war victims and survivors, and the human rights community of Liberia, highlights section 46 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act, which considers civil society organizations as moral guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the responsibility to monitor and campaign for the scrupulous implementation of all recommendations contained in the report.
The resolution calls on the US Government, as a historic friend of the people of Liberia, to take action to stand with victims by supporting the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia, including through assistance to conduct a needs assessment on setting up a court that can conduct fair, credible trials of civil wars-era crimes, encouraging a consultative process with the victims and survivors of these crimes, and delivering an unequivocal message to the Liberian government and the public in support of a war crimes court for Liberia.
The resolution also calls on all efforts to be made to emulate actions taken in the region, such as the recent trial for the 2009 stadium massacre in Guinea, prosecutions for atrocity crimes in Sierra Leone before the hybrid Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic, and the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal to deliver justice against crimes and atrocities including sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, torture, summary executions and massacres of civilians committed over the course of the civil wars-era that continue to go unpunished.
In response to the resolution, Ambassador Van Schaack tweeted: "Great to meet again with @AdamaDempster and discuss civil society’s collective resolution demanding justice for Liberia. Impunity for war crimes continues to affect all of Liberian society, and we stand with victims as they seek accountability."
Dempster also had the opportunity to attend the launch of the US-Africa Policy Working Group, chaired by Congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on May 11, 2023 in Washington DC. At the launch, Rep. Omar said that the Working Group would be active on the various urgent crises in Africa, from the conflicts in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the rash of coups and instability in West Africa and the Sahel. However, she also said that the Working Group would focus on the continent's many success stories, from Senegal's extraordinary leadership in global health to the inspiring African movements for democracy and human rights.
Dempster also had the opportunity to discuss the needs for justice in Liberia with Congressional staff during his DC trip. As Liberia counts down to the 20th anniversary of the end of the conflict in August, impunity remains a stain on the country that is contrary to the rights and needs of victims and appears to fuel various problems in the country relating to respect of rule of law, including persistent corruption.
President Weah has an opportunity to deliver on longstanding needs ahead of the August anniversary by at last taking concrete steps to begin the process to establish a court.