-Sierra Leone High Court official cautions Liberians, as LNBA endorses implementation of the TRC’s recommendations
Melron Nicol-Wilson, the barrister and solicitor of the High Court of Sierra Leone, says there is no reason for Liberians to harbor any fear of instability, if the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations that called for the establishment of a War and Economic Crime Courts were to be implemented.
Mr. Wilson, also a human rights lawyer, believes that people who committed crimes against humanity must be punished, in order to put an end to impunity.
His comment was contained in a speech he delivered when he served as one of the panelists during a three-day (March 28-30, 2019), Assembly of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), held in Kakata City, Margibi County.
Meanwhile, the LNBA overwhelmingly approved, voted for the implementation of the TRC’s report, including in particular, the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.
The Bar also calls on the government and all necessary state and non-state actors to take the necessary action in the realization of their approved decision.
Mr. Wilson added that those suspected of committing the worst crimes during Liberia’s civil war were no longer powerful to create instability in the country.
“They are no longer active to cause instability, so do not fear their threats if the courts were to be established,” the human rights lawyer told members of the LNBA, noting, “war crimes court will not undermine your country’s peace and stability.”
Wilson informed his audience that if Liberians were afraid of their own security, they should ask the international community to provide security for the process.
“The international community is disappointed over the slow pace of your implementation of the TRC recommendations, and now is the time for you to see the opportunity to act,” Wilson told his colleagues.
He spoke on the topic, “Accountability or Impunity, Putting a Closure to the 14 Years.”
He said in the case of Sierra Leone , the chapter for the bitter past has been closed, and respect for the rule of law has since been restored.
Wilson believes that the failure to hold war crime suspects accountable is an act of punishing people for lesser crimes, and letting people of greater crimes off the hook, “hence, a recipe for the commission of more heinous crimes.”
He meanwhile used the occasion to challenge members of the LNBA to play an active role in ensuring that Liberians accept or reject the TRC recommendation.
Counselor Francis Johnson Allison, former chief justice and Attorney Bartholomew B. Colley, Acting head of the Independent National Human Rights Commission, were two other panelists that presented on the same topic.
For Allison, there was a need to put an end to impunity by ensuring that those who perpetrated crimes against humanity are prosecuted and punished if found guilty.
“Failure to punish people who committed crimes will serve as an incentive for the continuous abuse of human rights and the commission of more crimes in the country,” the female lawyer maintained. She also previously served as Chief Justice of Liberia.
According to the former Chief Justice, accountability was not optional, thereby suggesting that Liberia should follow the experiences of Rwanda (East Africa) and Sierra Leone (West Africa) in ensuring accountability.
“Punishing crime is not self-executing, but the citizens should be involved because sovereignty does not reside with leaders, but the people, therefore, it is the people that must take the lead to maintaining law and order,” Johnson noted.
In his intervention, Atty. Colley said impunity or accountability in Liberia has been a “soft process.”
“For too long, we have been held hostage, but it is now time for us to ensure that the recommendations iare implemented,” Colley said.
He said he is of the opinion that interactive warring over land, human rights violations and commercial trade and political legitimacy were some of the reasons behind the 14 years (1989-2003) civil crisis.