‘Establishment of War Crimes Court Requires Effective Communication’

Jarmal Dehtho, Associate Dean, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia (UL)

-Grimes Law School Associate Dean suggests

An Associate Dean at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia (UL) said he believes that the idea behind the establishment of the War Crimes Court should be effectively communicated to not make it appear as witch-hunting.

According to Cllr. Jarmal Dehtho, citizens need to understand that there should be an established system with the responsibility to punish people accused of committing crimes against unarmed civilians as documented in the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report. These perpetrators, he said, should face justice to serve as a deterrent.

“If we have to build a society that is in adherence to the rule of law, then we need to communicate effectively with our people so that they can understand that perpetrators of violence must not be allowed to go free. They must be made to account for the crimes they have committed,” Dehtho told journalists recently in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County during the National Convention of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) that saw the election of Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe as president of the bar.

“Citizens should understand that without this court, there would be no punishment on the worst crimes committed by warlords. And these violent leaders [who] continue to plague the country all give reason for concern,” he said.

Dehtho disclosed that citizens need to know that the court has been successful in punishing people who had committed major crimes against humanity in other countries and, as such, it can also be successful in Liberia only if we were to communicate its objectives effectively to the citizens.

With this initiative, the UL Law School Dean believes that it would dispel the notion about the war crimes court being a witch hunt.

“Our citizens should understand that the war crimes court is not about witch hunt, [rather, a means of] holding people accountable on the wrongs they committed,” Dehtho said. “I strongly believe that people who committed crimes during the war should not go away freely but they must be made to account for their wrong.”

Dehtho’s call comes as the debate of the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia continues to trend on talk shows on nearly all the local radio stations in Nimba County, with many of the callers expressing opposing views taking into consideration the country’s development drives.

As for Saclepea City Mayor in Nimba County, Jeremiah Nyagian condemned the setting up of a war crimes and economic crimes court in the country, “because such exercise would delay the country’s development programs.”

He said, the issue of a war crimes court will be a calculated witch-hunt, where individuals perceived as former fighters from any of the erstwhile warring factions would be targeted. In so doing, he noted, the accused will not have fair justice.

Mayor Nyagian out-rightly condemned those who he said are the proponents for the establishment of war crimes court, asserting that they are not doing any good for the unity of the country.

Nimba County Superintendent, David Dorr Cooper, said if the war crimes court issue is done to cover all Liberians, it will not be fair and would not be considered as justice for all.

On the issues of Gongloe’s election, Dehtho said, was it ensure that the Bar speaks with a unified voice, which the elected president stands for.

“Under Gongloe leadership the Bar will not be silent anymore on crucial national issues. We are going to speak, but with a unified voice,” Dehtho disclosed, adding that although some lawyers individually speak on major national issues, this would not happen during the Gongloe administration.


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