-Cllr. Gongloe says in response to Sen. PYJ’s political support
Tough-talking human rights lawyer Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe has refuted claims that the people of Nimba County are not in support of War Crimes Court in the country, even though some of them allegedly committed heinous atrocities against other Liberians during the 14-year civil unrest (1989-2003).
Though Cllr. Gongloe sees the issue of a war crimes court from a general perspective, many of his kinsmen participated in the 14-year civil conflict due to suspected systematic killings of Gios and Manos (two major tribal groups) by state security forces before and during the civil war; something Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, a former fighter, has always used as an excuse for torturing and killing President Samuel Kanyon Doe under the glare of television cameras.
While it is true that such tribal rift existed between the people of Grand Gedeh and Nimba counties, Gongloe said he does not support any form of killing while advocating for a genuine cause as a human rights lawyer.
In a joint press conference with heads of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Monrovia on Tuesday, September 25, Cllr. Gongloe said there is no freedom or immunity for Nimbaians, including Senator Johnson, that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report recommended to a future war crimes court for investigation and prosecution.
“I was once called by my own big brother, Senator Johnson, who questioned me as to whether I have referred to him as a killer. And to be very frank with you journalists, I told him that unless he has a different name or terminology for one who kills, I am certain that he deserves the title “killer,” because he has killed and ordered the killing of people during the war,” Gongloe said.
He brushed aside any reason to be afraid for his life for continuing his advocacy for the establishment of a war crimes court in the country. “There is no reason why I should be afraid,” the learned lawyer said.
“My love for this country, to which Nimba is a subdivision, is more important and above any love I have for anyone, any institution or a group of people who may appear to be my friends,” Gongloe added in his strongly worded opinion.
He referred to the perpetrators of the war as cowards, and called on the public to support all effort geared towards bringing both the victims and those who inflicted the indelible scars on them to the point where the law would prevail.
“Many times I hear people say we should forgive and forget about the ugly past, but to me, it sounds foolish. Meting justice against lawlessness and unorthodox actions committed by people against another group of people is a very unique way to move forward. No one should go unpunished,” he declared.
Another concern of Cllr. Gongloe regarding the establishment of a war crimes court in the country is that the sooner it is done, the better opportunity it will present for pieces of evidence to be adduced.
Affirming Cllr. Gongloe’s assertion of the need to do away with class or ethnicity as the quest for justice swells, the director of Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), Hassan Bility, said inasmuch as he too is from Nimba, he will not stand with those who have inflicted suffering on innocent Liberians.
He said the arrests of Jungle Jabbah, Thomas Woewiyu, and Kunti K, the latter being an erstwhile battlefield commander of the defunct United Liberation Movement (ULIMO) of Alhaji G.V. Kromah, were carried out based on the tips his organization provided to the United States and the French governments.
Kunti K’s arrest followed a complaint filed in July by Civitas Maxima, a Switzerland-based human rights group that works in collaboration with the Liberia-based GJRP headed by Bility.
“What is very important for this case is how it includes in a broader situation former war commanders or people that allegedly committed war crimes all over the world and how they are facing criminal charges. This is one more,” said Romain Wavre, legal associate with Civitas Maxima.
“I believe that this will not stop; this is what the Liberian people want,” Wavre added.
The TRC documented that ULIMO committed 11,500 atrocities beginning in Lofa County where they first launched the insurgency under the command of Alhaji G.V. Kromah.