Former Chief Justice Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott says if the government wants to succeed in unifying the country, it needs to support the establishment of the the war crimes court to bring to justice those responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, during the country’s 14 years of civil-conflict.
“We should not allow people who perpetrated those crimes just walk away without acknowledging that they did evil against innocent people during the war,” Cllr, Scott said.
Cllr. Scott, who also once served as chairperson of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), noted that it was now time for Liberians to break that vicious cycle of allowing people to go unpunished whenever they committed crimes, particularly during the so called 1979 ‘rice riot’, which later led to the 1990 civil crisis where more than 250,000 Liberians lost their lives.
She made the statement when she installed officials-elect of the Alliance for Transitional Justice (ATJ.)
Cllr. Scott recounted that the “rice riot ended in chaos, there has been no one held accountable which, according to her, was the birth of impunity in the country.”
“Since then, our nation had been divided and then came the 1980 coup that led to the violent overthrow former President William T. Tolbert, Jr. Again, impunity prevails over accountability and justice, where we agreed to insert into our Constitution a clause that considered all acts leading to, and after the coup, unquestioned and unpunished,” Cllr, Scott said.
Impunity, she noted, was the deprivation of indigenous people of their land that was enshrined into the 1847 Constitution.
“I have to confess that it was in 2016, while looking through the 1847 Constitution that I understood the land was taken away from our people — their access to economic opportunities — and this is the anger we continue to see over the years, and that injustice needs to be addressed,” Scott said.
She added, “Today, that justice has to be discussed when the people stand against the government, saying ‘you are taking our resources’, but up to present, nothing has happened; there is injustice we need to address.”
Reverend Dr. Samuel J. Quire, Jr., Resident Bishop of the Liberia Episcopal Area and the United Methodist Church (UMC), admonished Liberians to uphold justice.
“Justice becomes necessary when it hurts a person, but becomes unnecessary when it affects another person. Justice is blind, and the administration of justice should consider no interest and person.”
He expressed the eagerness of the UMC as member of the Alliance to stand for the truth, and defend same.
Bishop D. Jensen Seyenkulo of the Lutheran Church highlighted the importance of unity in the fight against impunity. He maintained that “unity of purpose, respect for diversity and selflessness was more sustainable, as opposed to a singular fight that scores little impact and has a minimum chance for sustainability.
He pleaded with Liberians to accept healing, genuine reconciliation, and to use history as the tool to inspire national consciousness in the fight against injustice, impunity and Liberia’s troubled past.
The Alliance for Transitional Justice–Liberia was founded on June 12, 2018, comprising 16 organizations drawn from civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, legal, war victims network, educational/research with the UMC and the Lutheran Church playing major roles.