House Speaker Ditches War Crimes Court

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House’s Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf share a laugh, a rare public occurence in eight years

-Wants Restorative over Retributive Justice

House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers has frowned on the establishment of a Special Court to try former warlords who participated in the 14-year civil crisis in Liberia, arguing that it would not breed accurate and sustained peace, unity and development in the country.

In a petitionary but steady tone, Speaker Chambers said he believed the country should seek restorative (healing, curative or uplifting) justice in order to forge ahead and foster the peace and unity, that the country enjoys, as opposed to a retributive (revengeful, retaliatory or punishing) justice, which will re-hash the bitter past.

The House’s Speaker made the remarks at a resort during the opening session of the Delocalized Meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament’s Joint Committee on Communications and Information Technology; Education, Science and Technology; Labor, Employment, Youth, Sports and Culture on Monday, August 27, 2018.  The week long delocalized meeting will end Friday, August 31, 2018.

The Maryland County District # 2 Representative, who has been member of the House of Representatives since January 2006, and elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature in January 2018, told members of the Fourth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament, that the country wants to continue in the path of peace and unity and that can only remain so if restorative justice is sought instead of retributive justice.

The Speaker’s latest disapproval of a War Crimes Court for Liberia, which he initially supported, appears to now jive with the persistent efforts by President George M. Weah to avoid retributive justice for victims of the 14-year Liberian civil war.

Interestingly, Chambers made the statement in the presence of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who, while she was in office, shelved the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report and avoided and discussion about  the establishment of a War Crimes Court. The Speaker and the former President, who sustained a sour relationship for the past eight years, appear to agree, for the first time, on a critical issue.

Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (right) greets Rep. George Boley (left), as Sen. Prince Y. Johnson looks on. The trio will be indicted for their alleged roles if a War Crimes Court for Liberia is established

Recently, it may be recalled, Speaker Chambers indicated that the Legislature would request for an audit of the causes of the broke government after the 12-year rule of President Ellen Johnson-Sirelaf.

The Speaker said the administration of President George M. Weah inherited a broke government, of which the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) has admitted and that the “audit” would be like taking stock or an inventory of what happened, of what led to the “money problem” as well as to take corrective measures.

“Basically we have to be able to take stock (audit); it’s something that is genuinely realistic. We are going to do proper due diligence so as so to make the people to have appreciation of the state of the country’s economy,” Dr. Chambers said at the time.

“It’s not witch-hunting but it is just fair, that accountability must be carried out and that’s the hallmark to make sure that things that occurred and we’ll be able to know how those areas can be cleaned up and how they can be corrected. And [we] want the people to know that the Liberian people’s money are intended for the Liberian people. And that is what we will do relentlessly,” Dr. Chambers indicated.

Meanwhile, up to press time yesterday, a big meeting (high level) of institutions from the three branches of government, which are unswervingly responsible for the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was in progress.

The meeting is being organized for Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACs) of government, as well as the Legislature and the Judiciary, to provide fresh updates on the status of their assigned recommendations and to review and validate a draft report (unknown) to be submitted to the President of Liberia for its first report to the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate of the 54th Legislature on the current state of the TRC recommendations.

“As you may be aware, the INCHR serves as the inheritor of the TRC process and bears the mandate to follow up on the implementation of the TRC recommendations and draft the President’s reports to the Legislature on the status of the recommendations in consonance with the Articles 10 and 18.7 of the Legislative Act that established the TRC,” the acting chair of INCHR Rev. Atty. Bartholomew Colley wrote the Legislature. “Also, Section 4.4 of the same Act requires the President of Liberia to provide quarterly updates to the Legislature on the implementation of the TRC recommendations.”

He added: “The purpose of the planned meeting is to therefore accord all responsible MACs involved with the TRC process the opportunity to provide fresh status updates on TRC recommendations they are specifically implementing and jointly review and validate the draft report prepared by the INCHR with the incorporation of any new information. The meeting will also discuss whereby these duty-hearing entities can further strengthen collaboration to maximize progress in achieving their individual and collective tasks.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. I AGREED WITH THE SPEAKER, WHAT LIBERIANS NEED NOW IS TO MAINTAIN THE PEACE AND THINK ON HOW TO DEVELOP THE COUNTRY, WE NEED TO LET GO OF THE PAST AND FOCUS ON THE PEACE WE HAVE NOW.

  2. The trio of gangsters shaking hands. did any of Chambers people die? Da now he know about restorative justice? This small country and these muppets acting like they can govern. So so pupu platoon. Ellen still pulling their strings and they jumping. some of them will punish people who hurt them in the past but now talking about let bygones be bygones. Prince Johnson and Ellen should be locked up. George Borley was deported . He was all around looking for job and our stupid people go elect him. Liberians will never learn.

  3. So does this mean that those who brought war that killed over 250,000 innocent civilians and sent over one million Liberians into compulsory exile must go free? We have a law and by our law the perpetrators of human rights abuse must be held accountable and brought to justice. What does the Liberian law say about those that bring war on their own people that lead to the death of 250,000 of their own innocent citizens? Are we not a country of laws anymore? Is this the “so say one(Dr. Bhofal Chambers), so say all(Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Prince Johnson, George Weah, and the warlords etc)?” We call on the international community, including the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and the United Nations to quickly intervene in bringing those who abused human rights to face the full weight of the law. The humans that were killed in Liberia were not animals. They had the right to live but these villains cut short their lives. We should not allow them to die in vain. Those who bear the greatest responsibility in designing, organizing, financing and executing the war in which 250,000 of our people majority of whom were civilians should be brought to account for abusing human rights. Peace and development will never come to Liberia unless we bring human rights violators to account for their crimes against humanity.

    • Zinnah Gotonbo, I wholeheartedly agree with you!!! I guess what I’m hearing from the speaker is that innocent lives destroyed should be forgotten but we should focus our attention on money!!! Never!!!!! Innocent women and children killed in Liberia will never be hush hush!

  4. While I may be in agreement with the speaker that what this nation needs is restorative rather than retributive justice, but it’s a hard sell to the nation especially families of the victims. The nation was at war with itself and people died as a result by the hands of others and that must be recognized. As long as you are a Liberian, somehow we all played a role in the nation’s civil conflict and that must be recognized as well by all with no exception before the healing process begins. We cannot actually begin a peace and reconciliation process in isolation or denial of our roles in the conflict no matter how trivial that role was.

    That being said, in order for restorative justice to succeed both sides must be willing in good faith to resolve their conflicts. It must be applied with sincerity, honesty and remorsefulness by the perpetrators in the process. If the truthfulness and genuineness is lacking in the process then it is just a window dressing that will bear no fruit.

    The thing is the nation started on the wrong footing to addressing this problem on the outset. The fact that people did commit crimes against their neighbors and those perpetrators are today in power treading on the rights of the very victims they once abused and victimized. They are not remorseful of the wrongs and some have even said they don’t regret their role in the conflict. Some of these perpetrators are in power today and passing judgement on their victims. It seems those who committed the worst atrocities during our civil conflict are being rewarded for their actions. How do you then convince those victims to embrace restorative rather than retributive justice?

    In fact what has been happening in the nation for the past twelve years and continues to happen is the building up of resentment. We must stop fooling ourselves into thinking that this problem will resolve itself, because it won’t. It is high time to be earnest to ourselves and begin to address the problem head on, otherwise we will find ourselves in a worst place another twelve years from now. This is a Liberian problem and we must own up to it by admitting our roles and begin the real healing process in sincerity and good faith! If this generation cannot get this right this time around, it will have lost the last opportunity to bring upon lasting peace! What is important, self-indulgence or the desire to bring about lasting peace that would be recorded in history to this generation’s credit?

  5. The Liberian government on its own will never agree to establish a war crimes court because the country is governed by leaders who care only about their personal interest, not the country. These are not principled individuals. The future is difficult to predict because impunity, not rule of law carries the day. I hate to be cynical, but I highly doubt that in my lifetime Liberia will be developed enough where most middle-class to upper middle-class Liberians in the diaspora would want to retire there.

  6. like i said the killing of the people of god and the killing of the peoples in general god-jesus christ will judge on that day or today the book tell you if you kill with the sword you will be kill by the sword.so to me it left with the government to say if it should happen they are there they in power they have the power to kill or not to kill

  7. The whole idea of “Restorative justice” is a “fiasco”(In warlord Prince Johnson own words). It is an accepted fact that restorative justice unfairly coerces and manipulates its participants to forgive(victims) or confess and accept hasher terms(offenders) than legal rights and rules would permit in formal justice institutions and that restorative justice does not deliver equitable or equal justice. I agree. “Forgiveness” under the restorative justice model, is just another way of letting criminals “off the hook and of negating uncomfortable emotions. Our criminal laws are very clear. You kill, murder, rape, or maim, you face the law. Speaker Bhofal Chambers is no authority in legal matters. While he has shown his short comings in siding with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who design, planned, financed and executed the war in Liberia which killed a good number of our people, we should leave no stone unturned to insure that we follow our rule of law to the letter in persecuting those who violated our human rights. This is the only way we will have lasting peace and economic development.

  8. What I think this government is doing is asking the Liberian people to give them LICENCE to carry out more corruption and avoid accountability. Both government officials and members of Weah`s praise team can not give me any justification for saying that the SAME WCC that WEAH, MORLU AND THE ENTIRE CDC called for before, is not needed today. Is it because we are talking about economy crimes too? Why is it that Liberians are not understanding the greater good that justice will bring? Just see, our children who were babies during the war, are now big and continue to sing and dance the rebels` songs that they did not hear when they were small. For example, it was Taylor`s rebels who brought this song, IF YOU SAY YOU DO NOT WANT GANGAY TAYLOR, WE WILL TREAT YOU LIKE DOE. Today, CDCIANS and our PRESINDENT are singing and dancing this SAME SONG, IF YOU SAY YOU DO NOT WANT WEAH, WE WILL TREAT YOU LIKE CUMMINGS. And the world is watching our president singing and dancing rebels`song. Just because our president does not feel the pains that songs like this can bring to the victims of the war, so he enjoys it. Can not we get this that when the benefit of a crime is greater than the punishment, people will love to commit crimes, thinking that it is the way to get to the top. Almost all of our leaders who took power starting from president Doe down, came through VIOLENCE. Let`s just see the amount of government officials from past to present government, who have blood on their hands.
    Are we putting ourselves in the shoes of the victims? Can not we see that up to now, the KILLERS are still not sorry, but rather justifying the killings and organizing themselves as WARLORDS`ASSOCIATION, YOU TOUCH ONE , YOU TOUCH ALL. This in itself is a threat to our national security. If president Weah could not forget and forgive the BBC JOURNALIST, THE PEOPLE THAT INSULTED HIS MOM DURING A PROTEST AGAINST HIM AND EVEN UP TO NOW IF HE CAN NOT FORGIVE SOME LONE STAR PLAYERS who did not kill a rat from him, how much more about people whos relatives were killed right before their eyes?

  9. It will behoove the government to establish now an economic and war crimes court, as it is an inevitable fact that it will at some point be established. There’s always going to be a cloud over the nation in its push towards a viable economic and civil society until it reaches a level of finality on the issues of crimes committed, accountability identified and a consensus on reconciliation. Neither one can be achieved in the absence of the other two.

    Leaders, especially in the Legislature, should never Ignore any citizens group or constituent’s written petition to the Legislative body concerning this issue. It’s disappointing the Speaker turned away a petition from a group simply because it was not directed to a particular chamber. As a member of the House, he could’ve received and submitted it to his appropriate committee of the House for consideration under the House procedures. Citizens are not required to master legislative procedures in order to petition their members of Congress.

    This is a good time for the citizenry to begin to ask themselves a question: should we vote blindly for public officials or should we demand their public positions on issues before voting for them, regardless of his or her popularity and eventually the right leadership will begin to take office.

    A great example is Alexander Cummings (note: I don’t know him, and don’t belong to any party in Liberia, but am aware of his corporate experience). Had Alexander Cummings being elected, the nation’s EDBI (Ease of Doing Business Index) would’ve risen high very quickly. His global corporate experience has prepared him to run any enterprise with diverse stakeholders with varied interests.

  10. Larry, I certainly agree with those points you raised. Just to add to the issue of what to do with the TRC recommendations, whether we do retributive or restorative justice, the perpetrators have to own up to their deeds in the senseless war they fought in Liberia. Almost all of those warlords, during the TRC thematic hearings, never admitted to the commission of those crimes they were accused of. There is no such thing as justice without truth telling. The memories are there forever, and denial of causing wounds cannot erase them. There is no hope for a peaceful tomorrow that does not seriously engage both the people who caused the pain and the call for forgiveness from those who suffered same. So whether restorative justice or retributive justice, the accused must admit to their actions before healing can take place in the nation. Apparently, the best option now left is the establishment of war crimes court that will determine the proofs of allegations. Isn’t it a shame that others elsewhere are doing for us what we do not have the stomach for – bringing perpetrators to justice, like several examples in the US lately? Bye gone is never bye gone unless what happened is properly addressed. Bye gone will come bye after some times if nothing was done about the hurts and pains.

  11. Bhofal Chambers is a stupid and silly man. He’s laughing with Ellen when she’s behind to plot to replace him with Fonati Koffa.

  12. I do agree that Jurisprudence in Liberia is beginning to be replenished. This is the reason why peace is beginning to be restored. Peacekeepers are pulling out of Liberian internal affairs and its secret heritage restoring. Statutory and Customary institutions getting back in tack as was established when in 1847 the nation valued cultural traditions. The younger are asking why did we fight in the first place when we did not complete implementing the provisions of the constitution left by the founders as consequential revision changed instead amend? Yet there still need to be a reduction in economic burdens leveled during the war and past dishonesty and/or tyranny of which we have present and yesterday officials, rather than going into retirement or in private production to solve the situation, still tampering with the jurisprudence of the state. We should not forget that the purpose of the law is to find the truth. Which Liberian was hurt or effected by reconciliation that does not need Justice even in the family? We may agree with forgiveness in the sense “restorative justice”, but Jurisprudence in Liberia is established with ” retribution”. How will the truth be sort if a lawyer is not a good liar? What would you do if you see a man who almost killed you during the Liberian crisis comes up to your door with a friend? Would you ask God to kill him? How will we heal if the branches of the Liberian Government are still not in their various functional inlets? Do not answer me. Say it to the Liberian people.
    Gone in silence to Silent majority.

  13. It is a pity to hear the House Speaker speaking against the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia. In order to have a unified country,we must address those issues of the past that have divided us for so long.He spoke in favor of this court before,so it is strange for him to speak against it now.
    Is it because he is in government? I think that the war crimes court is important for Liberia ,so that those who are accused of crimes can face justice once and for all.

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