-GJRP Director Assures
Amid fear among the Liberian populace that bringing war and economic crimes court to the country to hold war crimes perpetrators and corrupt officials accountable for their actions may undermine the peace, the Executive Director for Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), Hassan Bility, has assured that such an establishment will not threaten peace here but consolidate it.
Hassan Bility is a Liberian journalist who fled to the United States as a result of the Liberian civil war, but has since been engaged in research work about atrocities committed in the country, and pursuing justice to hold perpetrators accountable for their acts.
Bility gave the assurance on September 25, at a press conference held at the local training facility in Monrovia, where a letter bearing signatures of 80 civil society organizations urging President George Weah to commit to justice was read to journalists.
As this advocacy climbs to a peak with about 80 civil society groups, both national and international, calling on President Weah to commit himself to justice to end impunity, while he addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York, there is a growing fear that bringing a war crimes court will undermine peace and stability in Liberia and the country may revert to war.
This perception is especially backed by reactions from former warlord and Nimba County Senator, Prince Johnson whenever the issue of establishing a war crimes court is raised in the public.
As one of those identified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) final recommendations for prosecution, Sen, Johnson always makes threatening remarks that any attempt to bring war crimes court will lead to instability here.
This, many believe, is predicated upon the fact that Nimbaians see him as their political god father, who liberated them by fighting to assassinate Samuel Doe, then President of Liberia.
Nimbaians in reciprocation to this “Liberation” have always voted overwhelmingly Sen. Johnson, thereby giving him the political edge to decide in any presidential runoff election whom Nimba people should vote for the presidency.
With this, some in the public fear that when Sen. Prince Y. Johnson is dragged to the war crimes court, Nimbaians, mainly the Gio and Mano tribes, are likely to rise and revolt against the arrest of their Senator and political god-father whom they reverence so much.
However, Mr. Bility said as far as international instruments Liberia has signed are concerned, and the fact that the international community is aware of the country’s commitment to respecting these instruments, no one will threaten the peace Liberians enjoy when a war crimes court is established.
“We are all aware that carrying an unauthorized weapon is a crime, and therefore no one will sit to see people carrying arms, and don’t raise an alarm that criminals are in our midst,” Mr. Bility said.
On the concern about whether or not it is expedient for alleged war criminals to be tried in Liberia, Mr. Bility said it is quite necessary for the court to be established here, because the Liberian Constitution calls for that, unlike in other countries where the legal instruments are different, and may not conform to the idea.
Moreover, he said establishing a war crimes court here will imbue in the minds of Liberians the significance of justice, and everyone will learn and take precaution not to do those things that may plunge them into conflict with the law.
In pursuit of his ambition to see justice taking its course in Liberia, Mr. Bility said his group has traced and documented about five persons connected to the Liberian civil war, and submitted them for prosecution in foreign countries. Some of those people, Mr. Bility said have been prosecuted, convicted and sentenced, while others are awaiting for prosecution.
Danieletta Sleyon, Executive Director for Human Rights and Democracy also added that as President George Weah addresses the United Nations, he must take into account the essence of freedom, justice and peace in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to support justice in accordance with our Liberian Constitution, which calls for an establishment of an extra court for an act that may not be covered under the jurisdictional power of the Supreme Court.