Major Confab on Justice Begins in Monrovia Today

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Stephen J. Rapp, United States Ambassador at-large for War Crimes issues from 2009 to 2015, will present at the justice confab in Monrovia

Civil society organizations (CSOs), including the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, Global Justice and Research Project are commencing a major conference today, November 9, to discuss justice and human rights issues on the topic, “Opportunities and Challenges for Truth and Justice in Liberia for Past Crimes.”

The local human rights groups have invited some international human rights advocacy associations, including the American-based Center for Justice and Accountability, Swiss-based Civitas Maxima, the Centre for Civil and Political Rights, and the Human Rights Watch.

According to the group, Liberia remains a country grappling with a legacy of serious human rights violations, with no accountability for crimes committed in the country during the civil war.

They recalled crimes such as sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, torture, summary executions and massacres of civilians as being committed during the war, though the perpetrators are yet to face justice.

“The convening will seek to explore opportunities and challenges for truth and justice in Liberia for past war crimes and to develop strategies in the quest for justice,” a statement from the group said.

Some dignitaries expected at the conference are Stephen J. Rapp, United States Ambassador at-large for War Crimes issues from 2009 to 2015, and Dr. Uchenna Emelonye, Country Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Dr. Emelonye is expected to deliver the keynote address.

Also expected to attend the conference today are Liberian government officials and members of the Legislature, international and civil society representatives, and partners.

The conference comes at a time when pressure is mounting for the establishment of a war crimes court in the country, in order to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable for what they did during the war (1989-2003).

This call was reinforced by presentation of a petition to the Legislature in May this year, calling on that lawmaking body to enact a law that will seek the establishment of a war and economic crimes court to end impunity.

Since the petition was presented, many people have continued the advocacy for the establishment of a war crimes court, but the government has said its priority is not about establishing a war crimes court.

When President George Weah addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September, local civil society groups  had expected him to make a commitment to ensure justice, but he instead committed to holding  a series of what he called “peace dialogues” around the country.

Prior to this statement, President Weah had publicly declared his belief that, “Every Liberian is connected to each other and, therefore, he finds it difficult to prosecute anyone for war or economic crimes.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers, though previously vocal on accountability, since becoming Speaker has now changed his stance and backpedaled on his call for the establishment of a war crimes court.

Speaker Chambers says he prefers restorative justice to retributive justice; something that signals defeat for the petition filed by advocates of war crimes to the Legislature.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The greatest tragedy in Liberia is not the death of over 250,000 innocent Liberians, nor the decimation of million dollars worth of properties.The greatest tragedy in Liberia is the entrenched culture of impunity,where the rule of men always prevail over the rule of law. Until we denounce this devilish tradition, Liberia will continue to be on a journey to nowhere.

  2. Maybe in my view the greatest TRAGEDY in Liberia, and other countries that are homes of Black and Brown People, are the persistant interpretation of JUSTICE. There is a saying: practice what you preach. Country(ies), that don’t uphold certain system, of value are holding Liberia accountable for such a sytem. Not all nations are member of the ICC. Those blowing the DOG WHISTLE today, themselves are not part of the ICC.
    Other Liberians are cheering their decisions to prosecute their fellow country men. Cannot we Liberians just ask them, why are they not part of the ICC? It does not hurt to ask. Are we so afriad that our BREAD will be taken away?
    Just my thought.

  3. It is no doubt that the greatest “socio-cultural tragedy in Liberia’s history is the senseless deaths of over 250,000” of our citizens including the destruction of the country’s viable economic infrastructures.

    It does not take knowledge in rocket science for a rational thinker to note that many of our paralyses today have their genesis from the devastating consequences of the civil war; and that one sad pathology about this war is that the war was not inflicted on us by outsiders. It was Liberians who committed massacres against other Liberians.

    The issue of impunity then comes in when those in whom Liberians have placed their fullest trusts to make, interpret, and enforced the laws are faltering on their promise to pursue justice on behave of the victims, and to ensure that Liberia will never again take such a course.

    The reasons that laws are made is because people will not respect the rights of others and they must be forced to do so. What good are the laws if they are not enforceable? So the bewildering question now is when will those people who have committed undeniably high crimes against our society be held accountable for their acts?

    Unless this issue is brought to a comprehensive and harmonious conclusion, it will continue to haunt our sense of belonging as a society; our sense of patriotism and our collective stride towards national progress.

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