Writes UN requesting assistance to establish war crimes court for Liberia, as U.S. House of Representatives passes Resolution 1055
Credible reports reaching this newspaper suggest that President George Weah has finally conceded to calls for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia. According to sources, President Weah made the concession recently when attending a UNESCO conference in Paris, France. Attempts by this newspaper to contact Minister of State for Presidential Affairs to confirm the reports proved futile and a text message sent to his phone went unanswered.
This latest development comes in the wake of a National Justice Conference held here in Monrovia last week. The Justice Conference drew together a large number of local and international human rights organizations, actors and justice campaigners and it concluded with a call for unrelenting efforts and concrete action to advance the quest for accountability.
Meanwhile, the United States House of Representatives, in Resolution 1055 on Tuesday, November 13, affirmed strong United States-Liberia ties and US support for democratic principles, and calls for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.
The Resolution published on www.congress.gov, the U.S. House of Representatives said the bill was submitted by Rep. Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. (Republican, New York for himself and Rep. Henry C. Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia), and it was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The Resolution affirmed strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles, and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.
The Resolution said the United States is home to an estimated 80,000 people of Liberian ancestry living in vibrant communities across the country, who have been instrumental in America’s efforts to build a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Liberia.
“Liberia and the United States share close historical, political, and economic ties over the course of a nearly 200-year relationship. The people and Government of the United States have deep interest in Liberia’s democratic stability and post-conflict development noting that the civil war from 1991 to 2002 resulted in the death of over 200,000 people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the internal displacement of over 1,000,000 persons, and horrific cases of amputations, mass rape, and human rights abuses conducted under the leadership of Charles Taylor,” the Resolution said.
The US House of Representatives said former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted through the Special Court for Sierra Leone for 11 different charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, such as rape, sexual abuse, and slavery, and violation of international law, including the use of child soldiers and a comprehensive peace agreement was signed by the Government of Liberia, rebel groups, and political parties in 2003.
It said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as established under the 2003 comprehensive peace agreement, was formally created in 2005 with a mandate “to promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation by investigating gross human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law, sexual violations, and economic crimes that occurred between January 1979 and October 2003.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report in December 2008 recommending the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia and listed individuals, corporations, and institutions recommended for further investigation and prosecution, among other recommendations (but) the Government of Liberia has not fully implemented the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to date, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal.
The resolution said Liberia experienced its first democratic and peaceful transition of power since 1944 after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf respected constitutional term limits and George Weah defeated Vice President Joseph Boakai, following a runoff during the 2017 Presidential elections
It said the United States congratulated the people of Liberia on the successful conclusion of the Presidential runoff election and recognized the important role Liberia’s Supreme Court, political parties, security forces, and civil society organizations played in holding a peaceful and transparent contest; and the United States Government and American citizens have invested in Liberia to rebuild and support democratic institutions, post-conflict recovery, economic growth, improved access to education and health care, professionalization of the country’s military and civilian security forces, and efforts to foster accountability and transparency of government institutions.
Therefore the US House of Representatives resolved upholds its commitment to maintain and foster the enduring relationship between the people and the Governments of the United States and Liberia; (and) urges the Government and people of Liberia to support the truth and reconciliation process through full implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal as well as supports efforts by the Department of State and United States Agency for International Development to advance Liberian efforts toward national reconciliation through continued support for the rule of law, effective governance, and the robust role of civil society.
in addition to Donovan, who recently lost his legislative seat in the recent U.S. mid-term elections, the resolution, cosponsored by eight other lawmakers, including Rep. Henry C. Johnson, Jr. [D-GA-4]*, Rep. Brian K. Fitzpatrick [R-PA-8], Rep. Brad Sherman [D-CA-30], Rep. Christopher H. Smith [R-NJ-4], Rep. Karen Bass [D-CA-37], Rep. David N. Cicilline [D-RI-1], Rep. Scott Perry [R-PA-4] and Rep. James P. McGovern [D-MA-2].
The resolution comes after two major events took place in Monrovia, in support of a war crimes tribunal, first among them being the “National Justice Conference”, organized by the CSO Platform, Global Justice and Research Project and other partners including Civitas Maxima and the Center for Justice and Accountability. On Friday, Nov. 9, in Monrovia Ambassador Stephen Rapp, former United States Ambassador at Large on War Crimes, expressed the need for the Liberian government to take serious steps to hold alleged perpetrators in the country’s 14-year civil war accountable for the atrocities they committed.
Ambassador Rapp said there is no way people can protect their children and grandchildren or realize sustainable peace in a post war country without holding people, who committed war crimes, accountable for their actions.
Then on Monday, Nov. 12, hundreds of Liberians under the banner, “Campaigners and Victims for Justice”, marched through the principal streets of Monrovia and presented petitions to the American Embassy, European Union, United Nations and to the office of President George Weah, calling for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes’ Court in Liberia to seek justice for the victims of the 14 years civil-war (1989-2003).
Meanwhile, while Liberians have called for the establishment of Economic and War Crimes’ Court, the US House of Representatives Resolution has called for the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal to ensure that the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are upheld by the government.
The Resolution will now go to the US Senate for concurrence, which in turn is expected to mount further pressure on the Liberian government to live up to the expectation of the International community and thousands of Liberians who want economic and war criminals to face trial.
In fact, since former President Charles G. Taylor was tried and sentenced to 50 years imprisonment in a British Jail, for his support to RUF rebels who hacked off the limbs of their victims, many Liberians have since felt there were many war and economic criminals roaming Liberia freely that deserve to face justice for their actions against humanity.
Though calls for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court appear to have gained momentum, there are some Liberians who charge that the establishment of such a court will instead serve to undermine national unity; but their voices are few and far in between. With the the American Government now adding its voice to the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal to try war time offenders, Senator Prince Y. Johnson (and his likes) may be having sleepless nights, for the truth is now clear that he and others may face justice for violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, gross violations of human rights and egregious domestic crimes.