Pressure Mounts for Implementation of TRC Recommendations

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— Justice for War and Economic Crimes Takes Center at Int’l Confab

By John F. Lloyd

Former U.S. Ambassador at large and UN Chief Special Court Prosecutor Steven Rapp expressed a firm belief that accountability and the rule of law are essential if Liberia is to be peaceful and prosperous.

Major international stakeholders and experts from around the globe are demanding justice for victims of war crimes in Liberia with a call for the full implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). 

According to a press release, the concerted demand came at a recent international conference sponsored by the European based Global Initiative for Justice (GIJ). 

The conference, held over the weekend, brought together a high level panel of speakers which included leading experts in the area of international Justice along with members of the Liberian Legislature, and key civil society leaders from Europe, the United States, and Africa. Other participants included major stakeholders from the United Nations (UN), and leaders of various international organizations who emphasized the need for justice on the issue of war and economic crimes in Liberia.  

In his official statement at the conference, former U.S. Ambassador at large and UN Chief Special Court Prosecutor Steven Rapp expressed a firm belief that accountability and the rule of law are essential if Liberia is to be peaceful and prosperous. He noted, “if impunity continues to reign, perpetrators will believe that they can violate and impoverish the people of Liberia without consequences.” He added, “if there is no accountability, it will be very hard to build the country that Liberia deserves to be.” 

Other speakers included former UN Special Investigator Dr. Alan White who warned against the perils of impunity in Liberia, and former TRC Chairman, Jerome Verdier who called on the Liberian government see the crucial need to implement the recommendations of the TRC which has been held up for over a decade. “It is painful that most victims will end up dying without seeing justice and the continuing culture of impunity will embolden perpetrators of war crimes to go back to their old ways threatening the future of lasting peace and stability in Liberia”, Verdier noted.  

Rep. Rustolyn Dennis, who was joined by Rep. Larry Yanqoui of the Liberian legislature, reiterated her call for urgent action on the issue of justice in Liberia as it relates to war and economic crimes in order to pave the way for genuine progress and development in Liberia. 

Liberian Justice advocate Hassan Bility, of the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) praised the efforts of various international partners gathered at the conference, adding, “public pressure with the support of the media will ensure the implementation of true justice to avoid impunity in Liberia.” In remarks, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, an international development professional, stressed that education of the masses is a key element in moving forward. “People will respond positively if they can understand the benefit of possible results,” she noted. Other panelists included former Press Union of Liberia (PUL) leader Isaac Bantu, former TRC Commissioner John Stewart, human rights advocate Adama Dempster, and John F. Lloyd, Chairman of the All Liberian Diaspora Conference. 

In earlier remarks, GIJ Chairman Michael G. Mueller registered concern over the declining state of the justice sector in Liberia and the apparent lack of will on the part of the Liberian Government to implement the full recommendations of the TRC Report. He cited that crucial among TRC recommendations is the  establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia to bring final redress to war time atrocities committed during the long period of Liberian civil crises. Mueller, who is also Chairman of the European Federation of Liberian Associations (EFLA) further noted that the issue of justice should no longer be delayed if true progress is desired. “There must be justice in Liberia, and we demand it now!” he concluded.

Multiple speakers emphasized the need for justice in Liberia with repeated references to the adage of “justice delayed is justice denied.” Attention was drawn to a culture of impunity rife in Liberia with rape destroying the future of young Liberian girls and babies. 

Under the theme “In pursuit of Justice”, the virtual conference convened by the GIJ in collaboration with the International Justice Group (IJG) was moderated by Morgan State University Professor Welma Redd.  The Global Initiative for Justice, an international nonprofit with operations in Europe is an offshoot of the Conference Resolution of the December 2019 “All Liberian Diaspora Conference” held in the State of Maryland, USA. 

The conference comes eleven years since the official submission of the TRC Report and Recommendations of 2009. There is widespread concern that despite multiple efforts involving pressure from the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the previous and current administrations of the Liberian Government have both failed to fulfill the recommendations of the report. In the aftermath of the Liberian civil war, scores of Liberian war crimes suspects have been arrested and tried in the United States and Europe but none of such justice measures have taken place in Liberia.

8 COMMENTS

  1. For a TRC Chairman Jerome Verdier who is on local, regional, and public international Records of been a dishonest, corrupt, irresponsible, and incompetent, individual, only jokers or pretenders would ever take him or his report as reliable . RES IPSA LOQUITOR! SEE THE PROOF INFRA:

    Five former TRC commissioners distance themselves from their former chairman, Cllr. Jerome Verdier’s allegations of Koijee’s connection with civil war

    Following a recent outburst on social media by a lady named Jestina Taylor, who accused Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee of involvement in crimes against humanity during the Liberian civil war, the former chairman of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Cllr. Jerome Verdier, emerged to echo the allegations made against Koijee by Ms. Taylor. In a response, Mayor Koijee said the attempt by Cllr. Verdier to have his character tainted as one of the perpetrators of the 14-year bloody civil crisis in the country indicates that he (Verdier) and his likes intend to undermine the TRC report.

    Koijee’s response apparently struck a chord with five other former TRC commissioners, who stand in agreement with the mayor that Verdier’s support of Jestina Taylor’s allegations could undermine the credibility of the TRC report. They have therefore emerged to declare their distance from their former chairman’s remarks, which were made outside the scope of the TRC report and in his own capacity at the helm of a separate, unrelated organization.

    Cllr. Jerome Verdier was the Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated the causes of the Liberian civil war and recorded major crimes that were perpetrated by fighters and warlords.

    Cllr. Verdier, who now heads a justice advocacy group known as International Justice Group (IJG), late last year unveiled to the public that Jefferson Koijee, 36 years old, participated in the war that ended 17 years ago and committed some of the heinous crimes.

    In reaction to the allegation, the four former TRC Commissioners including John H. T. Stewart, Massa Washington, Gerald Coleman, Dede Dolopei, and Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, say accusation against Koijee that he participated in the war and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity is contrary to records compiled about activities of the devastating war.

    The release further said “Mayor Koijee’s name never filtered through our process, not even remotely. Former TRC commissioners feel it expedient to provide the clarification for the record because of blurred lines in distinguishing between the chairman of the TRC, Cllr. Jerome Verdier, and the Executive Director of the IJG, Cllr. Jerome Verdier.”

    The release noted that at no time was Mayor Koijee accused of being connected to perpetration of crimes against groups or individuals or linked to gross human rights violations as well as war crimes or crimes against humanity as stated by Cllr. Verdier.

    The former TRC Commissioners in their communication said they were concerned about the matter because the Executive Director of the IJG was their former chairman and anything that he says that is not in consonance with the TRC Report would be detrimental to their character as well.

    “Former TRC commissioners would like to inform the public that for the entirety of the work on the commission which spanned five years, the TRC engaged in a massive and extensive consultative outreach process. For example, the TRC collected more than 22,000 statements, conducted dozens of personal interviews and over 500 live public testimonies from witnesses, perpetrators, direct victims, persons of interest and also several dozens of in-camera hearings, none of which connected Koijee to a war crime or crimes against humanity,” said the Commissioners.

    Additionally, a national consultative conference, women’s conference, and children conference were held. The TRC also conducted a robust diaspora project, extending its project to Liberians and others living in the West African sub-region and over 10 cities in the United States and Europe, from where no one came out with the name Jefferson T. Koijee.

    The release added that “Commissioners would also like to state for the record that during the work of the TRC, Jefferson T. Koijee was one of several youth volunteers who provided his free services in assisting with the sensitization and public outreach component of the TRC engagements.”

    Prior to publishing the TRC Final Report in June 2009, an argument ensued among the Commissioners for what some said was not in their favor. According to an unimpeachable source of the TRC, two of the Commissioners did not sign the final report at the time because their relatives and friends whom they did not expect to be named in the report for crimes were mentioned.

    Meanwhile, in Cllr. Verdier’s recent article titled, “The Koijee’s Dossier,” he accused Koijee of being an associate of Chucky Taylor, son of former President Charles G. Taylor.

    Verdier also referenced allegation by Jestina Taylor that she saw Mr. Koijee with Chuckie Taylor during the war and killed a baby.

    Verdier also accused Koijee of being the architect of series of human rights violations in the Weah-led administration; making a specific reference to the Montserrado County electoral violence in which Koijee was accused of allegedly ordering the flogging of peaceful citizens.

    The article was published in several local dailies, including the People’s newspaper — a satirical bulletin in Monrovia.

    One of the former TRC commissioners notes that, even if Jefferson T. Koijee was involved in the Liberian civil war, he would have been involved as a child soldier. “The TRC report recommended that all child soldiers be granted amnesty. Therefore, Koijee would have turned 18 or 19 years of age by the time the war ended,” the commissioner said.

    “Therefore, if there are any other violations of human rights committed by Koijee after the war or in recent time, that would fall under the purview of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), not the TRC,” the former commissioner added.

    Cllr. Jerome Verdier has yet to respond to the statement by his fellow former commissioners. A text message sent him prior to the publication of this story has not been answered.

    Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee, upon reading the statement by Cllr. Verdier threatened a lawsuit against the former TRC Chairman and Director of the IJG for linking him to the commission of ‘heinous crimes.’

    Koijee: “I worked with Jerome Verdier during my days in advocacy when he served as chairperson of the TRC. He knows me very well. He knows my history. He knows that I was one of those young persons who went to jail because of our advocacy for the establishment of the TRC. We worked with the Commission, which Jerome Verdier chaired, to protect the TRC report despite many attempts by perpetrators of the war to undermine this national instrument. It is therefore sad that I have now become a major target for Cllr. Verdier to the extent that he will accuse me of being a participant of the civil war, which I know nothing about.”

    Mayor Koijee said the attempt by Cllr. Verdier to have his character tainted as one of the perpetrators of the 14-year bloody civil crisis in the country indicates that he (Verdier) and his likes intend to undermine the TRC report.

    “It pains me that people are bent on undermining the TRC report, because the nation and partners collectively invested huge money in this national instrument. We also put our all in the process to get the report to where it is, and as such, we will not sit idly by and see it get destroyed,” Koijee told journalists recently at a news conference in Monrovia.

    Even though his boss, President George Weah has reneged on it, Koijee has since been in the advocacy for full implementation of the TRC Final Report and an establishment of a war crimes court to prosecute people who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity as a way of saving Liberia.

    Koijee said that if citizens claim to truly love Liberia as true nationalist and patriot, they will stand above their personal interests and summon a great sense of accountability by welcoming a full implementation of the TRC report, instead of trying to bring the entire report into public disrepute.

    According to a release signed by former chairman of the TRC’s Committee on Report Writing, John H. T. Stewart, “The four former TRC commissioners informed the public that at no time during these engagements did the TRC receive a statements, whether written or verbal, from any witness, perpetrator, or person of interest suggesting that Jefferson T. Koijee was a part of any warring faction.”

    “Even in our individual capacities, we did not hear or receive any information in this regard,” said the release.

    Jefferson T. Koijee is a Liberian and now heads the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC).

  2. The above news story on the LACK OF INTEGRITY on the part of the then TRC Chairman Jerome Verdier was culled from this very news outlet the Daily Observer with the headline and byline:

    ‘Undermining the TRC Report’?

    By Alvin Worzi –
    January 31, 2020
    19

  3. In my opinion, the will never be a war crimes court established in Liberia as long as we have war lords and some of those who committed heneious human rights violations in Liberia masquerading as senators, and key policy makers in government.
    Nobody would want to establish a court that would prosecute them.
    I applaud the international community, especially the US and dome European countries that have successfully prosecuted some Liberian war criminals who are languishing in prisons now.
    But as long as this government odd in power, forgery about a war and economic crimes court.
    Tolo Bonah Corfah

  4. The plain truth is that the obsession of the “international community” with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is largely responsible for the demise of the TRC Report. Had certain functionaries and decision-makers of the UN and the US government simply done their job and immediately proceeded to prosecute Sirleaf and other war criminals listed in the Report, Liberia would not be in such a horrible mess today. Instead they placed her band of rogues in power, allowing them with UNMIL protection to do untold economic damage to the country. It is truly shameful and disgusting that the only legal action ever taken in search of justice for the victims of the mayhem and carnage perpetrated by these criminals originated in Sierra Leone, not in Liberia.

  5. The culture of impunity is the root causes of violence in Liberia. Presently the Country is experiencing unprecedented level of violence organized and exscuted by ex_foghters of the various rebel factions that participated in the civil war. These ex_fighters/generals are having gang groups in various communities in and around Monrovia and are terrorizing peaceful citizens with impunity. For instance, there is a gang group organized by one Winston Kennedy, a former fighter of the NPFL operating in Johnsonville Township forcibly taking people properties and inflating serious bodily injuries to their (victims) persons with impunity. The Township Commissioner and the police Depot located in the heart of the township are aware of the existence and operation of this gang group but doing nothing to arrest the situation, a very sad situation.

  6. TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

    This is to clarify that I John H. T. Stewart, former Commissioner of the TRC of Liberia, have at no time served as a panelist as referenced in the above story. \\

    While I welcome any effort to advance the cause of the TRC and the implementation of its recommendations, I must make it succinctly clear that I did not participate in the referenced proceedings neither did I form part of the planning process nor do I form part of the membership of the sponsoring body that organized the referenced teleconference.

    I therefore call on the organizers of the event to remove my name from its list of individuals who participated in the teleconference and contributed to the discussions.

    I trust that former TRC Chairman Jerome Verdier who I understand is one of the principal organizers of the teleconference will act in good faith and remove my name accordingly from the list of panelists who took part in the program.

  7. Now, all can see the overwhelming evidence and proof beyond all reasonable doubt that Jerome Verdier is a rogue, and a liar! He is a fraud! Here he is being disgraced again, this time by Mr. John H.T. Stewart Jr. in the comment supra. Mr. Stewart is a former Commissioner of the TRC of Liberia,

    Jerome goes about extorting money from people in the name of his so called IJG. He forges the signatures of his colleagues of his IJG to collect funds from donors!. ALL THIEVERY ACTS CARRIED OUT BY HIM AND HIM ALONE CLANDESTINELY. This is the bastard who wants to present himself as something, when he is a damn thief!

    Lie man say my witness in the zoebush, because he knows the zoebush is not a place people just visit for visiting sake. In my case, the comment supra is my witness!

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