— 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.