Pressure Mounts for War Crimes Court, Accountability

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Amb. Rapp addresses Friday's gathering.

…Former Prosecutor, UN Human Rights Commissioner in Country

With mounting calls for the establishment of a war crimes court in the country, United States former Ambassador-at-large on War Crimes issues, Stephen Rapp, and United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) Country Representative, Uchenna Emelonye, have expressed the need for the Liberian government and people to take a serious step towards holding alleged perpetrators in the country’s 14-year war accountable for atrocities they committed.

On the record of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Platform, summary killings, sexual slavery, torture, among others, were crimes committed during the war that are yet to be accounted for by alleged perpetrators.

At the opening of a 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, November 9 in Monrovia, Ambassador Rapp said that there is no way people can protect their children and grand children or realize sustainable peace in a post-war country without holding people, who committed war crimes, accountable for their actions.

According to Rapp, in the absence of justice to hold people accountable, major players in a war will continue to build wealth through the influence of crimes they committed, “and the only way to avert such a situation is to hold them accountable for their crimes.”

He said other countries, including Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Chad, had gone ahead to hold war crimes perpetrators accountable, adding that such is not a new phenomenon to puzzle over. In order to have stable peace, he noted, to move Liberia forward, Liberians themselves need to decide what kind of justice they would want for the country.

The call for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia has heightened since the inception of the George Weah Administration.

It can be recalled that in May this year, a group under the banner, “Citizens United for War and Economic Crimes Court,” converged at the Capitol Building and presented a petition to their lawmakers, calling for the establishment of such a court.

As the debate continues, those opposing the establishment are of the view that time for a war crimes court is belated and, therefore, the function of such a court is no more significant, since it was not done after the war ended in 2003.

In response to this, Amb. Rapp said there is no statute of limitation to the establishment of a court, and it does not matter when it is established.

He said, “As long as perpetrators are living and still around, a war crimes court can be established to hold them accountable for crimes they committed.”

Amb. Rapp, who cited some instances, stressed that there were crimes committed in the 1960s that the United States Government is still pursuing up to date, and there was a war crimes court established after World War II in Germany and that some of those who could not face it at the time, were made to account for their actions in recent history.

According to him, there is no good night of sleep for a war crimes perpetrator as long as he/she killed a child or sexually enslaved women, “because there is a day that he/she will have to account for such actions.”

UNHRC country Representative Emelonye delivers the keynote address

UNHRC Country Representative, Uchenna Emelonye, who served as a keynote speaker at the opening of Friday’s event, could not hold back what he believes can bring total peace and stability to Liberia. He declared that “the position of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is that all actors, led by the government, must ensure accountability for past crimes.”

The talk about war crimes court in Liberia has been meeting strong resistance, especially from would-be perpetrators, especially Nimba County Senator and former leader of the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), Prince Y. Johnson.

Many of the perpetrators identified in the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) are serving or recently did serve in government, even at the Legislature where petition for the establishment of a war crimes court would be enacted into law; but Senator Johnson has already described the establishment of such a court as a “fiasco,” because he feels that the TRC documents are tainted with “fraud.”

However, Amb. Emelonye said: “As for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, we commit to supporting the government and people of Liberia in their quest for reconciliation and accountability for past human rights violations.”

He further acknowledged that the accountability framework for Liberia has been fashioned by the report of the TRC in 2009.

He added, “It is on this pedestal that the Human Rights Committee, in its concluding observations in July 2018 on the initial report of Liberia, regrets the very few steps taken to implement the bulk of the TRC recommendations, including the fact that alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes mentioned in the report have not been brought to justice.”

Amb. Emelonye said that the Committee urged the Liberian government to take all necessary measures to implement the TRC recommendations, and further recommended to the government to establish, as a matter of priority, a process of accountability for past gross human rights violations that conform to international standard.

“The commendable national thirst for peace and inclusive society in Liberia can be accelerated and consolidated if the government provides access to justice for all, particularly if it ensures accountability for past violations.  A post-war society that does not promote justice and accountability, does not properly heal without scars; conversely, if the victim of today does not heal and forgive, there is a tendency that he or she will be the violator of tomorrow if availed with power and authority,” Emelonye added.

7 COMMENTS

  1. “N’importe Quoi!”
    Mr. Ambassador, please let the peace in Liberia to prevail and consolidate with time. Let the children of Liberia begin to learn to love one another again.
    Excuse me but allow me to tell you to “shut up”!
    Don’t you know all the criminals who brought mayhem to Liberia as an Ambassador?
    Why do you allow some to peacefully rule and go by and want to persecute others?
    Or do you again want to derail the peace in Liberia through an innocent leadership?
    What were your comments on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee?
    Please, shut up ambassador! Sorry for being rude but shut your mouth up!

  2. Setting up such a court should provide the opportunity for both perpetrators and victims to receive proper closure. Perhaps the International Community should have pressed for the establishment of the court much earlier, and no doubt by delaying the process they have unduly benefited people like Sirleaf and other alleged war criminals. But it’s never too late to do the right thing. Let’s get on with it now and let the chips fall where they may.

  3. Would the innocent victims of the 1980 murder of Pres. Tolbert be part of this process? Innocent women and children were raped, Innocent Americo Liberians were massacred. No one respects your calls for “justice”

  4. The envoy comes to Liberia to rap without numbers. He ain’t got no Liberian wrap here and we do not need to hear anything that will start more fight. We will keep the peace we have now ourselves. Turn around, get dismissed or voted out as your friends in the U.S.. Tell us about the American crisis you have now. Liberian past war is in the healing process. Do not answer me. Tell the people.
    Gone to silence.

  5. The American government had the power to prevent the destruction of lives and properties which we ordinary Liberians appealed on many occasions but said the problem was Liberia’s domestic affairs until our fellow African brothers especially Nigerians shed their blood on this soil to save us. Therefore, only our African brothers have moral ground to request justice in this country. California University conducted a peace buildings and reconstruction survey which revealed that more 53% of Liberians want the past to be forgotten. It was in 2010 when war stories were still fresh on Liberians minds. We are concern about our economic wellbeing now than wasted resources
    revenge. Norris

  6. Mr. Dolo, your comment reminds me of one of the line in the late reggae star, Bob Marley song, ‘Rat Race’. ‘When ever you think there is peace and security, a sudden destruction’. The peace we have enjoyed, and continue to go about to built our normal lives is angering some foreign agents and their foot soldiers. Johnson Sirleaf was in power for 12 years, we didn’t hear any demand for War Crime Court establisment in Liberia. It is like we, as people, cannot decide our own destiny. We cannot sit and concentrate, we are always on the run, looking over our shoulders for the next uncertain I see Americans Diplomats are at the front, once agian for ‘war crime court’.
    The question here is: which embassy did Mr. Prince Johnson called on September 9, 1990, when he ( Johnson ), arrested Doe. The Liberian people are tired of the scapegoating.
    Our people, for some reasons, do not know their ‘real enamy’. They are always hoodwink. The swindlers will go at any length.
    Be careful fellow country men, you didn’t that monster, don’t try to undress it.

  7. Mr Joseph Gonkarnue, You asked an important question”Which embassy was PYJ calling when he arrested S K D”? There is only man who has the answer to that,and the place to answer will be in a court. Ca damit mr Gokarnue, don’t you want Charles Taylor to new cell mate(s)?

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