Montserrado County District # 4 Representative, Rostonlyn Suococo Dennis said any delays in the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia have been because the oppressors have always been over the oppressed.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer she said that after the war, the two immediate past presidents who took over the country were rebels, so they delayed the court’s establishment not because the Liberians never wanted it, “but because they (presidents) never wanted to punish themselves.”
“The first rebel president we elected was Charles Taylor and the second rebel president was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf… They were all key factors of the war so they chose not to punish themselves,” she said. “The delay is not because the Liberians never wanted the court but because they were suppressed.”
As the House Chair on Claims and Petitions, Rep. Dennis has received petitions from various groups calling on the Legislature to push for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations and the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
Rep. Dennis acknowledged that some lawmakers who were key factors in the war including Rep. Yekeh Kolubah and George Boley have endorsed the establishment of the court.
“Rep. Kolubah walked to my office to sign the resolution and I also understand that Rep. Boley had a press conference on Monday, September 16, endorsing the process and said he is willing to work with the war crimes court,” she said.
Rep. Dennis believes that, when the legislature works on the court establishment, “I think together we will feel accomplished.”
She said it is time that one group of people stop keeping the country in hostage because many people around the world think Liberians are cannibals and a nation of impunity, forgetting to understand that it is just a few people who took part in the war.
“Going to the court does not mean you are incarcerated,” Rep. Dennis said, “go to the court and set yourself free.”
The Montserrado lawmaker said “For the committee’s angle, we have a resolution that is so amazing because we have 44 signatures endorsing the full implementation for the establishment of the TRC report. The full implementation has to do with the palava hut, repatriation for victims, reconciliation and the economic crimes court.”
Many people are in favor of the economic crime court like the war crime court, but she believes that there are unnecessary delays by some of her colleagues in moving the matter forward.
Montserrado County District #16 Representative Dixon Siebo last week proffered motion that letter from the President, calling on the Legislature for guidance on the establishment of the war and economic crimes courts, be received and legislators to take the message to their constituents for consultation and that the House provide funds to facilitate the consultation. The motion was passed and supported overwhelmingly even by members of the Independent Legislative Caucus, of which Rep. Dennis is a member.
“If I were in session, I could have filed a motion for reconsideration to that motion maybe my colleague could have listened because the traditional council has gone to the people and the TRC has done enough work across the country with funding from local and international partners,” she said.
Rep. Dennis said the committee has decided to separate the war crime court from the economic court.
“We will deal with the establishment of the war crimes court first and then for the committee we are still thinking whether we must domesticate the economic crimes court to cut down cost,” Rep. Dennis said.
“Those are things that will be placed on the floor to be debated in public so we can get Liberians’ opinions. We will work with CSOs, international NGOs to see how we can go with the economic crimes court.”
She said the communication from President George M. Weah seeking advice from the legislature is welcoming and gives hope to the process because that is one of the main things some lawmakers and other campaigners have been waiting for.
Rep. Dennis said it is important for the President to muster the political will for the TRC recommendations to be implemented even though, he should have just written the legislature informing them that he is ready to implement said recommendations.
She said TRC report has already been enacted into law by the legislature since 2008, awaiting the executive to take action.
Rep. Dennis said the President’s decision has opened the corridor for campaigners for the war crimes court, those in the legislature who have been fighting for the establishment of war crime court and those who have worked with the TRC to work collectively to ensure that the court is established.