Before December, or perhaps beginning November this year, at least three indictments are expected to be filed on three prominent or principle perpetrators of the Liberian Civil War for gross human rights violation, including violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, war crimes and egregious domestic laws of Liberia as well as economic crimes.
Sealed indictments are typically used in prosecuting individuals or criminal networks in cases where revealing names could lead individuals to flee or destroy evidence.
The Executive Director for Global Justice and Research Project, Hassan Bility, on Thursday, August 30, told members of the House’s Joint Committee on Claims and Petitions, Judiciary, National Peace, Religion and Reconciliation and Ways, Means and Finance and Committee on Good Governance that, if the Liberian government fails to establish the War Crimes Court, there will be sealed indictments before December for some of the key perpetrators.
Mr. Bility said the Global Justice and Research Project is and has been investigating mayhem and atrocities that occurred in the country and did projects in other countries.
He made the statement when he was making his case before the House’s Joint Committee, to draft and legislate the War Crimes Court Bill in consonance with Chapter 12 of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) — Recommendations on Accountability: Extraordinary Court.
He said that in the near future, “hopefully next year, there would be more sealed indictments at airports, border points, and other residential areas for perpetrators of the war which, though it ended since 2003, the scars remain visible.”
Mr. Bility said that many Liberians and the international community believe that President George Weah is the most suitable leader of Liberia as of now to fully implement the TRC’s recommendations without fear or favor.
“As far as we know, Weah is untainted and the preferred person to establish the War Crimes Court,” Mr. Bility said.
He said unlike former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is among several other Liberians that were affected by the TRC report, President Weah as of now has no record of human rights violations, including war crimes.
Former President Sirleaf was among others that the TRC report barred from participating in Liberian politics for 30 years.
Bility added, “There are very clear indications that when George Weah was elected President of Liberia, people around the world, who are very much interested in making sure that this happens, thought that Weah was the best candidate that would have the TRC report implemented, because we don’t have any record on him for the commission of war crimes. The whole world believes that President Weah is suitably placed as the right person right now that can exercise that political will.”
Also in attendance for the War Crimes Court’s hearing, were officials from Citizens Action for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia. They included the organization’s chairman Fubbi F. A. Henries, grandson of the slain House Speaker Richard Henries; Franklin K. Wesseh, Co-Chair; and Richard D. W. Allen, liaison officer.
In his opening statements, Henries lauded the Joint Committee for the hearing, and called on lawmakers to begin the process of ending the culture of impunity in the country by establishing the War and Economic Crimes Court as mandated by the TRC.
According to him, it was due to the failure of Liberians to seek justice following the April 12, 1980 coup d’etat that led to the 1985 failed coup, and subsequently the 14-year civil war.
He warned that failure to bring to book those that bear the greater responsibility of the war as recommended by the TRC, might likely lead to a future recurrence of the civil war.
“We call on you [lawmakers] to ensure that the Act that established the TRC is respected. We believe that if we start to stick to reparations, victims will forget about the issues of war crimes and economic crimes. And 20 or 30 years from now, people will come up and say let’s kill them and appease their mouths, and give them some sweets. Because that is the culture. It’s time to put an end to the culture of impunity.”
The lawmakers raised concerns on the security and economic implications of establishing a war and economic crimes court, and questioned the petitioners as to why they have been “very vocal” in their campaign for the establishment of the war crimes court under the Weah Administration, as compared to the past regime.
According to the Chairperson of the Committee on Claims and Petition, Representative Rustolyn S. Dennis, the hearing marked the beginning of series of public dialogues that the Joint Committee will hold with Liberians from the two divides — those in favor of a war crimes court and those against, to ascertain their views.
Rep. Dennis called on the petitioners to re-petition the House of Representatives and attach separate requests, including War Crimes Court, Economic Crimes Court, and the implementation of the TRC.
The female lawmaker said that under the rules, one cannot do a joint bill.
In can be recalled that in May this year, a group of Liberians assembled at the Capitol Building and petitioned the 54th Legislature to fully implement the TRC report.
According to the petitioners, fully implementing the TRC recommendations would reconcile thousands of Liberians who still feel aggrieved by the manner in which they were victimized during the war.