U.S. Congress Wants ‘Criminal Tribunal’ Established in Liberia

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Rep. Daniel Donovan (left) has presented to the United States Congress a resolution that calls for the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendations, including the establishment of an extraordinary criminal tribunal for Liberia, an issue that Liberia's President George Manneh Weah (right) has tried his best to avoid.

The United States Congress has passed Resolution 1053 affirming strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles and has called for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

On September 7, 2018, two Congressmen on the Committee of Foreign Affairs submitted a bill to Congress calling for the passage of a resolution affirming strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles.

The resolution calls for full implementation of the TRC recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

“Whereas today the United States is home to an estimated 80,000 people of Liberian ancestry in vibrant communities across the country who have been instrumental in America’s efforts to build a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Liberia;

“Whereas Liberia and the United States share close historical, political, and economic ties over the course of a nearly 200-year relationship;

“Whereas the people and Government of the United States have a deep interest in Liberia’s democratic stability and Post-conflict development;

“Whereas the civil war from 1991 to 2002 resulted in the death of over 200,000 people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the displacement of over 1,000,000 persons, and the horrific cases of amputations, mass rape, and human rights abuses conducted under the leadership of Charles Taylor;

“Whereas Charles Taylor was convicted through the Special Court for Sierra Leone for 11 different charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, such as rape, sexual abuse, and slavery, and violation of international law, including the use of child soldiers;

“Whereas a comprehensive peace agreement was signed by the Government of Liberia (GoL), rebel groups, and political parties in 2003;

“Whereas the TRC, as established under the 2003 comprehensive peace agreement, was formally created in 2005, with a mandate ‘to promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation by investigating gross human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law, sexual violations, and economic crimes that occurred between January 1979 and October 2003.

“Whereas the TRC released a report in December 2008, recommending the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia and listed individuals, corporations, and institutions recommended for further investigation and prosecution, among other recommendations;

“Whereas the GoL has not fully implemented the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Agreement to date, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal;

“Whereas Liberia experienced its first democratic and peaceful transition of power since 1944 after President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf respected constitutional term limits, and George Weah defeated Vice President Joseph Boakai following a runoff during the 2017 presidential elections;

“Whereas the United States congratulated the people of Liberia on the successful conclusion of the Presidential runoff election and recognized the important role Liberia’s Supreme Court, political parties, security forces, and civil society organizations played in holding a peaceful and transparent contest; and Whereas the United States Government and American citizens have invested in Liberia to rebuild and support democratic institutions, post-conflict recovery, economic growth, improved access to education and health care, professionalization of the country’s military and civilian security forces, and efforts to foster accountability and transparency of government institutions:

“Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the House of Representatives upholds its commitment to maintain and foster the enduring relationship between the people, and the Governments of the United States and Liberia; urges the Government and people of Liberia to support the truth and reconciliation process through the full implementation of the recommendations of the TRC, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal; and supports efforts by the Department of State, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to advance Liberian efforts toward national reconciliation through continued support for the rule of law, effective governance, and the robust role of civil society.

This latest development, according to observers, may likely throw a cloud over what they say is President Weah’s publicly pronounced commitment to a series of what the President called “Peace Dialogues” to be held around the country in a bid to foster national reconciliation. In his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Weah said a nation which has experienced civil war must never take peace for granted and forget that long years of conflict still casts a shadow over the lives of people, adding that he intends to initiate a series of national Peace dialogues throughout the country.

The President furthered that he remains convinced that such dialogues are essential in bringing lasting healing, reconciliation and unity to the Liberian people, adding that his agenda is not one of division but one intended to provide an enabling environment so that a united and reconciled people can enjoy the economic dividends of peace.

However, many Liberians, to the contrary, have called for the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia to bring to justice those accused of committing atrocities during the prolonged Liberian civil conflict. Prominent among those Liberians is businessman and politician Benoni Urey.

Although he was indicted in the TRC Final report for the commission of economic crimes, Urey has long since and repeatedly denied any involvement in the mindless violence that characterized the Liberian and Sierra Leonean civil conflicts and further maintained that as a civilian being appointed to head the Maritime Commission, he made no war-related decisions. He also maintains that he was the subject of several internationally commissioned audits which cleared him of any fraudulent activity while serving as Maritime Commissioner.

Urey, a millionaire businessman, was also suspected of involvement in activities intended to destabilize Liberia, but a United Nations Panel of Experts 2013 report on Liberia concluded that it did not have any information suggesting that Urey was involved in activities that would destabilize Liberia and the sub-region. He has, however, called for the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia, a move which, according to observers, did not escape the attention of the international community.

Since then, there have been repeated calls from all segments of the Liberian society, aside from the various civil society groups, supporting the push for a war crimes court. One of those supporting the call is none other than a once feared wartime frontline commander, Joshua Milton Blahyi, otherwise known as “General Butt-Naked”. He earned this nom de guerre for his war exploits, going into battle stark-naked.

Blahyi, now a minister of the Gospel and who was not recommended for prosecution by the TRC, has nonetheless and repeatedly stressed his willingness to face whatever punishment the war crimes court, if established, will prescribe for him, adding that it will do much to combat impunity. He maintains that if his son sees his father being sent to jail on war crime charges, it will serve as a deterrent to his son and other would-be warlords to not tread the same path ever again.

But with President Weah having declared that he prefers instead to initiate what he has called a series of “Peace Dialogues,” it remains to be seen whether such will prove a feasible action providing Liberians with assurances and guarantees of non-repetition. According to observers, President Weah’s magical allure alone may not prove sufficient enough to deliver the justice that the Liberian people need and deserve and that only time will tell whether he (President Weah) will cede to demands for establishing the war crimes court or whether he will persist in the search for peace and reconciliation through his proposed national “Peace Dialogues” and, lastly, whether his “Peace Dialogue” approach will yield any tangible fruits at all.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Last warning to this United States Representative to stay out of Liberia’s peace process. We are aware of a constant presentation of some congress members who tend to pretend that they have “strong relationship” with Liberia for personal gains. We suggest the U.S. Congress refuse such supremacy bills that infringe on Liberians civil liberties and personal properties. We need no more wars in this nation. We need reconciliation. Our institutions are, for instance, our own criminal courts will decide our jurisprudence submitted by our founders. As for me, if I find any such U.S. or foreign Official trying to interfere in my share of Liberian property, I will order him or her seek out. Do not enter or reply my box. Talk to the Liberian people.
    Gone to silent majority.

    • Maybe they should stay out of your house. But we need a War and Economic Crimes Tribunal in Liberia. We do not have the power to do it ourselves. So we need others to help us. You cannot have total peace and reconciliation in Liberia when others are still being hurt internally because of their experience with war lords who are freely roaming the streets of Liberia with impunity.

  2. They will not enter mine either. We have our own experts. Our country Chief Justice should get our courts ready to tell us what the Liberian Laws, traditional, tribal and statutory, laws say. Thank God we have our own judging to do. The ass looking for land or resources to steal. They want stir us up again so we can start another fight and they come get. You know what the Liberian parable says. Strangers come in to take, when you fight. No more fighting. The Liberian army got their own tribunal or code of conduct. The Liberian Civil got their own courts, criminal or non-crim, we will handle our peace ourselves. Self governance is the best.
    Gone to silence too. Do not answer me.

    • Maybe they should stay out of your house. But we need a War and Economic Crimes Tribunal in Liberia. We do not have the power to do it ourselves. So we need others to help us. You cannot have total peace and reconciliation in Liberia when others are still being hurt internally because of their experience with war lords who are freely roaming the streets of Liberia with impunity.

  3. Let him establish tribunal to investigate Libya, Iraq, Iran and other places; they are hypocrite and evil people; they toppled Tolbert n Doe and brought war here. Why we can investigate them.

    Stay out of our Peace.

    • Maybe they should stay out of your house. But we need a War and Economic Crimes Tribunal in Liberia. We do not have the power to do it ourselves. So we need others to help us. You cannot have total peace and reconciliation in Liberia when others are still being hurt internally because of their experience with war lords who are freely roaming the streets of Liberia with impunity.

  4. Since we have always depended on them for help,although we don’t use the help properly,we might as well let them help us with our justice system. Left with us, justice is not and will never be equal for all.Left with us, Charles Taylor would still be President doing as he wills. If our leaders were not so corrupt, if they use our natural resources properly,we have enough wealth to develop our small contry.we depend on these people for almost everything; like they say, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  5. We need a war crime court in Liberia to serve as a deterrent for future conflict. Thousands of civilians were killed and properties destroyed, should we allow this to go with impunity? And the warlords have big position in government and enjoy the fruit of the country. We say no, we need justice for what they did to our family, friends and fellow citizens. Those that are refusing the interventions of the United States Congressmen are those that are avoiding justice for what they did, supporters of warlords. The court is better for transparency, if you are not guilty of war crimes, there is nothing to be afraid of. Liberia will not be the only country that will tried perteractors for war crimes. We support Justice in Liberia. Seven of our Member from the Hare Krishna Movement were Killed for no reasons by a warlord, should we let that go with impunity? No way.

  6. There are many nations who were involved in peace making during the civil war. There are many other nations still investing in many areas. The whole U.N. came in, stayed that long and finally, they say pulled out with expert result of Liberians themselves now prepared to handle the peace. Stay out of my own of property(land and everything that means ownership) or bare the consequences of the Liberian code of laws. You do not want the British, French, Chinese or Russian parliament to Whereas too. Do you? Gone to silence again. If you say you know book, do not answer my box. Tell the Liberian people. Thinking about some Chinese egg-plant or palm butter and fufu. No one is invited. Telling in Liberian.
    Majority rules this land. Not electorate.

  7. Tyranny in return for U.S. citizenship. Slavery trade in for apartheid on. War again in return for piece. None will ever work again in this land given to us by God. We will restore all institutions again ourselves.
    My box is not a chatroom. Tell the Liberian people.

  8. Wow! Hypocrisy at the sky level.
    It is only in Liberia that things have ‘gone wrong’?
    The US best ‘allied’, Saudi Arabia, is slaughtering it own citizen every day and in the 39 years of my life, Saudi Arabia had never ,ever hold any election, even though the citizens are calling for election every day. Why not the US condemn Saudi Arabia human right record, along with some of her ‘allies’?.

  9. The guns may be silence but Liberians are still dying and suffering due the actions of others during the civil way. Those individual that are hiding in the corridor of power and other places must be brought to justice. Some of you are quick to claim to the illusion of sovereignty. But, until Liberia can feed and govern herself as a country worthy of her age, she will continue to have external forces interfering (as you put it) in her politic. Recently, when the #bring our money back demonstrators were protesting where did they go? THE AMERICAN EMBASSY, why not the Chinese, French, British, or German embassies. War and economic crimes court for Liberia is in the right direction and interest of Liberia. Let the chips fall where they may.

  10. Oh hail Liberia, pile your dead in front of the U.S. embassy and cry about your civil war and beg for money but do not let a tribunal bother the conscience of a society that wants to bury the past and reward the people most responsible for the tragic war. Yes Liberia, make them members to your government as a reward for destroying the country.

  11. It’s good for any patriotic Liberian to express himself or herself. It’s not too good for any patriotic Liberian who’s obsessed with the Americans to speak for all Liberians. More importantly, it is naively preposterous for a serious charge to be leveled against the US or any country without stipulating the facts. The makers of blanket statements cannot be taken seriously.

    A few months ago, a gentleman named Kabineh Ja’neh was embroiled in a dirty mess. The newspapers and airwaves were buzzed with news of Ja’neh’s impeachment. But, the news of
    impeachment cannot be be heard anymore. What happened? Or, where are the experts that TD brags about? Ja’neh’s case is important, but much smaller than the deaths of over 250,000 Liberians who perished during the “uncivil” war. If the so-called “experts” that TD brags about didn’t have the spine to bring charges of corruption against Ja’neh, why should any good Liberian count on them?

    The call for establishing a war crimes court in Liberia by the US is a brilliant idea. If any particular Liberian abhors the idea, that’s too bad. On the other hand, let’s take a look at this scenario. If the UN demands a war crimes court in Liberia to be established, will that be acceptable to TD and his supporters? Let’s not forget that the US is a permanent member of the UN? Or, if the EU or the African Union (AU) band together and demand the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia, will that be acceptable to TD and his supporters? Most Liberians who lost their friends and relatives need a closure, while others if not all of them, need some kind of psychological counseling. Where are the Liberian experts?

    Mr.TD must be informed that when all the nations of the world closed their embassies in Liberia during the war, the US was the only country that didn’t. Irrespective of how lethargic my argument may sound, the reality is that staying in Liberia during the entire period of the ugly war showed solidarity. And lastly, regardless of how TD and his supporters may dislike Trump, a one-year extension was given to LiberianTPS holders. So, regardless of how any obsessed individual may slice the ice, it makes humongous sense to give the US a break. The US deserves it!

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