U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, Advocate for War Crimes Court in Liberia, Loses Midterm Election

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Defeated Congressman Dan Donovon stands with his daughter as he accepted the election results.

Advocacy for the establishment of a war crimes court in the country on November 7 suffered a major setback when Dan Donovan, an American Lawmaker lost his midterm bid yesterday.

Max Rose, an army veteran running on the Democratic ticket, won the 11th congressional district of New York by more than 50 percent, unseating Republican incumbent Representative Dan Donovan, a campaigner for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.

According to the Cable News Network (CNN), Donovan made an early concession even before any major news network could call the results of the race.

With his daughter Serena Stonick by his side, the former New York District #11 Representative, thanked his supporters for giving him the chance to serve the district for the last three years and congratulated Rose on his victory.

“I just got off the phone with Max Rose, and I asked him to do a good job for my family and yours, and he promised me that he would,” Donovan told CNN. “I congratulated him on a hard fought effort; it’s been an amazing ride for our family,” he added.

About his service to his community and people, Donovan said, “the last 22 years of my entire adult life I’ve served this community, and it’s been an honor and a privilege, something I will never forget, and I will never forget you for giving me that opportunity.”

According to the report, Donovan said he would take the next couple of days off from politics, go “somewhere warm” with his family, and come back to see what would be the next chapter of his life and the lives of his family members.

Heading into Tuesday’s midterm elections, there were 205,507 registered Democrats and 119,731 registered Republicans in New York District #11.

Seventy (70) percent of those voters came from Staten Island, home to 48 percent more Democrats than Republicans and the largest concentration of Liberians in the United States.

What Donovan’s Defeat Means for Liberia:

Congressman Donovan has been the force behind the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia; famously introducing a resolution for the establishment of a war and economic crimes tribunal which was passed by Congress.

Recently, he wrote a letter to United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Walt Mattis requesting their assistance in the process.

In response to Donovan’s efforts to get a war crimes court established in Liberia, Liberia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzohngar Findley recently said the issue of a war crimes court establishment in Liberia should be decided by a referendum, a statement which advocates have described as far-fetched.

With Donovan’s absence now and Democrats taking control of the United States House of Representatives, it remains unclear whether establishment of a War Crimes Court would occupy pole position on the agenda of the new incoming congressman.

Although Congressman Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia who Co-sponsored the bill submitted by Donovan retained his seat in Congress, passage of the proposed Act by both Houses of Congress is not, by all means, a foregone conclusion.

Additionally, it remains unclear whether Secretary Pompeo and General Mattis will act on Donovan’s letter, now that he has lost his seat in Congress.

Please see Donovan’s Letter Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis Below:

New York’s 11th Congressional District is home to the largest Liberian population in the world outside of Liberia. With a vibrant presence in the Clifton section of Staten Island, I have seen their contributions for many years. They are hardworking and family-oriented communities who have made themselves an integral part of the district.

As you know, from 1991 to 2002, civil war devastated Liberia and Sierra Leone. The violence took the lives of over 200,000 people, displaced over 1,000,000 persons, and saw horrific cases of murder, amputation, mass rape, and other human rights abuses. The heinous crimes that occurred during this time are unspeakable, yet many of the perpetrators hold positions in Liberia’s government. With the presence of Senator Prince Y. Johnson and others, we are seeing Liberia’s slow creep backwards towards the murderous mayhem of its civil war era.

Liberians are rightfully clamoring for justice. The last thing we want to see is the cycle of violence start yet again. I fear that is exactly what will happen should the perpetrators of vicious crimes be allowed to escape responsibility. To this end, I have introduced H. Res. 1055 in the House of Representatives, which calls upon Liberia to establish a war crimes tribunal. This effort has already been followed by responses from Liberian government officials. Liberian Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Findley earlier this month reportedly suggested a referendum to establish a war crimes tribunal.

Unfortunately, this vague statement from Minister Findley falls short of genuine and robust commitment to establishing a war crimes tribunal. To that end, what more can the Department of Defense and Department of State do to encourage Monrovia to establish a war crimes tribunal? And how else can I and my colleagues in Congress assist in this effort? I look forward to your expeditious responses.

In his  Resolution 1055 which was passed by the Lower House of Congress, Donovan expressed the urgent need for Prince Y. Johnson (now a Senator for Nimba County) and a host of other persons indicted by the Truth and Reconciliation’s (TRC) report to face justice.

He said with PYJ and other perpetrators occupying positions of power and influence in the country, it would be very difficult for national healing to occur.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Senator Prince Y. Johnson (PYJ) has long since condemned all efforts geared towards the establishment of a war crimes court in the country and to this date he still maintains his belief that Liberia has no need for such a tribunal.

PYJ recently said that he is not afraid of anyone or prosecution. He said he is a free man and will remain a free man, meanwhile insisting that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report is ‘fraudulent.’

He said TRC chairman, Cllr. Jerome Verdier, has numerous contradictions in the report that render it unworthy of any serious attention.

Authors

5 COMMENTS

  1. Mark Anthony once said, “The evil that men do lives after them”.

    There is no need for proponents of the establishment of a war crime tribunal in Liberia to worry over Rep. Donovan’s congressional defeat. The government of the United States is a continuum. That is…..the government of U.S. continues to function beyond tenured, impeachments, resignations and defeats.

    Since House Bill Res. 1055, which calls upon Liberia to establish a war crime tribunal, have purportedly been passed in the U.S. House of Representative, other Representatives can join Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia 4th Congressional District in expediting the Bill: moving H R. 1055 forward for the Senate approval.

    To play the devil’s advocate, why wasn’t this Bill to establish a war crime court or tribunal introduced during President Sirleaf’s Administration (12 long years)? She was instrumental in helping the United States and the Special Court of Sierra Leone bring Charles Taylor to justice?

    If Liberia is reluctant to handle this hot potato (setting up a war crime tribunal in Liberia) then, it is time for war crime court proponents to turn Liberia’s war crime case ( crimes against humanity) over to the ICC (International Criminal Court) to prosecute perpetrators of Liberia’s War Crimes: where heinous acts against humanity were committed.

    These atrocious acts committed during the war have left many Liberian war victims with long lasting PTSD (post-traumatic stress Disorder)…while many perpetrators of Liberian war are living freely in Liberia and other parts of the world.

    Liberians who committed crimes against humanity and believe that they are untouchable, remember what Mark Anthony said, “The evil that men do lives after them”.

    • Alpha. You’re on point. I had expressed my support for the efforts of Rep. Donovan’s in Congress for the establishment of the WCC in Liberia and while his Staten Island District has a large Liberian population, the office of the 11 Congressional District also includes South Brooklyn, an area of New York that went heavily for Max Rose. Further, Max Rose’s credentials are unmatched by Donovan. But the Resolution 1055 was passed by Congress and is geared to garner a much stronger support with a Democratic Congress. So, I’m optimistic.

      Max Rose, the elected Representative is more outgoing in the community and as a former platoon leader in the Arm Forces of the U.S, who won both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart and has Degree from London School of Economics, he’ll quickly come up to speed about the Liberian situation, if he’s not already aware of it. I’m sure, Should he serve on the Foreign Service Committee and similar committees as Donovan served that addresses international crimes, you can bet Liberians in New York will solicit his support in Congress for the WCC.
      Nothing was lost in the effort for the WCC, but much more was actually gained.

  2. Liberia will never be free and do thing on its own. It is like a slave child always begging the master for help. Was it Donovan that suffered during the war? Did his child or children get missing? Liberians should be demanding the crimes court everyday. Instead we sit here smiling at the butcher Prince Johnson, calling that fool George Boley chief and smiling with other rebels. When we start chasing them and insulting them, they will run. But we sitting waiting for America to come wipe our tears. Then let us wait. Did other countries wait for America? America is not even a member of the International criminal court but we waiting for them. To do what?

  3. Moses Johnson,
    Says, “When we start chasing them and insulting them, they will run”.
    What is keeping you from starting the process of “chasing and insulting”? When you talk the talk, then you must walk the walk. A good Commander always say, follow me.
    It is easy for you to sit thousands of miles away and complained about Liberians on the ground not doing anything to solve the matter.
    Move to Liberia and Chase PYJ, Boley and others. If you and your supporters can not do that, then let those on the ground handle the issues, as they see fit. Their priorities may be different from yours.

  4. Thank you brother Moses Johnson. Who is Mr. Donovan to tell Liberians to persecute “war criminals”. Hahaha! There are millions of war criminals hanging around the globe. Some are ‘big fishes’ , while other are small ones. It is interesting to note that Mr. Donovan has focus his attention on the small fishes which are located in the shallowest part of the river.
    I suggest he dive dipper in deepest part of the river and nab the sharks and other whales and bring them up for justice.

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