Yacoub El Hillo, the UN Resident Coordinator and Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), has reinforced the call for giving accounts of human rights abuses committed by perpetrators during Liberia’s 14-year civil war.
The UN Envoy’s call comes following a visitation by United States Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp to Liberia in November 2018, that called on the Weah Administration and the Liberian people to see the reason to bring to justice alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses.
Mr. El Hillo’s comment was contained in his keynote address on January 25, 2019 at a program marking the induction of newly elected officials of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA).
He said, “The United Nations strongly believes that addressing the question of accountability is essential to achieving long-lasting peace and fostering reconciliation.”
He noted further that, “It was once said, ‘accounting for past actions is an important factor of healing and reconciliation’ and it is among the first steps towards transforming relationship at different levels.”
He said the UN is committed to helping the government and people of Liberia in their quest for lasting stability, peace and reconciliation, stressing that, “On accountability, Liberians have the right to discuss and agree on the fundamentals that they want to put in place to deliver restorative justice.”
He added that addressing the issue of justice is not something to be handled by a group but by all Liberians in their collective views, to arrive at mechanisms that will bring to closure the question of accountability.
He said the mechanism needs not come from outside but can come from Liberians themselves, adding, “Of course, if in conformity with international community, it should be credible in the eyes of the victims and their families and the public.”
The UN Resident Coordinator emphasized that for any country to attain a viable height among the comity of nations, there must be sustainable development and peace.
He defined sustainable development as an organizing principle for meeting human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of the national system to provide the national resource and services upon which the economy and society depend.
“On the other hand,” Yacoub said, “sustainable peace is the situation where the probability of using destructive conflict, oppression, and violence to solve problems is so low that it does not form part of any party’s strategy while the probability of using cooperation, dialogue and collaborative problem solving to promote social justice is the norm.”
He said areas outlined are essential to Liberians in moving forward, and he believes that Liberians and the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) want to see them taking place in their country.
Yacoub, who also has a law degree, cautioned members of the LNBA not to fight for winning a case, but to enlighten Liberians on respect for the rule of law and provide guidance for the government to uphold Liberian Constitution and statutes.
He said LNBA’s involvement in mass enlightenment and human rights education is essential to achieving sustainable peace in Liberia.
By doing this, the UN Envoy said it will promote values, beliefs, and attitudes that will encourage all individuals to uphold their rights and those of others, and people will believe that promoting sustainable peace depends on dialogue and rule of law instead of violence.
He urged members of LNBA to use their profession to settle conflict through dialogue among their clients, to reach mutual agreements and promote justice under the alternative dispute resolution method.