War Crimes Court Liberia Campaign Intensifies at US Congress

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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.

-US Congressman over major Liberian constituency joins campaign

Calls for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia may not be getting the needed reception at home from those in authority, but the calls seem to be resonating abroad, with strategic and deliberate efforts being made to ensure that Liberians get justice.

The global effort is now rendering the process seemingly inevitable—a call to which, according to many, President George Weah must adhere to ensure sustainable peace and reconciliation.

The latest effort comes from a man that represents the 6,000 strong direct immigrant Liberian community on Staten Island, New York. The man is Representative Daniel Donovan, Jr., who represents Staten Island and parts of South Brooklyn in the 11th Congressional District of New York in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected on May 5, 2015, during a special election, and sworn in on May 12, 2015.

With his constituency being home to one of the largest concentrations of Liberians in the United States, Donovan may be well aware of the atrocities that were perpetrated in Liberia’s 14 years of civil unrest—and is endeavoring to seek justice for many of his constituents, who still carry the scars of one of Africa’s most brutal civil wars.

He 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. His resolution also seeks to affirm America’s strong ties with Liberia.

The resolution, submitted by Donovan, was a simple decision and, according to reports, is meant to express the collective opinion of a chamber of Congress on public policy issues.

Donovan is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as well as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party. He has already received the endorsement of the President’s 2018 re-election campaign. With this, he will be able to influence the U.S. President to support the resolution to establish a war crimes court in Liberia.

With this latest move, the Weah Administration has again been put on official notice by the world’s most powerful nation. This is not the first of such high profile moves, as a top official of the United Nations recently told President Weah, regarding the full implementation of recommendations of the TRC.

At a National Peace Conference in Monrovia on March 22, 2018, Deputy UN Secretary-General Madame Amina Mohammed said: “It is also critical to implement the recommendations of the TRC, and for the legislature to pass key bills that would support local inclusion and reconciliation. These would be timely measures that would assure Liberians that there is strong resolve to see a conclusion to the process”

Madam Mohammed, who was visiting as representative of the UN to participate in the official end of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), told the news conference that, “To ensure reconciliation and a peaceful and prosperous future, it will be crucial to deepen efforts to address the underlying causes of conflict in Liberia.” She also said that prevention is critical in averting a relapse into violence.

There has been a barrage of calls of late for the court to be established. Some groups that have been leading the campaign recently, want the establishment of a special court to try war and economic criminals. They include the Global Justice and Research Project, Coalition for Justice, National Student Movement, Flomo Theatre, Fubbi Foundation for Development and Sustainability, Citizens Action, Liberia Trust Communications and the International Justice Group.

A staunch war crimes court advocate in the last regime, Maryland County Representative Bhofal Chambers, who is the current Speaker, has now reversed his earlier position and has been calling for restorative justice. According to him, restorative justice, which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and communities, would offer genuine peace and stability in the country.

Liberia was plunged into a brutal armed conflict beginning December 1989, following a rebel invasion that was led by now convicted former President Charles Taylor.

An estimated 250,000 people died and another 1.5 million others were internally and externally displaced. Neighboring countries, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Guinea, also saw a spill-over of the war. Thousands more were maimed, raped and mutilated by bands of militias from warring factions that included ULIMO (United Liberation Movement for Democray), LPC (Liberia Peace Council), LDF (Lofa Defense Force), LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy), NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia), etc.

But Cllr. Jerome Verdier, TRC former head, and Executive Director of the International Justice Group said recently: “We are glad that the international arrests, detentions, deportations and travel ban of these war and economic crimes’ perpetrators will continue until they are eventually prosecuted for their heinous and egregious crimes against human kind. There will be no hiding place. Not anymore.”

The TRC, created as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, in 2009, released its final report after hearing the testimonies of victims and perpetrators of atrocities committed during the civil war.

The commission made over 200 recommendations, including prosecution of individuals  found responsible for various kinds of gross human rights violation and war crimes.

Among several recommendations advanced in the 370-page report, several Liberians associated with former leaders of warring faction, political decision makers, financiers, organizers, commanders and foot soldiers, were recommended for public sanctions (lustrations- to purify by means of religious rituals or ceremonies).

32 COMMENTS

  1. The ‘Weirdest’ of the weirds.

    Those in the US congress that are advocating for “war crime” investigation in Liberia are the most Hypocrites ever in the history of mankind. Not all members of congress. The American representative to the UN, Mr. John Bolton just gave a speech on 9/10/2018 calling the ICC a ‘FAKE ORGANIZATION’. He also went on saying that, “the Court will die a natural death”. ” We will protect all our citizens from any prosecution by the ICC against any war crime accusation”.

    So, only we in Liberia can agree with some outside diplomats to ‘blow the whistle’ on our wrong doer? It is very interesting how we are.

    I m not backing any wrong doer in Liberia, however; it is not fair for outsider telling us what to do, if they themselves cannot adhere to the same principles.
    Just my thought….
    From Sydney , my Love to all Liberian

    • That because a single U.S. Congressman, in his bid to win Liberian-American votes, deceives the Liberian-American about war crimes court establishment by presenting some DEAD ON ARRIVAL resolution to the U.S.Congress, may be seen as an official notice by the world’s most powerful nation to the Weah Administration, IS WORST THAN A BALD-HEADED LIE AND YELLOW JOURNALISM.

      DONOVAN IS SIMPY MANIPULATING AND CUNNING LIBERIAN-AMERICANS FOR THEIR VOTES! PERIOD!
      How long did it take for the ICTY, the ICTR, or even Sierra Leone War Crimes Court to be established? Answer: IN LESS THAN NO TIME! How long has it now taken for a war crimes court to be established Liberia which war began long before the wars in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and even in Sierra Leone? ANSWER: MORE THAN A QUARTER OF A CENTURY (MORE THAN 25 YEARS!!!)

      Where was the ICTY located? ANSWER: IT WAS LOCATED IN THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS! Where was or is the ICTR located? ANSWER: In Arusha, Tanzania? Where is the War Crimes court for Sierra Leone located? ANSWER: In the Hague, the Netherlands! Neither the UN, THE ICC, OR ANY COUNTRY IS WILLING TO FOOT THE BILL NOR EVEN BORTHER ABOUT SUCH A COURT BEEN HOUSED ANYWHERE. DONOVAN IS SIMPY MANIPULATING AND CUNNING LIBERIAN-AMERICANS FOR THEIR VOTES! PERIOD!

      Look, make no mistake about that, even if the Liberian Government could disregard compelling national security concerns, Liberia DOES NOT have the financial capability or economic muscles to erect a war crimes court in Liberia, nor would any neighboring country be willing to host such a court on its soil as is the case with the ICTR of Rwanda housed in neighboring Arusha, Tanzania!

      And that war crimes court of Rwanda housed in Tanzania was only made possible viz financing because the big powers were ashamed of how they folded their hands and allow such conflagration in Rwanda. Hence, they wasted no time in footing the bills through the U.N. as they did in the case of the ICTY of Yugoslavia which is a strategic point on the GRAND-CHESSBOARD viz NATO and Russia!

      Had it been left for the former colonial power France alone, there would have been no ICTR of Rwanda. The reason an open secret as is the case with America viz Liberia. Thus, unfortunately, this is the case with Liberia, where the former de facto colonial power -the USA has absolutely no interest in footing the billions of US.Dollars bills for such a court (in what the American president refers to as a “shithole” country) when western countries are already handling such prosecutions.

      Daniel Donovan is simply manipulating and cunning Liberian-Americans for their votes needed so desperately to prevent the US Congress been taken by the Democrats – a situation which would most definitively mean the impeachment of Donald Trump who referred to the VERY Liberian-Americans as “shith-hole” people from “shit-hole countries”! And will the U.S. Congress ever germinate any political will for such court, or even decide to spend billions of dollars on a war crimes court for Liberia, simply for what one U.S. Congressman referred to as “peanuts Liberian-American votes??? HELL NO!

    • When Liberians were killing each other, it was outsiders who came to rescue Liberians. The international community spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and blood to bring peace to the country. Some people think that everything is dandy now but things could blow up pretty quickly again. With corruption on the rise and with so many desperate poor people, not to mention the thousands of unemployed youth, most experts agree Liberia is a tinder box ready to blow up in flames. That rickety, poor Liberian military will not be able to stop another conflagration in the country.

    • John Bolton is a former US Representative to the UN. The current US Representative to the UN is Nikki Hailey. If outsiders cannot tell us what to do, then why do we need their help in times of trouble? Liberians did not end the war….it was outsiders help that ended the war.

    • I quite agree. This is gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, which is illegal and against international law and the UN charter ((Article 2.4 of the Charter).

    • How long has it been since the atrocities were committed against the Liberian people? Did you make any efforts towards ensuring justice for the victims? It seems the leaders you elected for change are not quite capable of implementing such. You had the choice to elect a good leader based on his record, again, you made the wrong decision… just like you did for the pass 35 years. We are incapable of governing ourselves, thus we need someone else to tell us what to do. And by the way… it is not the ICC but a special criminal court. Thanks

    • Comment:well bro. Bah. you are clearing yourself that you are supporting wrong doing but indirectly you’re supporting, if refusing this war crime this nation will not get where we want to see this nation to be. I think we should be asking how it will happen. without this war crime court this will not get any better than where we’re now.
      thanks
      Andrew K. Vainga

  2. I’m in support of His.Res. 1055 by U.S. Rep Dan Donovan which affirms the strong ties between Liberia and the United States, and father expresses support for democratic principles and implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

    There need to be a sense of finality to the question of whether the nation held itself accountable for the crimes citizens committed against their fellow country men, women and children. This will be the only way for a national healing (which could include restorative justice) to take place. But how does one implement restorative justice without first affirming that justice was denied to innocent citizens, including children? Which justice is being restored when perpetrators of the violence are yet to account or admit their crime and the nation has even celebrated some to positions of authority. In one instance, one of them had made an extortionate threat to the peace of the nation, if he’s held to account for his role in the conflict.

    On the U.S position towards the ICC, I support the more cautious policy of the Obama’s administration, and not necessarily opposed to the Trump’s administration stronger public position. The ICC has allowed in many instances, atrocious crimes to go unpunished, mostly in countries whose leaders are complaining. The reason the U.S. can rightfully take such a position is that the domestic laws of the U.S does hold U.S citizens accountable for international crimes, and the legal system in the U.S will ensure both persecution and defense of those who face trials under the highest legal standards. This also would be the case in all the advanced Western nations.

  3. As noted, If we as Liberians were implementing the benefits of being self governed, we would not have fought a civil war. If now international organizations are helping to arrest individuals connected to war crimes, why than do they not turn them over to the Liberian courts where they committed the crimes. Why do we need war crime courts in Liberia when there is no more war in the country and institutions are being restored. The United States congress has nothing to do with establishing any court in Liberia. The United States President will not suggest anything to Liberia’s jurisprudence. If the United States people are still our allies they should separately respect our court system including statutory and customary values. United States Military Mission to Liberia (USMML) steps in only if we are at war with another nation. It does not, just like another ally of ours, have anything to do with our internal affairs. We do have our own tribal jurisdiction and Americans cannot even understand this secret heritage God has given us. The United Nations says they have left, but still have their signs on. Some American slave matters think they can come here and bring their shit here. If you bring your white supremacy in Africa again you will regret the day the Portuguese sold you some sea shells. Liberia is a free and sovereign state. From the Liberian Supreme Court down within the limits of our Judicial branch of Government will decide all Liberian cases in this nation. We need no more Jurisprudence within litigated outside the boundaries of this land of liberty. If you need to help, sent them home for JUSTICE. Some of these international organizations during the war came for piece and not peace. No longer will we take this.
    Let the people of Liberia know. Not me.
    Gone to silent majority.

    • As a matter of principle, there must be justice for those who were responsible for the war that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Liberians. With that said, I’m flabbergasted by your confidence in the Liberian justice system as if you just emerged from a long hibernation under a rock like a cave man. Do you trust a justice system that indicts criminals but there is never a trial?

  4. JTDigss, when was the last time you had a case or any of your family members had a case in a Liberian court? The Liberian Judicial system is a mess. Ordinary Liberians can not trust the legal system of their own country. Take for example, the Liberian National Police, when a murder is committed and the perpetrator is caught and sent to the central police cells, do you know that the perpetrator is usually let go by the LPN establishment without due process? We need outsiders to help us with this whole war crime court thing. We are too corrupt to run a fair war crime court by ourselves. By the way, why is it we as Liberia usually run to the outside world when we are in need of money or help, but when it comes to the same outside world coming to help us give justice to our people then it is termed, INTERFERING WITH OUR INTERNAL AFFAIRS? Also, we can disagree, but let’s watch our language
    and be respectful in discussing our points of view

  5. We are too corrupt to run a fair war crime court by ourselves. By the way, why is it we as Liberia usually run to the outside world when we are in need of money or help. But the problem going on. And need a way to stop it. Thanks for sharing your thought.

  6. The Congress man should be informed that Liberians are ready now to take his government to court for the destruction of Liberia. Americans killed Tolbert, Doe and others for their selfish interests. They want their selfish interests, nobody else. They have been our man-made disaster.

  7. as an apostle of jesus christ i see that he back the law of moses so if people kill or steal or lie and so on they must be punish for that. it is not right that my people should be kill. nobody should be kill for power. all power and authority is giving so why should they kill poor people for that they must be judge like all of us nobody is above the law and that is the fact.

  8. The formation of a War Crimes Court takes requires a strong commitment of national will. There are those who may oppose it for reasons unrelated to the criminal acts carried out, even though someone looking into nation’s current dialogue on numerous issues of the economy, national security, and governance can see hidden vestiges of the war amongst the social interactions of the citizenry and amongst the political leaders. The nation needs finality on this issue. That starts with determining accountability based on what the rule of justice requires before healing can take place in what many call “restorative justice”. But how would you restore Justice when you deny its absence based on actions by certain individuals? And how do you allow those whose actions as culprits curtailed and denied that justice to dictate and force victims to reconcile with them without those culprits first admitting there roles and making penance to account for their crime.

    Whether international agencies or U.S. members of Congress support the idea of the court is irrelevant to the justification that warrant its establishment. I can tell you this, U.S. Rep Dan, who I’m acquainted with, does not need the Liberian population to vote for his successful return to Congress. He represents one of the safest congressional districts for the Republican party in the state of New York. The committees he serve on in the U.S. Congress cover matters that would include war crimes and the need for accountability. And since he has a large constituent of Liberians (note: only a small amount of them can vote as U.S citizens), it only makes sense to demonstrate his support that also benefit U.S national security interest.

    A War Crimes Court has broader support in having its decisions executed internationally, with the support of major powers who have the security apparatuses and legal and enforcement authorities that many developing nations lack domestically. The U.S, Germany, U.K, France, Canada and the likes have domestic legal framework that would hold its citizens accused of war crimes accountable and are able to enforce judgements. Liberia doesn’t, period.

  9. I think one of the reasons for the establishment of a TRC is for those war hungry participants to be able to account for the atrocities to our liberian brothers & sisters. Remember the Jewish people and Nation are still working for the Holocaust not to ever be repeated. A 93 year old guard from that suffering was just deported to Germany. Accountability…

  10. Mr. Doe, what is your problem? Why are you against such attempt? Don’t you know that one person can make a big difference? Liberians want justice. Everything to you is yellow journalism. This world crime court will be established in Liberia soon.

    • Mr. Elijah Taylor, this war crimes issue (despite its national security implications) is not one of those issues Dortu-Siboe Doe argues for or against. Accordingly, in actuality, we have no “problem.” However, for argument sake, let us pretend or assume one, or we, may have a problem as you have inquired.

      Our “problem” is as a citizen of Liberia who is familiar with war crimes prosecutions, and have been following its development from the Yamashita precedence to the recent acquittal of Jean Pierre Bemba of the DRC, I find it repugnant on my part to “sit supinely or keep silent”, as any institution or individual misinforms or manipulates the Liberian people on the knowledge and realities of war crimes prosecutions.

      For example: the misinformation that people can be held criminally responsible for “sponsoring wars”, or someone is automatically held criminally responsible and guilty simply because he or she served as the leader of a warring faction (non-state actor) or a state. THESE ARE LIES, MR. TAYLOR! Bemba´s recent acquittal should give you a hint! Bemba is expected to be the next president of the DRC!

      Or that, there is any possibility of a war crimes court been established in Liberia despite the fact, Monrovia believes such is impossible as a result of compelling national security concerns. Or that, even if there were no such national security concerns, the footing of the bills of such project is automatic! SUCH IS MERE FANTASY!

      You see, Mr. Taylor, these are the realities no one is ready to deal with vis a vis the people´s right to know! And of course, one such person (besides the likes of Tiawen Gongloe or Jerome Verdier) attempting to exploit this GAP BETWEEN PERCEPTION AND REALITY is Daniel Donovan …engaged in such exploitation for Liberian-American votes!!! For us, such hypocrisy on the part of one pretending to be interested in justice, is an act or a commission of double injustice!

  11. If you are a professional and you say you know book, tell the Liberian people. Not me. If you are a legitimate child of Liberia, read LCL 36, especially on property ownership. Do not answer me again . My box is not a chat room.
    Gone to 57% silent majority.

  12. It is our duty as Liberians to implement and respect our constitution. If you think you can depend on the international group to defend the laws here you have no respect for yourself. Have you seen or read on the type of crimes in other nations? They can’t even handle their own, how will they handle ours? Our founders set it our way and if we do not do it, the Liberian children will show you what our forefathers say. Do not answer me. Answer the Liberian people.

  13. LET DONOVAN ESTABLISH WAR CRIME COURT IN AMERICA FIRST. HE IS JUST USING STRATEGY TO GET THE FEW LIBERIAN AMERICAN VOTES IN STATEN ISLAND. I AM NOT AGAINST THE ESTABLISHMENT OF WCC, BUT IT IS NONE OF DONOVAN’S BUSINESS.

  14. For those critical of Donovan’s resolution in the U.S. Congress in support of a War Crimes Court in Liberia, its important to note he’s also doing this as part of his responsibilities to the constituency he represents in Congress, which includes voting and non-voting residents. Just like you had House members with large Liberian populations in Philadelphia, New York, Minnesota and other cities pushed resolutions in Congress to do the same for Liberians who were affected by the Trump’s administration termination of the immigration program that granted temporary refuge status for Liberian seeking asylum from the war. That’s why Trump had it extended for a year instead of promptly.

    Folks never hesitate to seek help from these congressmen when faced with trouble, but suddenly become cynical and don’t want these Congressmen holding the nation’s leaders accountable to prevent the very thing that triggered the need for help from those same congressmen they sought help from in times of trouble.

    I read ridiculous comments that border on suspicions of the very people whose help were sought.

    One must note, the district Donovan represents in New York is one of the safest Republican districts in New York and doesn’t need the small percentage of Liberians who can vote as Americans to get him re-elected.

    The U.S. has the world most credible judicial systems, from the district courts, circuit courts, appeal courts up to the Supreme Court, along with the States Courts systems and doesn’t need a war crimes court to ensure war crimes culprits are tried. Ask the recent convicted Liberians, Jabateh and Woeweiyu (pardon me if I spelled his name wrong). And, also, the U.S courts have actually tried and convicted U.S citizens for war crimes under its jurisprudence that allows defendants untainted due process and the execution of the law with no prejudice.

    The antagonism against the U.S. is unprecedented. Look at the U.S. from a relationship basis and not just an administration. The U.S. foreign policy mandate is to always help Liberia. The reason some administrations may be tougher than others is to force the nation into holding itself accountable for its actions. A little bit of chastisement is not bad. Too much pride, with no substance, will only lead the nation to economic degradation. We can’t isolate ourselves from the U.S. and succeed.

  15. Mr Donovan does not represent me. He can not help to issues of vital importance to constituency he serves.Does he wants to get the vote of the Liberian people? The election season is here so everyone is trying to prove a point.Liberians are being deported back and forth and he has not been able to stand to Trump to stop the deportation.The deportees are the ones who are helping other Liberians that resides in Liberia and Mr. Donovan has said word about these issues. Let’s leave the topic alone and search for real justice if from someone who is willing help our pwople

    • I hope we as Liberians will learn a lesson from people who seek positions during elections with the goal to win our vote. We should evaluate Mr. Donovan aims and objectives of establishing or suggesting the commission before we go to the poll in Nov.For clarification, I am not against a commission in Lib. but it should be a real one or come to fruition. We do not want elected officials who are seeking reelection to use our issue to get our vote.

      • Mr Donovan does not represents my interest. He can not help to solve the issues of vital importance to his constituency he serves.Does he wants to get the vote of the Liberian people in Staten Island? The election season is here so everyone is trying to prove a point.Liberians are being deported back and forth and he has not been able to stand up to his party standard barrer Mr.Trump to stop the deportation of Liberians who are seeking better life.The Liberians Trump is deporting are the ones who are helping other Liberians that resides in the mother land and Mr. Donovan has not said word about this issue. Let’s leave the topic alone and search for real justice from someone who is willing to help our people.

  16. One way or the other, there will be a court for hearings of war crimes in Liberia and those accused of war crimes will be held accountable. It doesn’t matter whether Rep Donovan submit a resolution in Congress or not It’s irrelevant to ignore the factual predicate of the reasons for his resolution by falsely suggesting that he desires American citizens of Liberian descent to vote for him. As I commented earlier, he doesn’t need Liberian voters or for that matter the minority community to win. The 11th district he represents is the only Republican district in New York City and is about 77% white, and remaining 23% is a mixture of black Americans, Asians, Latinos, Indians with a small African population that comprises of Liberians. So, to change the real issue of whether to have a War Crimes court to a discussion on its legitimacy on a U.S congressman support demonstrates one of the weaknesses in how dialogues on critical issues is taking place in Liberia and that’s unfortunate.

    Donovan’s serves on the House Foreign Relations Committee and is responsible for national security issues, foreign relation interests of the U.S, as well as Homeland Security issues, so he is certainly speaking on matters that fall within the scope of his role in Congress. Liberia’s House and Senate members could take a lesson a lesson from this. Let’s focus on the real issues and not the personalities.

    This would be a great opportunity to engage Rep Donovan on other issues confronting the nation, since he is now involved with an issue affecting the nation, and is available to know of the plight of suffering Liberians and can cure his resolution with the addition of support for the domestic economy to accommodate Liberians returning home. But it seems, there is an absence in the ability of folks to network properly or understand that every opportunity to interact with a U.S Congressman can be utilized for ones benefit if managed properly. That’s why Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is still the best salesperson for the nation in the foreign arena in spite of what some may consider as alleged failures of her administration, which is debatable. She still garners the most respect amongst the international business community than any current political leader from the nation. It will be a great idea for the current administration to avail itself of her connections and influence rather than barraging her all the time with non-factual assumptions and hearsays that were never adjudicated in courts. I get the sense President Weah is aware of that, that’s why he recently hired the former Public Relations agency for the Sirleaf’s administration.

  17. It is better to think about things that will help develop our country Liberia than thinking about war crime court that will not help develop our country.. Liberians has forgiven one another. Let us contribute ideas to the national government that will help move mama Liberia further instead directing our minds to our past.

  18. The world crimes Court establishment in Liberia will not foster national development. It instead promotes political instability and under development. Why can’t we start thinking about the peace and development of our country at this crucial time?

  19. It is good for such a court to be open in Liberia. But Liberians are not fair in making justic. I will prefered the war crime court if and only if there will be justic.

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