‘War Crimes Court Will Restore our Dignity’

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Mr. JEREMIAH S. SWEN, national chairperson ATJL "“This is not politics. This is the restoration of our dignity, the healing, reconciling and prosperity of our people and nation a pathway to secure our constitution

Alliance for Transitional Justice in Liberia remember notorious Octopus, October 15, 1992

An executive of the Alliance for Transitional Justice of Liberia (ATJL), a conglomeration of over 15 human rights advocacy groups, on Monday, October 15, challenged Liberians to ensure that the government of President George Weah will timely pass the bill establishing a war and economic crimes court in the country.

“This is not politics. This is the restoration of our dignity, the healing, reconciling and prosperity of our people and nation, a pathway to secure our Constitution,” Mr. Jeremiah S. Swen, the national chairperson, maintained at a speech he delivered yesterday during the signing ceremony of the ATJL at the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, in Monrovia.

He told the gathering that, “Amid our tearful past, we are united because of the love for justice, human rights, criminal accountability, and compassion for the worst victims of our civil war and those of our dignified deceased compatriots. We are here because we are united to fight against the scourge of injustice, extremism, and oppression.”

“As we assemble,” according to Swen, “there are unspeakable pains and agony faced by many Liberians who are living with the wounds and scars from massacres.”

“Today, an orphan, widow or widower who bears the visual testimony of the brutal death of his/her beloved family requests for justice, but they lack the empowerment to pursue same, painfully watching perpetrators live with impunity. This purely contradicts our constitutional and fundamental obligation to uphold the rule of law and the universal standard of human rights,” he said.

Swen noted that, “Liberian victims have shown much courage, endured much pain and now is the time that we must give back to them.”

He continued,” I am of this conviction that restoring survivors’ dignity, healing fresh wounds created from those massacres, removing bullets from their bodies, helping to restructure their socio-economic wellbeing, when carried out, this nation and along with our partners’ strategic support can break the circle of violence, hate, and at last breed reconciliation.”

The signing ceremony coincided with the observation of the October 15, 1992 notorious Octopus Invasion against innocent people by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of former President Charles Taylor. Swen reminded his audience that, “On this day of October 15,  1992, the notorious Octopus Invasion was launched, leading to indiscriminate shelling and killing of civilians and a moment that uprooted the fundamental institution of our democratic and global civilization: tradition, religion, and Christian values were destroyed.”

Swen continued, “There is one thing that sets us far above our terrible past, a past that is deeply traced from the horrible nightmare of the July 29, 1990 Massacre at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.”

Swen said the act of murdering innocent children, treating girls as sex slaves; conscripting children as young as eight years as child soldiers; torturing and murdering sons and daughters of this country, “carrying out massacres in churches, mosques, traditional shrines, against innocent and unarmed civilian populations: our villages and towns, killing aid workers and peacekeepers these acts have no moral, traditional, religious and constitutional justification.”

Making reference to the collaboration, Swen informed his colleagues, “I am so glad we personally and institutionally, agreed to unite. I am of the conviction, that this nation, our current and emerging generations will take no faith in our unpatriotic and inhumane cruel history, but now, we must strengthen and with devotion attach great importance to healing, reconciliation, criminal accountability, and memorialization.”

Swen noted that “Every Liberian must be treated equally under the law and under the true eyes of the society; this is a constitutional and fundamental universal heritage. This is the true spirit of democracy and citizenship.”

According to Swen, their effort must be seen as a contest of value, “a fundamental debate of who we are as a nation. Do we appreciate a nation considered the safe haven of human rights violators, fragile youth population extremely exposed to drugs and substances? We must rethink and recommit ourselves.”

He said those eight years plus after the approval of the historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report and its recommendations, “is a national shame and fairy tale that our government has failed to show a tangible accomplishment of this national reconciling, healing, accountable and rebuilding instrument.”

“We have come, as citizens and preservers of human rights and dignity, despite our diversities: religion, denomination, tribes, beliefs, association, gender, social status to trigger a new dispensation of nationalistic consciousness,” Swen told his colleagues.

The establishment of a war and economic crimes court is gaining momentum as many Liberians have agreed that to ensure that Liberia’s ugly past is not repeated those who led the killings and destruction of lives and properties should face justice, consistent with the recommendations of the TRC.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. You mean cause more rebels and those who financed the war to fight in the nation’s courts.? No more war in this nation Ask God. Do not answer me.
    Gone to pray.

  2. IT IS INTERESTING TO SEE PEOPLE ARE NOW CALLING FOR A WAR/ECONOMIC CRIMES COURTS; HOW WE LIBERIANS BELITTLED OURSELVES SO MUCH, WHY DID WE NOT CALLED FOR THIS IN 2004? RATHER SETTLED FOR A TRC PROCESS; AND THEN NOW TRYING TO ARM-TWIST THIS GOVERNMENT TO APPROVE SAME? HAVE WE ASKED OURSELVES, WHAT LED US TO THESE CRISES? MADE LIBERIANS TO TAKE UP ARMS OR FINANCED ARMED STRUGGLES? JUST THINK Liberians AND STOP SINGING THE CHORUSES THAT OTHERS ARE NOW SINGING. IF YOU CHOOSE THE COURTS, THEN BE HOLISTIC, INCLUDE THE LIKES OF GEORGE DWEH, OTHERS FROM THE AFL THAT CARRIED OUT THE UN COMPOUND AND LUTHERAN CHURCH MASSACRES AND DEATH SQUADS THAT WERE ROAMING IN AND AROUND MONROVIA, BEHEADING FAMILIES,ETC. PEOPLE WHO KILLED STUDENT LEADERS: WUO TAPPIA AND MOMOLU LAVALA? ETC.THINK AGAIN.

  3. We have laws and by our laws, those who commit atrocities towards their fellow human beings should be held accountable. Liberia is also signatory to many international treaties/agreements which forbade violation of Human Rights. To restore our dignity as part of the civilized nations of the world, we need to enforce not only our own laws regarding human rights violations, but also laws of the international community regarding Human Rights abuse to which Liberia is a signatory. The law is clear. If you kill you must answer to the law.

  4. We are all scarred by the civil war of Liberia. We cannot and should not be isolating incidence to foster a particular agenda. As it is written, ‘to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’. I was a little boy when the civil war broke out. I grew up in war watching people being kilt, families and friends dying of starvation and diseases right in front of my own eyes. I grew up watching young boys of my age group turned into merciless killers. I am only grateful to the good LORD for preserving me. This I say, no one pain is greater than the other. The war did not only scar us as a people but it also scared our beloved country Liberia. Our country is still heavily scarred brothers and sisters. And trust me, I know you are scarred too and I don’t think there’s any miracle cure out there that can remove the physical, emotional, and psychological pain that has been inflicted upon us.

    Many Liberians are scattered around the world today not because they love it but because it was the only way of survival for them. We are now at a cross road, and whatever decisions we make now will determine how the future will be. Whatever decisions we make now, will either help us move forward as a nation or serve as a roadblock to us making any progress. Liberia is still unstable, the dust is starting to settle but she’s still unstable. She can barely stand still. It is unimaginable to me that any man would commit such evil toward another such as was done in Liberia and many other places in the world on to this day. My cry to my brothers and sisters, families and friends of Liberia is for us not to allow opportunist to use our tragedy for their own personal gain and fame.

    As it is written, ‘to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’. I believe it is time for us to come together as a nation and start to reach out to all of our brothers and sisters, families and friends around the globe to return home. Through unity, we can now start to repair the cracks in our foundation and start to build with our head up high looking toward the future. What keeps me going is the fact that there is still a Liberia and there are still people of Liberia – young boys and girls, young men and young women, old men and old women. They are still living in Liberia today. I think those who are gone would want us to look after those who are still here with love and care. Just because tears are not falling from our eyes doesn’t mean we are not crying. Just because we are not crying for justice doesn’t mean we don’t want justice. And just because we hold our head up and look toward the future does not mean we do not know or has forgotten what was done to us. But we know that in order for Liberia to move forward, we must unite, we must put aside our differences and we must come together as one people and build Liberia for us and for our posterity.

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