–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.