TJWG Chairman James Yarsiah Claims
Despite a wave of calls for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendation calling for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in the Country, the chairman of the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG), says President George Weah’s administration has made no progress on the implementation of the National Reconciliation Road-Map or the Palaver Hut component of the recommendations.
James M. Yarsiah said the National Reconciliation Road-Map was formulated with the view to implement the Palaver Hut component of the recommendations. According to him, although required to make quarterly progress reports to the Legislature on the implementation of the recommendations, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf however, made only four reports to the Legislature. Yarsiah urged government’s adherence to these requirements without the least delay.
The TJWG is a coalition of over 20 peace-building, pro-democracy and human rights organizations that were involved with the TRC process up to the submission of its report to the Legislature in 2009.
Article 9, Section 46 of the TRC’s Act states: “the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) shall be clothed with the responsibility to ensure that all the recommendations contained in the report of the TRC are implemented. That same Act also provides, “the Head of States shall report to the Legislature within three months of receiving the TRC report, and on a quarterly basis thereafter, as to the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.”
The TRC was agreed upon at the August 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Accra, Ghana and created by the TRC Act of 2005.
The Commission was established to promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation and, at the same time, hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations, and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January, 1979 and October, 2003.
The report contains major findings on the root causes of the conflict, the impact of the conflict on women, children and the generality of the Liberian society; responsibility for the massive commission of Gross Human Rights Violations (GHRV), and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Human Rights Law (IHRL) as well as Egregious Domestic Law Violations (EDLV).
The report also determined and recommended that Criminal Prosecution for these violations, Reparations and a “Palaver Hut” Forum is necessary and desirable to address impunity, promote peace, justice, security, unity and genuine national reconciliation.
However, addressing a news conference on Monday, April 1, 2019, Yarsiah observed that to their knowledge, regular progress reports on the implementation of the TRC’s recommendation, particularly on the Palaver Hut has so far been halted by the Weah administration.
Though the office of the President is yet to respond to this claim, Yarsiah emphasized that there has been little or no progress on the implementation of the National Reconciliation Road-Map or the Palaver Hut program, “and we are expressing grave concern on the lapses experienced thus far in the implementation of these components of the TRC’s recommendations.”
As the government is about to complete its first quarter of the New Year (2019), Yarsiah said his entity was strongly recommending that all stakeholders immediately recommence the stalled implementation of the TRC’s report.
“And toward this end,” TJWG recommends, “that the Executive should immediately resume the implementation of the TRC’s report, and make quarterly reports to the legislature as outlined in the Act of the Commission; that the INCHR should ensure that all recommendations of the TRC’s reports are implemented; and that national and international stakeholders support the resumption of a national dialogue on transitional justice at national, sub-regional and county levels, and used these dialogue forums to popularize the TRC’s recommendations.”
Yarsiah added, “Other actors, including victim associations or organization pressure groups, and campaigners for justice to close ranks with the TJWG by coordinating efforts to ensure that Liberia achieves justice, national reconciliation, peace, and non recurrence of gross human rights violations.”
He said that it was emphatically clear that lasting peace and reconciliation cannot be achieved in the absence of justice.
“Therefore, there must be justice for the rich and the poor, the powerful and for those without power; for women and children, justice for all is the solid foundation for a strong democracy, lasting peace and sustainable development,” Yarsiah reminded the government.
On the issue of a war and economic crimes court, Yarsiah believes that when the court is established, it would set a firm basis for ending impunity and discouraging the recurrence of the gross human rights violations; and economic crimes committed during the civil war.
“We want to caution Liberians that views being expressed and nurtured in some circles cautioning the citizens to choose between peace and a war and economic crimes court, are a willful distortion of the country’s historic realities and aspirations,” Yarsiah said.
He continued, “the courts will send a clear and uncompromising signal to all Liberians, whoever and whatever they are that no longer will the country accept and endure the tendency of a few groups of citizens taking arms and inflicting wanton destruction on the lives and properties of innocent citizens and foreign nationals with impunity.”
“These courts will ensure that Liberians can enjoy all the rights and responsibilities as guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of Liberia, as well as international instruments that guarantee human rights and freedom of all people,” Yarsiah said while emphasizing the importance of establishing the court.