Appeal for President Weah to Mandate a War Crimes Court for Liberia

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Dear President George M. Weah:

Please accept our best wishes of the New Year as your administration enters another year as the very first administration to ascend to power through a peaceful transition after nearly 75 years since Liberia gained her independence as a sovereign republic in 1847! We recognize the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead of your administration in strengthening the foundations of our still very fragile democracy and ensuring that Liberia remains on a sustained trajectory of peace and development. It is only by creating such peaceful environment that all of its people who inhabit the 43,000 square miles that form our political landscape, can live in peace and benefit from the wealth of the land that our heavenly father has endowed our nation with. If for nothing else, we want to beseech you to work hard at protecting the peace and ensuring that justice prevails for all, which you can appreciate in the long run as a defining legacy of your administration.  Our foremost purpose of writing you, Mr. President, is to call your attention to the issue of justice for the victims of the Liberian civil war, and to remind you of the promise and commitment you made years ago to the people of Liberia to make this a signature policy issue were you to be blessed to shepherd the state of affairs of the nation.

Mr. President, the Coalition for Justice in Liberia (CJL), is a 501c (3) human rights advocacy organization based in the United States. Since our formation nearly ten years ago, our singular mission has been to raise awareness and draw attention to the plight of an estimated 250 thousand Liberians, including foreign nationals, among which were five American nuns, who innocently lost their lives as a result of a senseless and brutal civil war perpetrated by a group of power-driven men and women whose only purpose was to forcibly wrought power and seek personal aggrandizement at the expense of the broad majority of the Liberian people. The war, started in 1989 and led by convicted war criminal Charles Taylor and his rebel faction of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), lasted for about fourteen years, claimed the lives of vulnerable women, children, the elderly and the disabled. Large scale massacres of civilians such as the massacre of 600 civilians seeking shelter at the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, a designated Red Cross Center in Monrovia, punctuated the conflict, and systematic rape, torture, summary execution, and mutilation were common tools of warfare. Rather sadly, in the aftermath of this war, there has been no form of accountability for the perpetrators responsible for gross human rights violations in the country, while thousands of victims and their survivors are yet to experience justice. Our only goal is to see justice for these war victims, who were subject to crimes that shocked the entire world.

Mr. President, as you are aware, the Liberian Civil War ended in 2003 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in Accra, Ghana. The United States, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the EU, the African Union, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Nigeria, and Ghana participated in the signing of the CPA. Pursuant to the CPA, the Liberian legislature established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2005. The TRC recommended that an Extraordinary Criminal Court be established in Liberia expressly to prosecute those who committed serious crimes against humanity during the civil war. Since its recommendation, your predecessor, Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, cleverly and intentionally turned a blind eye and refused to implement the TRC recommendations. We want to encourage you not to pursue similar path as your predecessor, as it is inimical to our fragile peace. Rather, we urge you to be different and purse a path that would lead to the full implementation of the TRC report.

Mr. President, Liberia’s refusal to implement the TRC recommendations undermines two cardinal norms that are important to world peace and the advancement of democracy: A treaty obligation and prosecution for crimes committed against humanity. Accordingly, a treaty and/or a peace accord imposes a responsibility on all signatories and participants. Liberia CPA is unique in this respect: Liberia and its people count on the signatories to the CPA to ensure that the accord is implemented to the letter.  Stability in Liberia also counts on the development of rule of law, which includes prosecutions for the most serious crimes.

Several successful prosecutions of Liberian war criminals have already moved ahead in the U.S., including the prosecution of Charles Taylor’s son, Chuckie Taylor, for torture, and the recent immigration fraud convictions of Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabbateh and former Minister of Defense to Charles Taylor, Thomas Woewiyu.  These cases signal that justice is possible for Liberians, and Liberia is now able to prosecute its own criminals.

In addition, Mr. President, you are quite aware that more than 76 human rights organizations, Liberians and American organizations wrote a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Committee requesting justice for Liberia’s war victims. In July 2018, United Nations Human Rights Committee made recommendations for the government of Liberia to address past human rights violations. The Government of Liberia has yet to respond to the UN recommendations while war crimes perpetrators continued to threaten victims and campaigners in the country.

President Weah, viewed from this perspective, we are appealing to your office to introduce a bill in the Liberian legislature as soon as possible, that will mandate that the current Liberian government establishes a war crimes court in Liberia to prosecute Liberian Warlords and their henchmen. There are many Senators and Representatives who have expressed their willingness to support such a bill if initiated by you. Please seize the moment and listen to the voices of the people! We are convinced that the passage of such bill will add the full weight of the international community to support you in this undertaking. We are humbly entreating you to call for, demand, obtain the establishment of war crimes court for Liberia and the full implementation of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners’ Report.

It is our hope that this letter appeals to your conscience and claims your urgent attention and action. We urge you to please seize this historic moment in your presidency and rise to the occasion!

Sincerely,

Lovetta G, Tugbeh
Executive Director, CJL

Cc:

Hon. Albert Chie, Senate Pro-Tempore
Hon. Bhopal Chambers, Speaker, House of Representatives
U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Africa
U.S. Congress Subcommittee on Africa
US Department of State
Human Rights Organizations
International News Media
African Media
United Nations

2 COMMENTS

  1. Mrs. Lovetta G. Tugbeh,

    Please receive and accept my compliments! Before making any comment, contribution and or proposal to your letter to President George Weah, I have got to fully introduce myself. I’m Bro.
    Gonyanue Blah, popularly known as Yousuf Blah or Belal; and a blood-brother of late President
    Moses Zehyee Blah. So to say, I hail from Nimba County and of the Dan tribe, which you and the
    other non-Dan called Gio. I’ve been living outside Liberia since 1974 till the beginning of this year.
    Forty-five years are enough, so I’m mostly home, but visit my children in Europe from time to time. My decision to return in the country of my birth place is another story, but to give you an idea, it’s out of profound love for my people, whom you found part of. I came with very many convictions as well as innovations. I didn’t come to search for a job, at least for the moment, neither did I come to find a piece of bread to eat. Thank Allah, till death, I will never go with hunger, but what’s about the very many of my compatriots who can not afford a dollar per day for food. I thought and judged myself that, it shall be ungratefulness of my part to the Almighty, if I do not return and give some portions of my acquirements, which I sumed as God’s Blessings, to some good number of the people I am part of, particularly the Liberian people. But, all I’ll need is total calm and or stability, which I guess that you will agree with me.

    Now coming to your proposition for a war crimes court to be established in Liberia, clearly written in a missive to President George Weah, please fine below what I think any patriotic person from that ‘supposed to be one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all, would cleverly suggest: To all Liberians of all walks of life and to whom it may concern / From your compatriot, Bro. Gonyanue Blah, popularly known as Yousuf Blah or Yousuf Belal. As some members of our one community are about to draft the proposed terms to the establishment of a war crimes court here in our native land; with a somehow an uncertain and or a trouble bringing implementation of said, I have these
    to opine, comment and or contribute: For my one part, probably those who disagree or may, I vehe- mently oppose to such another widener of the already division or strong signs of said. Know ye all that, it is not out of fear or cowardice that I’m expressing my thoughts of being against the whole process. Though I admit that, it could have been a strong pillar to demonstrating justice for all, fair play and somehow cooling of broken hearts, for survivals of victims, but it is far, far belated! In the second place, a prosecuttion in such our case shall be incapable of getting at each and every one that committed atrocities in this our one nation. Thus, it shall not go on with fairness for those who shall be prosecuted, not those who are already behind bars; and even those! Certainly, I greatly do consider justice for our fallen ones and their families, which I know that we all are one way or the other affected by our own hardened hearts, called civil war. Henceforth, I, in my personal and free wisdom, I suggest that, a ‘general written commitment, to be individually signed by every Liberian, with absolutely no exception, be injected into our constitution. And said to be started with the head of State, indicating precisely that, no one of us will ever again provoke, encourage and carry out any form of ‘civil anarchy/unrest’, unless those approved by our very constitution, suchlike: peaceful protest based on rationality, etc., in this our homeland, Liberia. I paralelly present to all of you that, a day be set up to be observed every year, for a reminding purpose; and to be called: Liberia Post War Day or National Post War Memorial Day. You may give any appellation of your choice! In addition to this idea, a special badge should be made, with a given emblem to be worn and or carried all times by all the sons and daughters of this unique dwelling place of all of us. There should be a penalty or fine to be imposed on anyone who shall violate, the ‘every day usage of the said badge’! Thanks and may the Eternal bless, guide and protect Liberia and especially its inhabitants; and have mercy on us all…..aameen!

    Being a man of integrity and a social democrat, I must leave room for those who disagree with me,
    but I do invite you personally and all, without exception, to be inside and not outside the territorial limits of Liberia from now and the very beginning of the ‘to be’ established war crimes court; and for the duration of the implementation of its rulings and sentences against the eventual wrongdoers. As for me I’m already in my birth town trying to challenge myself in line with the convictions that made me to come back after 45 years outside. I have come and I have got to remain until my sight is lost in death! Anew, Gonyanue Blah

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