In our Tuesday, August 8, Edition, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour sent a warning to people who committed atrocities in Liberia that Justice will catch up with them. The UN Human Rights Assistant Secretary General said “Abominable war crimes were committed in this country, and the perpetrators of the worst crimes should understand that justice will catch up with them.”
Justice, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary, means ‘rendering to everyone his due or right; just treatment; merited reward or punishment.’ Following closely the definition provided, there is no doubt that justice is lacking for Liberians who underwent untold sufferings perpetrated by warlords and fighters. Many massacres were committed all over the country upon the inception of the Samuel Doe regime and during the civil war. We recall, to name a few, the Grand Kru Massacre of September 18, 1998; the St. Peter Lutheran Church Massacre of July 29, 1990; Cow Field Massacre reported on December 19, 1994; the Harbel Massacre of June 6, 1993; the Yarsonnoh Massacre of February 1990; the Barclay Training Center (BTC) Massacre of June 1990; and the Firestone Massacre of December 26, 1992. We further recall the killing of Nimba Superintendent Stephen B. Daniels and Moses Duopue along with some of their families in March 1990, the murder of Jackson F. Doe on October 20, 1991, and of the five Catholic Nuns in October 1992. We further recall the Voinjama Massacre on January 2, 1993, the Horton Farm Massacre of October of 1992, the Kakata-Bong Mines Highway Massacre of 1991 and the Zorzor Massacre in May of 1990, all committed by warlords and fighters in this country. Interestingly, the names of all the perpetrators are recorded.
In 2003, the Liberia United for Peace and Democracy (LURD) deliberately shelled civilian targets at Grey Stone, Mamba Point, while two prominent citizens of Nimba, John Yormie and Isaac Vaye, were slaughtered that same year for reasons known only to the slaughterers. Let us not also hold back the massive raping of women coupled with killing of feeble elders in Lofa County. These are cases that a war crimes court, if set up in Liberia today under the auspices of the United Nations, would have many survivors and witnesses to appear to narrate their testimonies.
Today, many of the perpetrators and warlords who ordered these wanton killings are in government corrupting and enjoying resources of the country and boasting of their actions. Some call themselves liberators while others claim they killed no “ant” while fighting. Ordinary Liberians victimized by these atrocities are always frightened by these warlords and their financiers to reveal what happened, claiming that if the advocacy for a war crimes court succeeds, the country shall revert to war. Being afraid of what they witnessed, Liberians have become complacent and fearful; always going against anyone who campaigns for the establishment of such a court. But we saw the impact of justice in neighboring Sierra Leone; how with the backing from the UN court brought to book, without fear or favor, all perpetrators that committed gruesome atrocities. They went as far as indicting, prosecuting and convicting Liberian President Charles Taylor, and his fate is now determined in a United Kingdom prison cell. Since Sierra Leoneans got justice, everyone there knows the difference between good and evil and is all conscious of the law and what they can do not to fall in the trap of justice. The same happened in Rwanda and perpetrators of the genocide there were brought to justice. Rwanda today is at the peak of development and they no more preach war but peace and development.
Mr. Gilmour, ordinary Liberians affected by the past war need justice and believe in the rule of law, but because the very politicians and perpetrators want to escape justice and continuously permeate inequality among the vast majority, they do everything to justify their actions and leave the victims in trauma and psychological pain. You are not, Mr. Gilmour, the first to make this statement about the significance of justice in nation building. It may be recalled that when former British Ambassador to Liberia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet lamented the absence of justice in the country for crimes committed during the war, he stressed that no society can become prosperous without justice and the rule of law.
We hope, Mr. Gilmour, that the UN is taking seriously this problem affecting Liberia and will help to cure Liberians’ traumatic sores by bringing justice as warlords continue with impunity to add insult to our injuries.