One key issue both Liberians and some international partners have attached great significance to and have been calling on the George Weah Administration to consider is the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court.
A group under the umbrella of “Citizens Action for the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court” assembled at the Legislature about a month ago, petitioning that lawmaking body to enact a law establishing a War Crimes Court.
Prior to the convergence of this group at the Capitol, people in the Diaspora and some human rights organizations had called on the Weah Administration to establish a War Crimes Court. To drive home the point that justice is important to the restoration of genuine peace and reconciliation in Liberia, Governments of the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands have taken some practical measures which should serve to put the Weah Administration on notice that the time has come to put an end to impunity in Liberia.
For instance, in April this year, the US Government prosecuted and convicted former warlord and fierce fighter, Mohammed Jabateh (alias Jungle Jabbah), for lying about his role in the civil war and the atrocities he committed in order to gain asylum status in the United States.(Reuters, 2018). Dutch businessman, Guus Kouwenhoven, has also been convicted and sentenced to 19 years for smuggling weapons to Charles Taylor between 2000 and 2002 against United Nations Security Council embargo (Dutch News.In, 2018).
The US Government is at this time prosecuting former National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Defense Minister, Tom Woewiyu, for his role in the Liberian war and some issues relating to United States Immigration Laws. In 2017 the government of the United Kingdom arrested Agnes Reeves Taylor, former wife of Charles Taylor, for her role in the Liberian war (Human Rights Watch, 2017).
The United Nations itself has also pleaded over time for justice in Liberia and other countries where human rights abuses are being perpetrated. It may be recalled that in 2017, a UN high official, Andrew Gilmour visited Liberia and expressed the need for justice to prevent a recurrence of the civil war.
In the June 27th edition of the Daily Observer and editions of other local dailies, the Country Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Uchenna Emelonye said, “There can be no peace without accountability.” He said if there should be peace in Liberia, warlords and others who committed human rights abuses should be made to account for their actions.
The OHCHR Country Representative said the UN cannot rely on the outcome of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and therefore a War Crimes Court should be established. He said without justice, war victims will turn violent someday if perpetrators go with impunity. We also read in the June 27th edition of this paper that the US Government deported an ex-bodyguard of jailed former President Charles Taylor for human rights violations.
Instead of complementing efforts by the international community to institute justice, Liberians have continued to reward warlords with top public positions. Others, out of pure fear of the warlords, usually say, “Let bygones be bygones;” an expression that emboldens perpetrators of war crimes who are fond of boasting of their deeds and the roles they played in the 14-year civil war.
President Weah, who at some point in time, pleaded for justice and peace in Liberia, sits in the best position now to bring relief to war victims who are crying for justice here. We recently published a story about Mrs. Suzana Vaye whose husband, Isaac Vaye, was slaughtered for undisclosed reasons. She, like others, is crying for justice and hoping that one day a War Crimes Tribunal will be established to bring the perpetrators to justice.
If President Weah wants the Liberian people to place trust in his pronouncements of unparalleled support for accountability and the defense and protection of Human Rights, then addressing the plight of war victims by establishing a War Crimes Court and providing Reparations to victims will give him the kind of standing he desires in the International Human Rights community.
Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, perhaps owing to her role in the conflict, failed to establish the Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal, the Palaver Hut and Reparations Commissions as recommended by the TRC but, not before getting the Supreme Court of Liberia to declare the recommendations of the TRC unconstitutional.
With the emergence of George Weah as Liberia’s President, one who played no active role in the civil conflict and bears no such burden, Liberia now has the chance to restore the hope of war victims who have long since been roiling with grief and languishing in despair.