By Amara Kamara
In Sierra Leone, it cost $23 million dollars to try each of the accused or alleged perpetrator in the country’s War Crimes Court! And 23 people were tried, that’s half a billion dollars.
In the same Sierra Leone, it cost $0.00 to compensate or better the victims’ life. So what was the Sierra Leone Court about? Politics, not justice!
Now let’s talk about Liberia, a country that likes comparing itself to other countries but never ever learn from them.
Liberia’s TRC was the country’s first step towards a national reconciliation. Most countries that refer their perpetrators to the international criminal court do not have a TRC.
The TRC of Liberia, at the end of its investigative work, made recommendations for how to correct past injustices in Liberia for periods between 1979 to 2003. Those recommendations are what they are: recommendations! A recommendation is an advisory, a determination, or a suggestion. It’s not a law.
The TRC made 11 unique recommendations or determinations, or 11 things that it believed must be done towards correcting Liberia’s brutal past. The War Crimes Court (WCC) is only one of the recommendations and it happens to be the most costly of them all in terms of financial, political, and socio-cultural costs.
The TRC of Liberia made at least 11 recommendations. WCC is just one of them. Why is no one talking about the other recommendations?
Apparently, the WCC is the only thing that political pundits turned rights advocates seem to care about. As the drumbeat for WCC gets louder and louder, it is important to share certain facts about the court:
No country can bring the WCC to another country. Not even the mighty USA can do this especially given that the US itself has rejected the Court’s jurisdiction on political grounds rather than legal ones.
Under a stable political climate, the court can only be invited by the leadership of the state. The court might be imposed if there’s a political instability in the country. As you know, with all it’s economic ills, Liberia is relatively stable. The court itself can never work without local political supports (ex: Sudan).
The court is not necessary if there are disputes or denials about the roles of perpetrators; in which case the court is needed, in case the local government is unable, to investigate the evidence of all the parties involved and then make a judgment.
In the case of Liberia, there’s no disputes or denials. The TRC has effectively established the records for us on this. Under the circumstances, even a local or regional Court with competent jurisdictions can try a case for which the facts are already known.
Nothing the World Crime’s Court (WCC) will do that Liberia or the victims really need:
The WCC will basically establish:
- Recognition of what happened
- Acknowledgment of victims
- The sentencing of convicted war criminals
Under the current conditions, none of the above will help or change the victims’ lives. None of these things matter to me as a victim more than the alternative. The alternative is reconciliation and reparations.
Everyone seems to be supposedly concerned and talking on behalf of the victims but no one knows exactly what the majority of victims need. Do the majority of the victims need Johnson, Kromah, or Konneh to go to jail and that’s it or do they prefer reparations to better own lives while Johnson, Kromah, or Konneh seek their forgiveness? In the past during the TRC Hearings, victims have reconciled with their perpetrators upon the perpetrators’ expression of guilt, remorse and seeking forgiveness.
The victims are real people. Some were abused while others lost everything including family support systems and/or properties and even part of themselves. Today, some are languishing in the streets, homeless, hopeless, hungry, and sick.
Do these real victims want 3, 10, 20, or 100 perpetrators to go to jail (at the average cost of $20 million dollars each) in order to make better the victims’ current situation? Definitely not! It’s been at least 15 years! Today, most of these real victims want a second chance. If we can provide that second chance alongside genuine reconciliation, why not go for it.