War Crimes Court Noise Gets Louder; Time to Pay for ‘Sin’

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IT HAS NOW BEEN NEARLY nine years since the submission of the final report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to the former Liberian government administration under ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

ALSO, IT’S NEARLY 15 years since former President Charles Ghankay Taylor, who most people see as the main bad guy behind the years of war in Liberia, was forced to resign from power and leave the country in August 2003, while others who bear similar responsibilities roam freely in Liberia.

THE TRC’S FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS among many things, called for the establishment of a War Crimes Court so that perpetrators of heinous atrocities in the Liberian civil crisis can be held accountable for their actions thereof.

ALSO IN THE RECOMMENDATIONS, the TRC also called for the banning from all political activities in the nation of some of those, including Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, responsible for perpetrating the conflict.

BUT THE REPORT, it seems, was sent to the dustbin, primarily because Ellen, who was the President, was listed as one of those who should be barred from holding political office for 30 years.

TWO YEARS AFTER THE final report was submitted to Ellen in 2009, one of the TRC’s former commissioners, Mr. John H.T. Stewart, wrote an open letter stating that she had demonstrated an indifferent posture towards the TRC recommendations as a result of her name being listed. Mr. Stewart thought that because of that, establishment of a court for accountability under Ellen would never have seen the light of day. He was right in his analysis. Ellen’s administration did not show any interest in the setup of such a court.

AT THE CLOSE OF HER regime in January 2018, at least 20 human rights groups wrote President-elect George M. Weah requesting him to investigate and prosecute those connected to the commission of atrocities during Liberia’s 14-year civil war.

THE RIGHTS GROUPS had placed their request forward on January 21, 2018, a day to Mr. Weah’s inauguration, in an open letter to the President.

THEY CALLED UPON him “to fulfill Liberia’s obligations to investigate and prosecute wartime atrocities” and urged him to make accountability a priority for his administration and ensure the protection of Liberian human rights defenders, particularly those working on accountability initiatives.”

IT NOW SEEMS THAT the noises that had been generated little by little for the establishment of such court in Liberia are now being made even louder with a group of Liberians under a banner, “Citizens of the Republic of Liberia,’ cladding themselves in all black, to petition their lawmakers for the establishment of the court.

THIS SEGMENT OF THE Liberian society wants those who they think are responsible for committing war crimes in Liberia to be brought to book before a War and Economic Crimes Court.

THEY WANT THE LEGISLATURE to enact into law the court.

THE PROTESTERS, who gathered Tuesday, May 8, on the grounds of the Capitol, were led by Franklin K. Wesseh of the Citizens Action for the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court (CAWAECC) and Siaffa Kanneh of the National Student Movement for the Establishment of Economic and War Crimes Court in Liberia.

THESE MEN SAID THEIR RELIANCE is backed by Article 34(e) of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic as only “The Legislature shall have the power … to constitute courts inferior to the Supreme Court, including Circuit Courts, Claims Courts, and such courts with prescribed jurisdictional powers as may be deemed necessary for the proper administration of justice through the Republic.”

ANOTHER OF THE PROTESTERS’ leaders, Mr. Fubbi Henries, reading the petition on the grounds of the Capitol, said implementing the TRC recommendations would also not only rewrite Liberia’s history that culture of impunity is over, but it would also bring peace of mind to those who lost their loved ones and been going through trauma from the impact of the war. It would also serve as a deterrent for future conflicts.

“THIS IS OUR CRY, WE WANT justice. This country cannot have genuine peace without justice. Therefore, the establishment of the War Crimes Court is inevitable. Even the heavens require judgment for our actions here on earth,” he noted in the petition.

THESE PETITIONERS believe that until the instigators of the war and perpetrators of atrocities face justice, the country would not be truly reconciled.

LIBERIA’S CIVIL WAR lasted almost a decade and half (1989-2003) and recorded a death toll of over 250,000.

THE WAR WAS ONE OF AFRICA’S bloodiest. Child soldiers were used throughout the war. Some of those who are responsible for the commission of those diabolical acts against humanity are today holding very key positions in the Liberian government, making it somewhat difficult for the government.

HOWEVER, BEFORE THIS court is enacted into law, some of these individuals have to raise their hands in the Legislature saying “yea” before the establishment of the court sees the light of day. Is it going to happen anytime soon?

NO ONE KNOWS FOR SURE; but one thing that is clear now is that the noises are getting louder and more and more people are hearing the call for the establishment of the court so that perpetrators can pay for their sins. This court would definitely be established in Liberia so that “the wages of sin can be sin” can be “death.”

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