Liberia: Senate Wants President Weah Apologize to War Victims in Line with TRC Recommendations

MONROVIA – The Plenary of the Liberian Senate through a committee of a whole has called on President George Weah to, on behalf of the nation, apologize to victims of the Liberian civil war for the injuries, pains and loss inflicted on them.

The recommendation was among several other requests derived by the Senate after three weeks of hearing that solicited expert opinions on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“The senate recommends that the President, as a Father of the nation, should offer an official apology on behalf of the Republic to the victims of the civil crisis and the Liberian people in general for the injuries and loss of lives as a consequences of the civil war,” Senate said.

In September 2019, President Weah asked the Legislature to advise him on the implementation of the TRC’s recommendations that include the setting up of a war crimes court. The President said he was acting on recommendations of the National Economic Dialogue that had just ended, and where 350 delegates called for the full implementation of the TRC report in order to revive the country’s ebbing economy.

In line with the President’s request, the Senate adopted it leadership’s recommendation, calling on the President to set up a Transitional Justice Commission that would analyze and investigate the findings of the TRC final report amid diverse public opinions on whether or not to implement the recommendations and the establishment of war and economic crimes court.   

 The function of the Transitional Justice Commission, the Senate said, will among other things, find out why the TRC was not fully and timely implemented, propose solutions, examine the general amnesty law of 2003 under the leadership of former President Charles Taylor for people who played major role in the civil crisis, and explain how to reconcile the national law to international protocols signed by Liberians.

In addition, the TJC will examine the pros and cons of establishing a war crimes court in Liberia, and whether to amend the Constitution to address the many legal issues that could hinder the establishment of a war and economics crimes court.

The Commission will also review the works of the TRC and make recommendations where necessary; examine the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in investigating war crimes which took place between 1989 and 2006 given that Liberia ratified the Rome Statue.

I June 2021, the Senate accepted a report from the leadership and after an exhaustive debate, voted to constitute itself into a Committee of a Whole, and continue the deliberations and invite experts and other individuals to a public hearing on the issues raised in the report of the leadership and during Thursday’s debate.

During the debate, there were concerns about the timing and funding. Some Senators who support the establishment of a war crimes court were concerned about timing and funding. Other Senators held to the belief that the establishment of a Transitional Justice Commission is the best way forward.

Senators Edwin Snowe of Bomi County, Milton Teahjay of sinoe and Jeremiah Koung of Nimba were amongst Senators who backed the ideal; while others including Willington Geevon Smith of River-Cess County, Dr. Henrique Tokpah of Bong and Steve Zargo of Lofa all backed the establishment of the court, but raised concerns about the timing and funding.

At one point, Senator Johnathan Sogboie of River Gee County questioned the credibility of the Senate Leadership’s report that also carried the signature of Senator Prince Johnson of Nimba County who is a major player of the civil war and a major character in the TRC Report.

The TRC report contains major findings on the root causes of the conflict, the impact of the conflict on women, children and the generality of the Liberian society; responsibility for the massive commission of Gross Human Rights Violations (GHRV), and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Human Rights Law (IHRL) as well as Egregious Domestic Law Violations (EDLV).

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