Monrovia – The President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe has called on the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution establishing a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
Cllr. Gongloe, one of the leading advocates for the creation of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia said the Liberian Government led by President George Weah has no intention to establish the court.
He made the remarks during the event marking the commemoration of the International Justice Day organized by the Civil Society Human Rights Platform of Liberia and key justice actors.
Cllr. Gongloe: “On this day, I am calling on the United Nations Security Council to do for us what you did to Rwanda. You passed the resolution right after the killings of people in the same year 1994. By November you have passed a resolution and imposed the court on them and held people accountable. Relying on Liberia’s authorities will not work. They have failed us. That’s why on this day commemorating Justice, I am calling on the United Nations Security Council to set up a justice mechanism for Liberia. This nation is powerless to establish a justice mechanism.”
There are split opinions over the establishment of the court; with those against often citing the economic implications associated with the court. However, the LNBA President said Liberia does not have to pay the cost for the court. All it can do is the follow the footsteps of neighboring Sierra Leone and sign an agreement with the United Nations, and then all support will follow.
“The Sierra Leonean signed an agreement with the UN and have the special court. If President Weah is serious, let him write the UN,” he said.
International Justice Day is celebrated throughout the world on July 17 as part of an effort to recognize the emerging system of international criminal justice and to fight against impunity and bring justice for victims of war crimes, humanity and genocide.
The celebration in Liberia comes amid landmark debate over the full implementation of the TRC’s recommendations, especially the establishment of an extraordinary tribunal to try those bearing the greatest responsibilities of the civil war and its causes.
Currently, successive Liberian governments have failed to set up the court. The Senate, acting on a request from President Weah to advise him on the full implementation of the report, drawn up a list of recommendations following a two-week public hearing. The recommendations, among other things, called on the setting up of a Transitional Justice Commission that would analyze and investigate the findings of the TRC final report.
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.
However, Cllr. Gongloe said the move by the government is intended to ignore the report and shield those committed war crimes, some he said are in the Legislature, while others are closed confidantes of the President. The TRC, he says, ‘was very’ clear with its recommendations; and while the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) is implementing some of the softer recommendations, the government will not allow the tougher ones to be implemented following the Senate’s latest move.
According to him, the setting up of the transitional justice commission to be heavily funded to do the same work that has already been done by the TRC amid a broken heath system that is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic is a conspiracy against the Liberian people to deny them justice and put their health at risk.
‘Betrayal of Trust’
Also speaking, former TRC Commissioner Massa Washington said the Senate’s action was nothing short of a travesty, and a betrayal of the Liberian people’s trust, especially those in their respective counties who voted for them.
Commissioner Massaquoi, who currently resides in the United States, arrived in Liberia on the eve of the event. According to her, she had been invited by the Senate to give her opinion on the implementation of the TRC’s recommendations. Had she appeared, she noted that she would have told the Senators squarely that their proceedings were illegal and they should revert to the full implementation of the TRC report.
“Whatever has happened in the Senate is illegal. It was a legal gathering of illegal actions,” she denounced.
Explaining further, she said: “The gathering was legal because they are Senators. They were duly voted in and we have to respect our democratic processes. I do respect the institution, the presidency, the judiciary and every other institution, but I disrespect some of these people who run these institutions. And today, these Senators don’t have my respect. This is what I referred to as a legal gathering of illegal activities by the Senate for the past two weeks. It’s bogus, it is the betrayal of the trust of the Liberian people; especially the people who voted them in.”
“Slap In the Face of Justice
The Chairman of the CSO Human Rights Platform, the Reverend Francis Kollie, in his opening address termed the Senate’s action as a slap in the face of justice and rallied all justice advocates and human rights defenders to muster the courage and keep up the fight for justice and accountability.
Rev. Kollie: “We have called you join us muster the courage in the fight for justice in Liberia. We are not going to relent; we are not going to draw back. This is about time that we muster the courage the most and come together with a new force and new tactic.
He continued: “When I heard that the Liberian Senate has endorsed a Transitional Justice Committee over the TRC report, I said it was a slap in the face of justice. Fellow human rights defenders, it is about time to stand up. Let’s fight for justice until justice and peace can meet in Liberia.”