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EDITORIAL – A Plea to Uncle Sam: Please Place Sanctions on Speaker, Others, over War Crimes Court Stall in Liberia

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LAST WEEK, MORE than fifty members of the lower house of the national legislature submitted a resolution on the floor of the 54th body advocating for a war and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

IT WAS A memorable event last Thursday when survivors and victims’ families assembled at the Duport Road Memorial in Paynesville, hosting the remains of thousands of massacre victims of the civil war.

“We are supposed to have 49 signatures but we have 51 now – with still an opportunity for a few to be added,” said Rep. Larry Yanquoi(District No. 8, Nimba County), who led an array of sympathizers to the memorial site, still emoting painful memories of Liberia’s brutal past.

“One of the best things the US could do for Liberia and Liberians was to help end the culture of impunity in Liberia, a phenomenal disease that has stalled Liberia’s progress for almost two centuries now.”

– Hassan Bility, Executive Director, Global Justice and Research Project

BESIDES REP. YANQUOI, the resolution is also being championed by Representatives Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (Monsterrado Co. District #4), Chairperson of the Committee on Claims.

THE RESOLUTION, ACCORDING to Rep. Yanquoi has been months in the making. “Since May last year, one year five months, the plenary of the House received two petitions – from a cross section of Liberians, one calling for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court and one calling not to establish one. So, the plenary and the joint committees comprising claims and petition, judiciary and governance and governance reforms. And so, since then we have been working and there have been series of consultations held with the assistance of some of the pro-human rights groups and partners and today, we have culminated the work into a resolution.”

SADLY, WHEN THE BILL finally hit the desk of House Speaker Bhophal Chambers(CDC, District #2 Maryland County), no one expected that Liberians and victims of the war were poised for another delay.

SPEAKER CHAMBERS, to the dismay of many of his peers who had signed the resolution, announced that members of the Legislature needed more time to consult their respective constituents before considering the endorsement of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.

WHAT BAFFLES IS the fact that the Speaker, who happens to be the third in line of succession of the Liberian presidency has chosen to impose further delays on an issue that many Liberians have been yearning to bring to a conclusion for years.

SANCTIONS HAS WORKED in the past and they will definitely work now. It wouldn’t be a bad idea considering where Liberia has come, the investments made to secure the peace, and where many hopes it will eventually end, when justice for victims of the civil war, finally see the end of day.

THE TRUTH & RECONCILIATION Commission report, completed in July 2009, determined and recommended that Criminal Prosecution for these violations, Reparations and a “Palava Hut” Forum was necessary and desirable to redress impunity, promote peace, justice, security, unity and genuine national reconciliation.

THE 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).

THE TRC WAS AGREED upon in the August 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Accra and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation,” and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

THE COMMISSION INTERVIEWED thousands of Liberians, victims’ families and witnesses who saw atrocities first hand. Now, Speaker Chambers, in hopes of engineering another delay is putting a resolution from majority of his peers on hold, seeking more consultation from constituencies.

WHAT BAFFLES IS the fact that the Speaker, who happens to be the third in line of succession of the Liberian presidency has chosen to impose further delays on an issue that many Liberians have been yearning to bring to a conclusion for years.

PRIOR TO HIS departure for the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, President George Manneh Weah took a major step to bring justice for atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil wars by endorsing a war crimes court.

THE PRESIDENT, in a letter to the legislature dated September 12, 2019, wrote: “I … do hereby call on the National Legislature to advise and provide guidance on all legislative and other necessary measures towards the implementation of the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] report, including the establishment of the Economic and War Crimes Court.”

THE PRESIDENT’S LETTER was hailed by international rights group as an important step for victims and for helping to ensure the violence that brought so much pain and loss to Liberia will not happen again.

AS SPEAKER Chambers and the legislature prepare to host a visiting delegation from the US Congress this week, we hope to bring to the attention of the visitors what is unfolding in Liberia.

WE COULDN’T AGREE more. Playing ping-pong or football with the painful memories of civil war victims is unacceptable. Speaker Chambers and anyone attempting to stall the establishment of  war and economic crimes court for Liberia deserve to be placed on a travel and assets freeze ban to send a clear message that stakeholders and Liberians as a whole are fed up with the games being played over an issue of such importance.

THE CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION, which begins a two-day visit to Liberia Tuesday, October 8 and depart on Wednesday, October 9th is representing the House Democracy Partnership (“HDP”), led by the HDP Chairman, Representative David Price of North Carolina.  The delegation also includes Representative Markwayne Mullin of OklahomaRepresentative Barbara Lee of CaliforniaRepresentative Diana DeGette of Colorado, and Representative Alma Adams of North Carolina.

WHEN SITTING elected officials use their offices to strangulate issues key to Liberia’s political and economic survival, it demands a bad medicine for the bad sore it is poised to inflict on the Liberian people.

MR. HASSAN BILITY, the Executive Director of the Monrovia-based Global Justice and Research Project, GJRP, in anticipation of the US Congressional delegation’s visit to Liberia today, is hoping that the delegation considers imposing targeted sanctions on individuals whose actions will impede the progression of legislating the TRC’s Recommendations.

SAID MR. BILITY, speaking to FrontPageAfrica Monday: “One of the best things the US could do for Liberia and Liberians was to help end the culture of impunity in Liberia, a phenomenal disease that has stalled Liberia’s progress for almost two centuries now.”

BILITY TOLD FPA THAT accountability was an essential and necessary ingredient for democratic growth and ignoring it was tantamount to the incubation of tyranny and violence. He urged Liberians to believe in themselves more ask their Lawmakers to stand up for accountability in Liberia.

WE COULDN’T AGREE more. Playing ping-pong or football with the painful memories of civil war victims is unacceptable. Speaker Chambers and anyone attempting to stall the establishment of  war and economic crimes court for Liberia deserve to be placed on a travel and assets freeze ban to send a clear message that stakeholders and Liberians as a whole are fed up with the games being played over an issue of such importance.

IT IS SUCH GLARING insult to the intelligence of Liberians that has given the likes of Senator Prince Y. Johnson the balls to castigate advocates demanding an end to impunity.

SANCTIONS HAS WORKED in the past and they will definitely work now. It wouldn’t be a bad idea considering where Liberia has come, the investments made to secure the peace, and where many hopes it will eventually end, when justice for victims of the civil war, finally see the end of day.

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