Liberia: Deputy Speaker Koffa Wants International Criminal Court Prosecute Liberian War Criminals

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Capitol Hill, Monrovia – A high-ranking member of the Liberian Legislature, Deputy House Speaker, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa has called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to lead the process in prosecuting those who committed war crimes during Liberia’s deadly civil wars.

Cllr. Koffa, the former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said the ICC is the best option to handle the process than a war and economic crimes court.

“I am absolutely Ten Hundred percent in favor of war crimes court so that those who bear the greatest responsibilities of killing over 250,000 Liberian people be brought to justice,” he said. “But there are problems we will have in developing our war crimes court, having granted amnesty by treaty, to bring an end to the war and peace to Liberia.”

The Deputy Speaker’s suggestion comes amid mounting calls for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia to try all those who bear the greatest responsibilities of the war, as recommended by the defunct Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Addressing a live press conference at his Capitol Building office on Wednesday, the Deputy Speaker said the court will lack the proper jurisdiction to try major players of the war due to the existing amnesties and treaties granting them protection.

“If I am arrested and indicted, my first defense is that the court lacks jurisdiction. Do you know how long it will take to adjudicate that- if I filed a motion to the Supreme court?… But why can’t we just convince the ICC and say please come help us with this thing?”

In addition, the Grand Kru County District #2 lawmaker said before the establishment of the court, there are several factors including security implications, infrastructure and human resource that need to be considered. These things are currently lacking, he said.

Disagreement over Draft Legislation

Speaking further, Cllr. Koffa disclosed that at the end of a three-day seminar conducted by the University of Nottingham which was attended by government officials and major stakeholders, a draft legislation in support of the court was crafted. However, participants were split over a clause calling for the court’s judgement to be final.

He said, making the court’s judgement final will be in violation of the Constitution of Liberia, which called for the Supreme Court of Liberia to be the final arbiter of justice. He noted the best way forward is the ICC.

“You can’t divest the appellate jurisdiction of the supreme court to a mere statue. That is a constitutional amendment. if you don’t want the Supreme court of Liberia to review war crimes decision or appeal, you have to do it by constitution amendment. There is no international treaty that divest the jurisdiction of the supreme court of its appellate jurisdiction except the ICC. The ICC does not divest jurisdiction; it has concurrent jurisdiction.”

The US$15,000 Is Justifiable

The Deputy Speaker, commenting on the US$15,000 saga, said the money was justifiable, and it was no form of bribery as claimed by Cllr. Jerome Verdier, the former Chairman of the TRC.

According to him, lawmakers are constantly criticized for not addressing plethora of problems in their respective constituencies covering education, health and infrastructures, among others.

Mr. Verdier, testifying at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on establishing a War & Economic Crimes Court for Liberia on Monday, said the money was given the lawmakers as a bribe to stall the establishment of the court.

His statement did not augur well for some lawmakers, including key campaigners of the war and economic crimes court such as Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District, #4, Montserrado County), who called for Cllr. Verdier to be summoned to Liberia to substantiate his claims.

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