MONROVIA – The establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia for the prosecution of the likes of Senator Prince Y. Johnson and his cohorts might be illegal if the ‘hidden act’ of legislature enacted in 2003 that granted amnesty to all persons associated with Liberia’s civil war beginning December 1989 to August 2003 is brought to the fore.
The Act, a copy of which FrontPageAfrica has obtained, is titled “An Act to Grant Immunity from Both Civil and Criminal Proceeding against All Persons within the Jurisdiction of the Republic of Liberia From Acts or Crimes Committed During the Civil War From December 1989 to August 2003.”
This Act was published on August 8, 2003.
FrontPageAfrica has not been able to fully ascertain why this act continues to remain the shadows. However, a prominent member of the previous regime confided in FrontPageAfrica that there were external forces that helped to sweep it under the carpet in order to satisfy their quest for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court.
It was, however, not repealed before the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that called for the establishment of such court. This is among several reasons why some commissioners of the Commission, including Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, dissented the recommendations and final report of the TRC.
The Act reads:
Whereas, the fundamental rights and dignity of the people of the Republic of Liberia were curtailed and hi-jacked by the regimes of the 1980 coup d’etat and that of the 20th President of the Republic of Liberia; and,
Whereas, during these regimes, tribalism and sectionalism were at is highest peak which culminated into tribal killings, mayhem and destruction; and,
Whereas, as a result of these acts committed against peaceful and law abiding citizens of Liberia from diverse background, Liberians being afraid of losing their lives, exiled themselves, while others reluctantly stayed in Liberia to be maimed by those repressive regimes and,
Whereas, a group of exiled patriotic Liberians under the moral and divine obligations to liberate Liberia and Liberians from the yoke of terror, tribalism and untimely death united under the banner of the NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia) and launched a popular civil uprising of more than 80% of Liberians in Liberia as exhibited by the granting of legitimate, constitutional and democratic state power to the political wing – NPP (National Patriotic Party) and,
Whereas, before the Special Election of July 1997, all former warring factions: NPFL, AFL, ULIMO-K, ULIMO-J, LPC, Lofa Defense Force, were engaged in a seven year old civil war; and,
Whereas, the Special Election of July 1997 with subsequent inauguration onAugust 2, 1997 marked the end of a seven year old war which brought into being a government of inclusion with all former warring factions and political parties on board; and
Whereas, some former contestants of July 1997 Special Elections and members of the warring factions left the government and exiled themselves in neighboring countries; and,
Whereas, these individuals grouped into separate warring factions namely Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and launched a fratricidal, ethnic and religious war against the NPP led government and the peace-loving and war-weary Liberians from August 1999 up to present [August 2003); and,
Whereas, these events have led to another civil war which has up rotted all Liberians, killed some, thus bringing back tribal and religious hatred; and,
Whereas, there is a need for total reconciliation among Liberians of all ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, within and out of Liberia.
It is enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia in Legislature assembled:
That from and immediately after the passage of this Act, immunity is hereby granted from both civil and criminal proceedings against persons, officials of government, representatives of warring factions and combatants within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Liberia from all acts, and or crimes committed by them during the 13 (thirteen) years and 8 (eight) months of civil wars covering from December 1989 to August 2003.
This Act shall take effect immediately upon publication in handbill.
Any Law to the contrary notwithstanding.
Amnesty in Other Countries
The Act granting amnesty to all members of warring action in the 2003 Act of the Legislature is not unique to Liberia.
Some famous Amnesties include the general amnesty granted by President of the United States of America, Andrew Johnson after the American Civil War (1861-April 9, 1865); the French amnesty of 1905, the Prussian amnesty, August 10, 1840, Napoleon’s amnesty of March 13, 1815 from which 13 eminent persons including Talleyrand were exempt.
‘Flaws’ with the TRC Report
In several interviews, Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull who refused to affix her signature to the final document of the TRC, but rather dissented, stated the final report as consolidated was not in consonance with the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, the Act establishing the TRC, the TRC rules and procedures revised April 2007, the August 2003 Act of Legislature granting general amnesty among others.
She stated that she could not concur with her fellow Commissioners of the TRC that prosecution in a court of competent jurisdiction and other forms of public sanction will foster genuine reconciliation, combat impunity to promote justice, peace and security.
Cllr. Bull in her dissent, referenced the Ghana 2003 CPA Agreement. Article XXXIV states “The NTGL shall give consideration to a recommendation for general amnesty to all persons and parties engaged or involved in military activities during the Liberian civil conflict that is subject of this agreement.”
In her stated view, the amnesty clause in the CPA Agreement is a clear indication the CPA opted for the TRC as an alternative to war crime tribunal to document and acknowledge a legacy of conflict and human rights violation, facilitate genuine healing in the spirit of national reconciliation for Liberia.
Cllr. Bull further expressed that contrary to the final recommendations of the TRC, the vast majority of Liberians opted to forgive and forget about the past opposed to the quest for retributive justice.