Liberia: Margibi Lawmaker Rallies Colleagues to Take the Lead In Establishing War & Economic Crimes Court
Dwazohn, Margibi County – Rep. Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh (CDC, District #1, Margibi County) has called on fellow lawmakers to muster the courage and lead the process in the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh and Emmanuel Tokpah
Addressing members of his constituents in Dwazon on Saturday, Rep. Tarponweh said the creation of the court will dispense justice, end impunity and improve the rule of law.
“In this public forum, I want to respond to the many calls and enquiries about our position regarding the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia,” he said.
“We need to muster the political courage as a government to tell the rest of the world that we are in line with the principle of the rule of law. Let me reaffirm my position even though I am one of the signatories of the resolution in the House of Representatives.”
Rep. Tarponweh’s call for the court comes on the back of a wave mounting pressure on the Weah-led government to set up the court as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The TRC, which operated between 2006 and 2009, among other things, recommended the establishment of a war crimes court- the Extra-Ordinary Court to try those responsible for grave crimes, such as mass killings, rape, mutilation and torture committed during Liberia’s political turmoil dating from 1979 to 2003. Many of the recommendations, including the creation of the court has never been implemented.
The few cases involving civil wars-era crimes have all occurred outside Liberia before United States and European courts. Authorities have been pursuing cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows national courts to try international crimes committed abroad, as well as for crimes related to immigration, such as lying on immigration forms.
Despite President George Weah’s earlier support towards the establishment of the court during his address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, 2019, he soon backpedaled when he returned to Liberia.
Many human rights advocates and pro war crimes court campaigners were left disappointed when the President, instead of leading the charge, decided to seek the advice of the Legislature on the creation of the court.
In a further setback, a resolution signed by more than 50 members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Tarponweh, which called for the establishment of the war and economic crimes court is still held hostage by Speaker Bhofal Chambers.
The government continue to come under staunch criticism over its ‘lackadaisical’ approach to the TRC recommendations, especially the call for setting up the court, with some blaming President Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of snubbing the court to shield heavy weight politicians such as Prince Y. Johnson for political favor. The warlord-cum-Senator from vote-rich Nimba County was one of the fiercest rebel leaders during Liberia’s first civil war. He was indicted by the TRC to face the tribunal.
However, during the interactive forum with his constituents, Rep. Tarponweh, a member of the ruling CDC, cautioned that the establishment of the court should not be based on partisanship, but nationalistic point of view. He said it should be about putting Liberia on par with other civilized nations that uphold the rule of law.
The lawmaker has been an avid supporter of the court prior before his election in 2017.
More than a decade ago in 2009, he wrote an article entitled, “And Finally the TRC Report: What’s in It for the Rest of Us?”. In it, he called for the full implementation of the TRC recommendations.
He said the court should have been established concurrently with the TRC as it was done in countries like Sierra Leone and Rwanda, adding that the creation of the court in Liberia is a key to national healing and recovery.
Excerpt of the article: “With so many innocent lives lost and other ruined, where should those responsible for the mayhem and atrocities seek protective shield other than the pillows of harmony and reconciliation? After causing so much pain and suffering in a fourteenth-year Liberian homicidal debacle, perpetrators dared not pass up an opportunity for peace and reconciliation under the watchful eyes of the international community”.