Liberia: Solicitor General Endorses Establishment of Transitional Justice Commission to Review TRC Recommendations

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MONROVIA – The Plenary of the Liberian Senate on Wednesday constituted itself into a committee of a whole to begin public hearings into its leadership’s recommendation on the way forward in implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.

Lawyers, Civil Society Organizations and former members of the TRC are being invited to provide expert opinion on best way forward with the TRC recommendations.

The Senate’s first witness was Cllr. Syrennius Cephus, Liberia’s solicitor General.

In his opening remarks, Cllr. Cephus was quick to issue disclaimer that his position on the report didn’t represent the Government of Liberia’s position but were his personal opinions on the debate surrounding the TRC recommendations and the way forward.

He expressed his support for the establishment of a Transitional Justice Commission to handle the TRC report rather than a war and economic crimes court. According to him, to establish a war and economic crimes court, it would require amending the Constitution.

 “We all know the socio-economic impediment and the processes that occasioned the final report of the TRC, the constitutional challenges bordering on due process and the question of the full implementation was left unaddressed.

“Therefore, for me, my opinion on this debate and I think the surest way to revert to the TRC process is that I clearly support the formation of the Transitional Justice Commission so that, the question as to why the TRC Recommendations have not been fully implemented can be addressed. “

According to Cllr. Cephus, the original objective of the TRC was to provide a forum for national reconciliation and healing and had the TRC met up with its full objective Liberia would not have been where it is today.

The Solicitor General, in his statement as an expert witness, told the Senate that the framers of the TRC didn’t intend for it to be a court where Commissioners of the Commission would have provided dissenting opinion but was intended for a unanimous report.

He said, if there was a dissenting opinion, the surest way forward was inclusiveness of said opinion.

“My position on this is that the Transitional Justice Commission is that indeed is the better forum to be able to carry out this work. The TRC was not a Supreme Court or any court of appeal where descending or conclusiveness of a judgment is based on majority opinion.

“Liberia’s mere commitment to treaty obligations does not constitute parts of the laws of Liberia. Even after ratification of a treaty where it becomes law it, it becomes subject and subordinate to the Constitution and can be reviewed by Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution.”

 The Need for Amendment

Cllr. Cephus also told members of the Senate that creating a war and economic crimes court in Liberia which will which will have an international character will require significant constitutional amendments of Articles 2, 50, 54, 56.

He also advised that for the establishment of an economic crimes court, there already exist a Criminal Court “C” that deals with criminal matters.

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