Liberia: Speaker Chambers ‘Seizes’ Joint Committee’s Report Calling for Establishment of War & Economic Crimes Court

Speaker Chambers has been an ardent critic and political foe of Madam Sirleaf for several years

Capitol Hill, Monrovia – House Speaker Bhofal Chambers has for the third time seized a legislative instrument calling for the establishment of war and economic crimes court in Liberia.

On Tuesday the former Chairperson on the House Committee on Claims and Petition, Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District #4, Montserrado County), in communication to plenary, pleaded for the endorsement of a report from the joint Committee on Claims and Petition, Good Governance and Judiciary calling for the establishment of the court.

The report was crafted when the leadership of Rep. Dennis as Chair of the Claims and petition Committee but was not submitted until she was removed from the committee. Since then it has been languishing in the committee room. However, using her legislative privilege, she wrote a plenary, calling for the endorsement of the joint committee’s report and its recommendation.

But the current chairs on the Committees on Judiciary, Rep. Kanie Wesso (Gbarpolu County) and the Chair on Claims & Petition, Rep. Gonpue Kargon complained that the report should have been submitted to them before forwarding to plenary.

In the midst of the argument, Speaker Chambers seized the motion without disclosing when it will –resurface on the floor.

Meanwhile, it is the Speaker’s third time to hijacked the legislative instrument backing the creation of a war and economic crimes court to try perpetrators who committed try those who are believed to have committed heinous crimes between 1979 and 2003 – the period of civil unrest in Liberia.

In October 2019, Speaker Chambers seized a pro-war crimes court resolution signed by two-thirds members of the House. The Speaker, defending his action says the establishment of the court is a contentious issue that requires more consultations with members of their constituents.  Since then, he has not placed it on the House’s agenda for discussion.

The resolution, championed by Rep. Dennis when she served as Chairperson of the Committee on Claims and Petition and Rep. Larry P. Younquoi (Nimba Co. District #8), Chairman on Governance, had earlier been endorsed at the Duport Road Memorial in Paynesville, hosting the remains of thousands of massacre victims of the civil war.

There have also been several legislative instruments submitted to the House of Representatives, including a bill crafted by the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), establishing the court to try people who committed war and economic crimes during the war.

Despite sustained effort being exerted by a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds – local and international, the government of President Weah, like its predecessor, continues to snub the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation, which, among other things, called for the establishment of an extraordinary tribunal to prosecute all those who bear the greater responsibilities of the civil war.