Liberia: War Crimes Court Witnesses at U.S. Congress Could be Paid Agents – Amb. Patten Writes Foreign Affairs Committee to Investigate
MONROVIA – Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States of America has written the U.S. Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs alleging that those who recently testified before the committee, making a case for the establishment of war crimes court in Liberia, could on the payroll of some Liberian politicians in the opposition bloc.
Amb. George Patten who lamented that the Committee denied his request to also present the Liberian government’s position on the establishment of war and economic crimes court said the three witnesses at the public hearing are all open critics of the George Weah-led administration.
The Ambassador’s letter, a copy of which FrontPageAfrica has seen was confirmed by the Minister Counsellor for Press and Public Affairs, Al Jerome Anastas Chede.
The witnesses who testified on June 22, before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission were Ysyndi Martin-Kepyei, Executive Director of the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJUL); Jerome V. Verdier, Esq, Executive Director, International Justice Group and former Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia; Michael Mueller, Chairman of the Global Initiative for Justice and Dr. Alan W. White, former Chief of Investigations, Special Court for Sierra Leone
Among other things, Amb. Patten stated in communication to House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, that “the Government of Liberia is concerned that opportunistic politicians and other individuals with vested interest will use such platforms to foster selfish or pecuniary political agenda, which are not in consonance with accountability and the national interest. We note that your three witnesses were all open critics of the sitting administration, and that my offer to represent the government’s position was denied.”
Amb. Patten was particular about Dr. Alan White whose business partner in the BW Global Group, Mr. Jeffery Birrel, was a registered foreign agent for former presidential candidate Benoni Urey.
Amb. Patten stated in the communication: “I share with you in this testimony that when Dr. White and his partner Mr. Birrell visited the Liberian Embassy in April at my invitation, where I requested an opportunity to provide them a government perspective, they did not disclose to me their Liberia paymasters, past or present, and positioned themselves as caretakers of U.S.-Liberia policy, suggesting that if the government did not align, they would be shut-out of Congressional support.
“It is incumbent upon the Commission to ascertain if funding is on-going from Liberia political leaders, directly or indirectly to witnesses that it selects.”
He then encouraged the Commission to broaden the scope of the discussion on the establishment of war and economic crimes court to involve a wider cross-section of the Liberian society for the best outcome of accountability.
Urey – the Paymaster?
Document in the possession of FrontPageAfrica Mr. Jeffery Birrel, a partner of Dr. Allan White, in May 2017 signed a US$210,000 contract with Mr. Benoni Urey who was contesting the presidential elections at the time.
The agreement which was signed by Ms. Telia Urey, daughter of Mr. Benoni Urey and Birrel, was intended for Mr. Birrel’s US Africa Development Corporation (USADC) to provide support to Mr. Urey in accordance to their verbal agreement and discussions.
“It has been agreed that you’ll compensate the USADC a professional fee. This fee shall be of a total of US$210,000 (USD), which includes a travel budget of $10,000. Payment of this fee is as follows:
-$50,000 shall be due upon the signing of this document via wire
-$160,000 balance will be paid in monthly installments of $20,000 per month for the remaining eight months with the first payment due in 60 days of the signing of this document (April 2017) with the balance to be paid on or before November 2, 2017.
Conflict of Interest?
Mr. Jeffery Birrel did not provide testimony to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the Liberian Ambassador to the United States believes his association to Dr. White, one of the lead campaigners for the establishment of war crimes court in Liberia comprises the integrity of his testimony.
Mr. Birrel is involved with Government Relations, Public Relations, Foreign Government Representation (focus on Africa and the Middle East), Corporate Representation.
Dr. White’s Testimony
In his testimonies, Dr. Alan W. White, former Chief of Investigations, Special Court for Sierra Leone said, it is clear that the current administration is not serious about establishing the court, however, there have been public figures demanding the establishment of the War Crimes and Economic Crime Court, including Alex Cummings the leader of the Coalition of the Political Parties and other organizations such as the Liberian National Bar Association, Religious Leaders and Civil Society members.
“They want to bring an end of impunity, reestablish the rule, and hold those accountable for the atrocities committed during the civil wars. The people of Liberia want to move forward and see their country developed and prosper, however until the nation heals and reconciles with its past it will not happen.
“So, the demand for justice and accountability is loud and clear and the people of Liberia are demanding that those who committed the atrocities that led to the devastation of Liberia are held accountable, justice is delivered and those assets and monies stolen from their country are.”
Liberian Government’s Position
In his communication to Congress, Amb. Patten stated President Weah’s recognition for accountability, stating that he is the only Liberian leader since the end of the war to formally engage the Legislature on the importance of framing a national direction on the resolutions contained in the report of the TRC and on the proper and legal parameters for accountability.
He referenced President Weah’s September 12, 2019 letter to the Legislature seeking the advice of the body on all legislative and other necessary measures towards the implementation of the of the TRC recommendations.
Amb. Patten informed the Human Rights Commission that in response to the Pres. Weah’s request, the Liberian Senate has recommended the setting up a Transitional Justice Commission which will build on the work of the TRC.
Amb. Patten stated, “Liberia’s democracy is vibrant, as evidenced by the regular free and fair elections which in some cases have been won by the opposition. President Weah has demonstrated his commitment to the process by conceding election defeats of his party and congratulating winners. Liberia welcomes pluralism and diverse opinions which characterize a true democracy, including this hearing and many other activities that seek to elevate the discussion of accountability for crimes committed during the war years.”