‘Justice Delayed is not Justice Denied for Liberia’s War Perpetrators,’ Says U.S Congressman Smith

Cllr.Thomas Asumana, Ysndi Martin Kpeyei, James Rogers, Congress man Chris Smith, Dr.Alan White, Mrs Lucy Kear

Monrovia — United States Congressman Chris Smith has said speedy action must be taken against perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses committed during Liberia’s 14-year civil war.

“Justice delayed is justice denied, but not in the case of Liberia. All perpetrators who committed atrocities during the country’s civil war must be held accountable,” Congressman Smith said upon receiving 300,000 signatures from members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation report.

Congressman Smith said the 300,000 signatures gathered is a “powerful testimony”, and shows how Liberians are desperate for justice. “The report will make the Congress aware about the need for tribunal in Liberia,” he said.

The presentation of 300,000 signatures comes days after advocates for war and economic crimes in Liberia petitioned The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to add more names of Liberians involved in acts of corruption to the Magnisky Sanction list. 

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus) is a bipartisan caucus of the United States House of Representatives. Its stated mission is “to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.” 

The signatures were obtained from Liberia by Liberia United for Justice & Accountability, Global Initiative For Justice, International Justice Group, and Movement for Justice in Liberia, among others.

Resolution 1055, which was passed by the House in December 2018, seeks to affirm strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

Resolution 907 was introduced by Representative Gregory W. Meeks on February 2, 2022 and seeks to affirm America’s commitment to support progress toward transparency, accountable institutions, and other tenets of good governance in the Republic of Liberia as it approaches the bicentennial of the arrival of the first free Black Americans to Providence Island, Liberia.

In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia recommended that Liberia establish a tribunal largely based on the Sierra Leone model to prosecute war criminals. 

The Ebola crisis delayed implementation of the tribunal during Sirleaf’s tenure. The problem is that Liberian president George Weah, who has been in office since 2018, seems to have little interest in holding the perpetrators of war crimes accountable even though the Truth and Reconciliation Commission does not leave the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court up to the president’s discretion and requires him to reach out to the international community. 

While Weah has assured the international community at forums like the United Nations General Assembly that he will work to establish a court, these assurances seem to be for export only; when he returns home, he not only forgets his promises but even denies them, video notwithstanding. 

His stated desire to reach out to the senate is not credible either since, by law, the senate has no jurisdiction over the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court. Part of the problem, frankly, appears to be Weah’s own documented complicity in economic crimes as well as many of his allies’ involvement — including Prince Johnson, who executed former president Samuel Doe and is now a sitting senator.