Liberia: Benoni Urey Calls for Establishment of War Crimes Court
Monrovia – A staunch loyalist and official of former Liberia’s jailed President Charles Taylor, Benoni Urey, has added his voice to the call for the establishment of a war crime court in the country.
Report by Edwin G. Genoway, [email protected]
Urey, now a businessman-cum-politician, says if calls for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia is ignored than the International Community should set the former Liberian President free.
Mr. Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence in a British prison for aiding and abetting crimes during the civil war in Sierra Leone.
“Let them free Taylor or carry everyone to jail; we had a war in Liberia and one person did not commit all atrocities. A lot of people did and if one person can face justice why not the rest?” Said Mr. Urey. He also faced UN sanctions after the war in Liberia.
Speaking in his regular authoritative tone to journalists after a meeting between opposition political parties and President George Weah in Monrovia on Thursday, Urey stressed that those who committed crimes must face justice by and through the establishment of a war crimes court, adding that he wholeheartedly welcomes the establishment of a court.
“We call for Justice, those that committed war crimes must be brought to trial, I support the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia,” he said.
“You see, in Liberia, only one person in jail, and a lot of people committed atrocities, and this is the decision that all Liberians must make if we will bring people to justice or we allow people to go with impunity,” he said.
During Taylor’s reign, Urey headed Liberia’s maritime authority and later became one of the country’s most successful businessmen.
But he too faced international pressure and sanction after the collapse of Taylor’s administration. He also suffered several United Nations and the United States sanctions because of his ties with Taylor.
His name was added to the US Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals list, prohibiting him from conducting business with US companies, citizens and residents, and blocking all US-based assets.
A 2005 report from the Coalition for International Justice reported that Urey helped Taylor “siphon off” funds from a shipping firm to pay for arms and was the primary contact between Taylor and Viktor Bout.
The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended in its final report that Mr. Urey be prosecuted for the commission of economic crimes during the civil war and barred from holding public office for 30 years.
During the TRC hearings, Urey was identified by witness James Paul as operating the Liberian Rubber Company and exporting “hundreds of thousands of tons of rubber”, the proceeds of which were never accounted for.
But he denied any involvement in the violence of the Liberian and Sierra Leone civil conflicts, maintaining that as a civilian being appointed to head the Maritime Commission, he made no war-related decisions.
An investigation by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Liberia’s political situation in 2013 concluded that it “did not have information suggesting that Urey was involved in activities that would destabilize Liberia and the sub-region”.
But his support for the establishment of war crimes court appears to be buttressing several calls requesting that perpetrators of crimes during the civil should face justice.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (the Committee), a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by its State parties, issued strong concluding observations on Liberia’s continued impunity for past crimes and human rights violations and calls upon the Liberian government to establish, as a matter of priority, a process of accountability for war crimes.
On 26 July 2018, following the first ever review of the human rights situation by the Committee, which included a dialogue with the Liberian government, the Committee concluded that it “regrets the very few steps taken to implement the bulk of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations of 2009.”
It also expressed “concern that none of the alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes mentioned in the TRC report, has been brought to justice, and that some of those individuals are or have been holding official executive positions, including in the government.”
“Failure of the Government of Liberia to undertake fair and credible prosecutions of international crimes committed in Liberia during armed conflicts between 1989 and 2003, and to end impunity for civil war-era crimes,” the UN Commission said.