Liberia: Monrovia City Mayor, Jeff Koijee, Condemns Justice Minister for Being Mute over Call for War Crimes Court

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MONROVIA – The Mayor of Liberia’s capital, Jefferson T. Koijee, has questioned the silence of Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, over the recent call for the establishment of war crimes court by former U.N. envoy Stephen Rapp.

Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]

Stephen J. Rapp is an American lawyer and the former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice.

He became the Chief of Prosecutions of the ICTR in 2005, and continued to assist Chief Prosecutor Hassan Jallow in prosecuting those involved in the 1994 genocide. In 2007, Rapp succeeded Desmond de Silva to become the third Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he directed the prosecution of former Liberian President Charles Taylor and others alleged to have violated international criminal law during the Sierra Leone Civil War.

During his recent visit to Liberia earlier this month, both Mr. Rapp and and Dr. Uchenna Emelonye, Country Representative of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights called for Liberia to set up a war crimes court to prosecute perpetrators of its civil war. 

They made the call during a one-day justice conference designed to build momentum for the establishment of war crimes court in the country.

“We very much recognize to prevent atrocities in the future—murder, rape, the burning and destruction of homes and communities and livelihoods—one needs to hold responsible, at least the major actors of those crimes, to account,” he told the conference in a special message, warning that leaders in the future could take advantage of impunity to return the country into a bloodbath.   “The only way we can prevent that is by the way we prevent other crimes: by holding those that are responsible in fair processes,” Mr. Rapp said during the conference. 

Koijee: Inciteful Comments  

During a well-attended press conference held at the Monrovia City Hall on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, Mayor Koijee described comments made by the war crimes advocate as “inciteful”, and insinuated that Mr. Rapp was meddling in the sovereignty of the Republic. 

According to him, he sees no reason why the Justice Minister would sit supinely and allow such to happen.

Koijee: “You’ve got one man called Stephen Rapp, he comes here and sits on the radio station and incites our people and the Justice Minister sits and does nothing. He talks about war crimes court. The President is the chief interpreter of our foreign policy, he said to you we must choose peace.  Look at Prince Johnson, he endangered Prince Johnson and the Justice Minister does nothing about it.”

Mayor Koijee said Mr. Rapp “crossed the redline” and his utterances should not have been condoned by the country’s justice arm.

He added that the country is heading in a direction that calls for the Justice Ministry to take up its responsibility to avert some wrong happenings. Mayor Koijee referenced recent allegation against him that he instigated the Montserrado County District 13 pre-by-election violence on November 17.

It was alleged that Mayor Koijee moved in the campaign ground of Mrs. Cornelia Krua-Togba who was contesting on the ticket of the Unity Party with a gun and shot at her supporters who resisted him.

He challenged his accusers to provide proof of their allegation and at the same called on Ms. Togba to retract her allegation. However, he said he blames the Ministry of Justice for doing little to help the situation and failing to recognize that such false allegation puts his life in danger.

Mayor Koijee: “The Justice Ministry needs to take responsibility. The way the country is proceeding, he needs to take responsibility. The Justice Minister cannot be here and you say a senior government official took away the life of a citizen. The Justice Ministry must ensure that we’re all protected. I deserve to be protected also. I could be attacked publicly. 

“It is unfortunate that we have a Justice Minister here who has refused to institute investigation in the wake of a grave accusation on a senior government officials of carrying arms during a political rally by a sitting Senator of Grand Bassa County, and the Justice Ministry cannot do anything about it! I am disappointed and call on the Justice Minister to correct the errors committed,”

“Look! We run a government here and we have a Justice Minister here that is duty bond to protect lives and properties regardless of the status of a particular person and he sits there watching these kinds of gross bridge of the law continue.  I call on you Mr. Justice Minister to do the right thing.” Koijee contended.

The City Mayor also frowned on the rising wave of street protest around the country, describing it as unlawful and lamented that the Liberia National Police and the Ministry of Justice are failing to act on the unlawful protests.

“Everywhere people are just blocking streets. How can blocking streets become the order of the day in this country and the Justice Minister sits supinely and does nothing about that?” he asked.

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