Liberia: Pres. Weah Casts Uncertainty over His Support for Establishment of War Crimes Court

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Margibi County – President George Mannah Weah has again cast uncertainty over his support for the establishment of war and economic crimes court in the country, stating that his government has never called for the courts.

President Weah told scores of citizens who had gathered at the Roberts International Airport on Tuesday, October 1 to welcome him back from the United Nations General Assembly that instead of his government focusing on the establishment of war and economic crimes court, he’s more concerned about finding a way to fix the already crumbling economy.

“Since we came to power, I have never one day called for the War Crimes Court. You the journalists called for War Crimes Court, Liberians are calling for war crimes court, both the victims and perpetrators are calling for war crimes court,” said President Weah.

President Weah had earlier told world leaders at UNGA that his government is a “listening administration” and will pay keen attention to its people as it relates the prosecution of people accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He said at UNGA: “What I have discerned from their cries is that it is important to bring closure to the wounds from the 14 years of Liberia’s brutal civil war, and that we need to agree on a mechanism that would guarantee the sustenance of peace, stability, justice, and reconciliation, as well as enhance our prospects for economic recovery.” 

In his address, President Weah also expressed concern about the incessant pressure piling on his administration for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court as compared to his predecessor, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Now, his comments upon arrival at the RIA seem to be in sharp contrast with the growing public perception that his administration is now poised to support the establishment of the Special Courts.

The Liberian leader had earlier written the Legislature before making his trip to the UN, calling on the body to advise him on the process of establishing the war and economic crimes courts.

Wrote President Weah to the Legislature: “As President of the Republic of Liberia, I am committed to a holistic implementation of the National Consensus (recommendations of the dialogue) and do hereby call on the National Legislature to advise and provide guidance on all legislative and other necessary measures towards the implementation of the TRC report, including the establishment of war and economic crime courts.” 

Now, the Liberian leader seems to have on his support for the courts, arguing that Liberians should be more concern about fixing economic problems than pressurizing his leadership for a situation that was created by others.

Said Weah: “You calling for war crimes court, and I said why this time when we have economic issues and trying to develop our country. Why should we focus on the war crimes court now, when we did not focus on it 12 years ago? Those people who were part of the entire process of what happened to us lead for 12 years, so why now, is that what you want?” 

The August 2003 Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement called for the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which later called for the establishment of the courts to prosecute individuals who bear the greatest responsibility of atrocities committed during the civil war. 

It is now two years into Mr. Weah’s term since he was elected in 2017, and the backers of the courts are arguing that he’s the right person to implement the TRC report because he played no part in the civil hostilities.

He told world leaders  at the UN that he has already begun consultations with the Legislature and will have a broader engagement with the Liberia Judicial System, strategic international partners and organizations to determine pertinent issues such as legal framework, timing, venue, and funding for the establishment of the courts.

But Weah during an interview with journalists at the RIA on Tuesday, October 1 – which was also his birthday – said his comment at the UN did not suggest that his leadership is in support of establishing a War and Economic Crimes Court, but wants the National Legislature to deal with the matters. 

“What I did, is to explain to them, why now? If you don’t understand my English, you have to go back to my speech to better understand,” President Weah said.

“The Legislature has a reason now to sit and talk about the issues surrounding war crimes court, instead of you disrupting the peace of this country.”

Reaction To His UNGA Speech Criticisms

Meanwhile, President Weah has defended his statement at the UN, saying he sees no reason why there should be mixed reactions among Liberians.

 “I don’t know why people will have mixed feelings when I informed the UN about what is unfolding on the ground. I don’t think any Liberian should have mixed feeling when I told the UN that we have economic issues on the grounds and to see how they can help us.” 

“I can remember a couple of years back, I was one of those that went with the government to beg for debt relief and there was no need to have mixed feelings when Liberia is faced with serious economic challenge.”

According to Weah, some of the issues he presented were intended to attract partners’ support in addressing the current challenges.

“We rely on donors because we don’t have the capability and strength. We believe that the international community can do a lot for us, so your leader has to go and ensure that we work together,” President Weah said. 

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