Should War-Time Crimes Be Punished In Liberia Today?

Roundtable Set to Promote debate by combining research and cartooning


While the demand for a war crimes court in Liberia is gaining momentum, trials of alleged Liberian warlords have only been possible abroad in very few instances. As a result, the overwhelming majority of Liberians is left with no access to justice, many unanswered questions and misunderstandings. Responding to this concrete demand for information, Civitas Maxima, and the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) partner with students from Geneva and local artist to run an innovative cartooning workshop and roundtable to discuss the topic: Should war time crimes be punished in Liberia today?

“The use of arts is a significant step in molding the minds of young people to seeing justice as a necessary foundation for democracy and economic improvement,” said Hassan Bility,  Director of the Global Justice and Research Project.

“Arts gives people the freedom to talk about things they fear or admire. In Liberia we need to talk about justice” said Leslie Lumeh, Director and Instructor at the Liberian Visual Arts Academy.

The project addresses these difficulties and challenges by combining knowledge and cartooning in the form of a workshop and roundtable event. It is the product of a collaboration between students from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, the Liberian Visual Arts Academy, the independent Swiss-Congolese artist JP Kalonji, the GJRP and Civitas Maxima, with funding from the Kathryn W. Davis Peace Foundation.

The aim of the roundtable is to discuss how the main theoretical or philosophical approaches to the justification of punishment relate to and can inform a debate on the question whether crimes committed during the civil wars should be punished in Liberia today. In addition, the “Cartooning for Justice” workshop will empower students with necessary skills of storytelling and drawings in order to find artistic responses to the question whether crimes committed during the civil wars should be punished. Or in the words of Hassan Bility, “[t]he combination of knowledge and arts is a way of igniting the flame of justice”.

Civitas Maxima, and the Global Justice and Research Project have been key players in collecting evidence and conducting outreach in relation to trials abroad. Together they run the “Liberian Quest for Justice” campaign, which provides independent reporting from courtrooms through multiple artistic tools, and seeks to raise awareness of the victims’ fight for justice.