US Lawmaker Gives State, Defense Departments Options for Weah Govt. on War Crimes Court in Liberia

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LONDON – A senior member of the United States Congress, Representative Don Donovan(Republican, NY) has slammed as vague, a recent statement from Foreign Minister Milton Gbezohnga Findley on the push for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.

Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]

Rep. Donovan sits on both the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees in the US Congress. 

The US lawmaker, in a letter to the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also sent to FrontPageAfrica, said Mr. Findley’s recent comments falls short of genuine and robust commitment to establishing a war crimes tribunal. “To that end, what more can the Department of Defense and Department of State do to encourage Monrovia to establish a war crimes tribunal? And how else can myself and my colleagues in Congress assist in this effort? I look forward to your expeditious responses.”

The George Weah-led government has until July 2020 to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations, according to the United Nations. Ahead of that, Liberians – home and aboard – along with over 80 local and international groups, continue to push for the establishment of a criminal tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes. 

Foreign Minister Findley,  told the OK FM morning Show recently that a referendum is the most likely option to decide the establishment of any war crimes tribunal in the country.

Said Findley: “I understand that there are Liberians who want the war crimes court but also what are the results from the majority of the people of the country? Do we go to a referendum for this? Let’s go to a referendum. If people are not happy then let’s advocate for a referendum for the Liberian people to decide the way forward on this matter.”

The former Senator is the legitimate face of Liberia within the international community. He would have to put up with pressure from his international counterparts about the government’s stance on the implementation of the TRC recommendations, which have been kept under the carpet since it was released in 2010. 

President Weah, addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, described Liberia as a UN “peace-keeping success story” but played-down calls from protesting Liberians for the establishment of war crimes court. Instead, he opted to pitch “national dialogue” as a remedy to the atrocities and deaths of approximately 250,000 people slain during the course of two back-to-back civil crises.

Said Pres Weah: “Our people across the country still bear the scars of conflict, we therefore intend to initiate series of national peace dialogues. Throughout Liberia, we must restart those difficult conversations at the local level and include our youths so that they and we do not repeat the costly mistakes of the past. It is clear to me that these frank exchanges are an initial step in bringing lasting healing, reconciliation and unity to our people.”

Ironically, Weah was a key advocate for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia, when he served as peace ambassador for the United Nations. “Those who armed the children and committed heinous crimes against them should be brought to book”, the then UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador noted in 2004, adding that those to be prosecuted include warlords and military commanders of the various belligerent groups who, for their own selfish gains, brought children into the conflict.

The full text of Rep. Donovan’s letter reads: 

Dear Secretary Mattis and Secretary Pompeo,

New York’s 11th Congressional District is home to the largest Liberian population in the world outside of Liberia. With a vibrant presence in the Clifton section of Staten Island, I have seen their contributions for many years. They are hardworking and family-oriented community who have made themselves an integral part of the district.

As you know, from 1991 to 2002, civil war devastated Liberia and Sierra Leone. The violence took the lives of over 200,000 people, displaced over 1,000,000 persons and saw horrific cases of murder, amputation, mass rape, and other human rights abuses. The heinous crimes that occurred during this time are unspeakable, yet many of the perpetrators hold positions in Liberia’s government. With the presence of Senator Prince Y. Johnson and others, we are seeing Liberia’s slow creep backwards towards the murderous mayhem of its civil war era.

Liberians are rightfully clamoring for justice. The last thing we want to see is the cycle of violence start yet again. I fear that is exactly what will happen should the perpetrators of vicious crimes be allowed to escape responsibility. To this end I have introduced H.Res. 1055 in the House of Representatives, which calls upon Liberia to establish a war crimes Tribunal. This effort has already been followed by responses from Liberian government officials. Liberian Foreign Minister Gbehzongar Findley earlier this month reportedly suggested a referendum to establish a war crimes tribunal.”

“Unfortunately, this vague statement from Minister Findley falls short of a genuine and robust commitment to establishing a war crimes tribunal. To that end, what more can the Department of Defense and Department of State do to encourage Monrovia to establish a war crimes tribunal? And how else can myself and my colleagues in the Congress assist in this effort? I look forward to your response.”

VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT

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