Liberia: Renowned Rights Advocate to Intensify Calls for War Crimes Court at U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit


WASHINGTON DC – The Secretary-General of the Civil Society Human Rights Platform of Liberia, Adama Dempster, will on Monday join a host of top human rights defenders at the African Human Right Leaders Summit in Washington D.C. to push the case for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.

The African Human Rights Leaders Summit is organized by Amnesty International,  Humanity United, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Studies, and POMED – Project on Middle East Democracy.

Gerald C. Koinyeneh – [email protected]m

It is one of the crucial side events of the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit that is being convened by the Biden-Harris Administration in Washington D.C. from December 13-15, 2022. The Human Summit, organizers say is aimed at providing an independent platform to raise and integrate the voices of African civic groups and the diaspora ahead of the Summit.

The forum will also consider ways to prioritize human rights and democratic governance in U.S. Partnerships across the country aimed to feed into the implementation of the broader U.S. Africa strategy.

Speaking to FrontPage Africa in Washington D.C. ahead of the event, Mr. Dempster said he will be reiterating the clarion calls made by human rights advocates over the years in Liberia- that is for the United States to wield its influence on the Liberian Government to establish the court and bring those responsible for the war, which claimed the lives of an estimated 250,000 people accountable.

“The United States is Liberia’s closest ally. The U.S. has helped other countries in their path to promoting accountability for crimes committed against its people. I think Liberia is no exception,” he said.

He said the US government is uniquely placed to assist victims to access justice for serious crimes committed in Liberia. Given the United States has always been one of, if not the, most important international partners of Liberia. 

Dempster’s invitation to Washington D.C. for Human Rights Forum comes within days of a report released by 10 Liberian and international CSO groups calling on the Biden Administration to send an unequivocal, high-level message to President George Weah during the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit that a war crimes court in Liberia is important to bring justice for civil wars-era crimes and should not be delayed any further.

“The US government is uniquely placed to back Liberian victims in their quest for accountability for brutal atrocities committed during the civil wars as one of – if not the most important – international partners to Liberia,” said the group through Dempster. “The US government should seize the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit to encourage President Weah to commit to establishing a war crimes court.”

‘Do the same for us’

Dempster, repeating the message said the U.S. should do the same for Liberia just as it is doing for other African Countries including Guinea and Gambia.

More than 150 people were trampled, clubbed, or shot dead on September 28, 2009, when a demonstration against Guinea’s then-military ruler Mousa Dadis Camera was brutally repressed. Hundreds survived with injuries and trauma.  Dadis and other have denied the allegations.

The Gambian Truth Commission’s call for the prosecution of former officials who committed the worst human rights abuses during the 1994-2017 rule of former president Yahya Jammeh.

‘No Justice yet’

Despite enjoying relative peace for almost 20 years, the scars of Liberia’s brutal back-to-back civil wars are still fresh in the lives of victims. Widespread poverty as the result of corruption, the proliferation of drug abuse by Liberia’s youth population, and the unending culture of impunity are vices still impeding the country’s growth and development.

Despite pressure from civil society and Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), the government –both executive and legislative branches, has refused to initiate legal proceedings to set up the court.

President Weah rolled back on his commitment to champion the establishment of the Court. His party had been a chief advocate of the court during its quest for power. Many blamed his reluctance to support the court’s establishment is politically motivated.

However, in September 2019, hopes were raised when President Weah requested the 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 court.

Again, the resolution signed by over 50 members of the House was blocked by House Speaker Chamber, and a draft Act prepared by the LNBA and CSOs did not survive at the Legislature.

Key players of the war including Prince Y. Johnson and George Boley are currently serving as legislators. Senator Johnson, well known for assassinating Ex-president Samuel Doe during the war, and Representative Bolley, who was deported from the US to Liberia in 2012 due to his alleged role in the use and recruitment of child soldiers and other abuses while heading the Liberia Peace Council (LPC), are among those recommended by the TRC to face prosecution.

Although none has been tried by a Liberian court, landmark steps toward criminal accountability have seen cases prosecuted abroad – from the US federal conviction of Charles Chuckie Taylor, Jr. for torture committed in Liberia to the convictions for crimes committed during Liberia’s first civil war by former rebel commanders AlieuKosiah, in Switzerland, and the sentencing of Kunti Kamara to life imprisonment by a French Court in Paris in November last month.

There are also US federal convictions on immigration violations, fraud, and other crimes that are linked to underlying abuses in Liberia, of “Jungle Jabbeh,” and the late Thomas Woewiyu.

A civil suit in the United States seeking remedies for one of the single worst incidents during Liberia’s wars, the 1990 Lutheran Church massacre, was successful, but the defendant fled to, and now resides in, Liberia where there are no current accountability prospects. Survivors have brought a suit at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice for Liberia’s failure to pursue justice for crimes during the massacre.

While the U.S. Government was silent over the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for over a decade after the civil war, mostly during the administration of ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, recent statements and resolutions by officials of the U.S. Executive Branch and Congress have given hope to victims and advocates that light is at the end of the tunnel and they keep on pushing. And this is something Dempster is looking forward to doing when he takes the stage to speak as one of the panelists during the African Human Rights Leaders Summit on Monday.