Monrovia – A petition for the establishment of war and economic crimes court was on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 submitted to the Legislature but from all indications, the petition was dead on arrival.
Report by J. H. Webster Clayeh, [email protected]
Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Eugene L. Fahngon, told reporters at a regular press briefing that though the government under the administration of President George Weah would consider the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation, such is not a top priority for the government yet.
Fahngon said, “We are not ignoring the calls for a war crimes court; it’s just that we want to focus on the things that matter most to the Liberian people right now and one of the things is the TRC except that it is not at the top of the list right now.”
According to Fahngon, it would do no good for Liberians when a war crimes court is established while the bulk of Liberians do not have jobs and access to basic services and amenities.
Fahngon couldn’t come clear on the government’s position of war crimes court which, according to many Liberians, would help end the culture of impunity which has permeated the society and at the same time help the country reconcile.
“The government position is very clear, at no point in time that this government said to anyone that we will not encourage a war crimes court, or we will encourage a war crimes court,” he said.
Fahngon continued, “What this government has made clear to everybody is that we have our priority.”
The government spokesman accused those calling for the establishment of war crimes court of winning and dinning with the previous government, yet did not petition the government for the prosecution of warlords.
“The same people that are calling for war crimes court today would have called for it 12 years down the road. The same people they are seeking to face justice were the very leaders they were working under,” he stated.
Fahngon’s reaction to the petition comes at the time when the petitioners led by Fubbi Henries, believe strongly that the time is ripe for establishment of the setting up of the special court because President Weah led the advocacy when he was in opposition.
Henries told FrontPageAfrica on Tuesday at the Capitol, “We strongly believe that President Weah would listen to our call. He is one of the individuals who called for the establishment of war crimes court from the time he was goodwill ambassador, even before he joined politics. And when he was in the opposition, he advocated for the establishment of war crimes court, therefore, we know he would act on our petition.”
The petition explains that implementing the TRC recommendations would also not only rewrite Liberia’s history that culture of impunity is over, but it would also bring peace of mind to those who lost their loved ones and been going through trauma from the impact of the war. It would also serve as a deterrent for future conflicts.
“This is our cry, we want justice. This country cannot have genuine peace without justice. Therefore, the establishment of the war crimes Court is inevitable. Even the heavens require judgment for our actions here on earth,” the petition noted.
The petitioners argued that prosecuting perpetrators of the war is tantamount to enforcing laws on rape, murder, damage of property, adoption, and exposing kids to danger, amongst others.
In March this year, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Aminata Mohammed during her visit to Liberia said, “It is also critical to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and for the legislature to pass key bills that will support local inclusion and reconciliation.”
She made the statement during a press stakeout with President Weah during her visit.
According to her, Peace will remain fragile as long as people feel excluded from the economic and political life of the country, and as long as corruption undermines confidence in institutions.
In April 2004, President Weah who was at the time serving as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador called for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia to arrest and prosecute all warlords for recruiting and arming children in Liberia.
He said at the time, that the tribunal when established, should be given the authority to identify, locate, arrest and prosecute all those who committed heinous crimes during the devastating and bloody war in the country.
He made specific reference to warlords who forcibly recruited, trained and armed Liberian children to participate in the arm conflict.
“Those who armed the children and committed heinous crimes against them should be brought to book”, the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador noted, 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.
Weah was in the country by then to help carryout the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) program.
Though the Congress for Democratic Change which has evolved into the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), now the ruling party, was in the vanguard of advocacy for the implementation of the TRC recommendations, the new Chairman of the Party, Mulbah K. Morlu, Jr. is on record for saying that the establishment of a war crimes court would not be consideration for the Weah-led administration.