The Liberian government is facing renewed domestic pressure to bring to justice individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for the massive looting of the country’s national resources and war crimes committed during the near two decade civil war.
More than 500protestors Tuesday, May 8, besieged the grounds of the Capitol to petition legislators to enact a law that would establish War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.
Under the banner, “Citizen Action for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court” the aniti impunity campaigners issued two weeks ultimatum for the legislature to act on the demand or face massive demonstration across the capital Monrovia.
“This is the time for us to put an end to the culture of impunity,” one activist Fobi Henry said.
“The CDC [ the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change] campaigned for 12 years calling for justice. If for 12t years they campaigned, what stops them now when they are in the power?
President Weah is on record for saying in 2004 that the only way Liberia can solve the culture of impunity and punish those who put guns into the hands of kids was to establish the War Crimes Court.
“Lock them up, said campaigner Franklin Wesseh. “It’s just about time that the legislature implements the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report or pass a law to establish the crimes court. For too long we have bowed to the culture that says let the sleeping dogs lie.
“This is a renaissance of consciousness. You can fool some people some time but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Continuing to swim in the pool of impunity will be a recipe for would be perpetrators to muster the courage and continue the carnage.”
Members of the House’s committee on claims and petition, Representatives Ceebee Barshel and Lawrence Morris assured the petitioners that the legislature will act upon their petition.
In her September 2015 progress report on the implementation of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gave the legislature the green light to enact a war crimes Court for Liberia.
She also implored legislators to seek a possible judicial review of a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that squashed the TRC recommendation that barred several individuals and politicians (president Sirleaf included) from occupying public office for 30 years on account of their respective role in financing and planning the war.
The Supreme Court had controversially ruled the recommendation was unconstitutional, clearing Johnson-Sirleaf to contest the 2011 presidential election, which she won.
Johnson Sirleaf also informed lawmakers that 142 of the 207 recommendations are actually implementable in short to-medium timeframe, while 18 of them are geared toward building a new political culture.
When established the court will prosecute individuals who bear the greatest responsibilities for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s decade long brutal civil war, which also caused 250,000 innocent deaths and displaced over 300,000 people.
The TRC blamed all factions to the Liberian conflict for abuses, including war crimes and crimes against humanity coupled with
the massive wave of gross gender based violence against women and recruitment of children to participate in acts of violence.
Current Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson, Alhaji G.V. Kromah and George Boley are amongst the country’s notorious war lords who commanded rebel forces.
Writes Titus E. Dessie