US Envoy Pledges America’s Commitment to Fund War Crimes Court

MONROVIA – United States Ambassador-At-Large for Global Criminal Justice (GCJ), Dr. Beth Van Schaack who is currently visiting Liberia has pledged the U.S. Government’s commitment to provide financial and technical support if Liberia established a war crimes tribunal as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The pledge comes at a time when Liberia is yet to establish a war crimes court — a most contentious part of the TRC’s recommendations. 

The TRC named 98 perpetrators it said were responsible for various kinds of gross human rights violations and war crimes including all leaders of warring factions- jailed former Liberian President Charles Taylor, Senator Prince Y. Johnson, Damante Conneh, Thomas Nimely Yaya and the late Alhaji G.V. Kromah, among other.

Schaack, who advises the US Secretary of State and other senior officials on issues relating to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, said it is time for the government of Liberia “to be accountable to its people”.

“The Liberian government has to be accountable to its people. The US Government is willing to support through technical and financial means to establish a tribunal,” Schaack said yesterday, while on a visit to Liberia to understand why the court has not been established as recommended by the TRC report.

“The TRC report has some useful recommendations to address war crimes and atrocities. We encourage those in positions of power to look very carefully at those recommendations. It is never late to dispense justice. The individuals who suffered the crimes are still calling for justice and those who represent them should look into those calls.”

Addressing the Liberian media alongside U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy on Thursday, she said as part of her visit to Liberia, she will hold meetings with major stakeholders concerning Liberia’s transitional justice mechanisms, especially the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

She said: “As you also know, there has been no accountability here on the criminal side, or the civil side for those who have been most responsible for those abuses… I will be having some meetings with members of the government and I plan to ask: what the status of the draft statute is and why it is not being put forward; what are the blockages and how can the blockages be solved?”

Endless Culture of Impunity

Liberia’s brutal civil war was marred by widespread human rights abuses including rape, torture, and extra-judicial killings. 

The Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord which ended the 14-year-long war, called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which documented several atrocities and, among other things called for the setting up of a special court to try those who bear greater responsibilities of the war.

Sadly, successive governments after the war have failed to implement the TRC recommendations. Several attempts to set the legal basis for the establishment of the court have failed.

Dr. Beth Van Schaack said, as part of her visit, she will meet with major stakeholders including the Legislature to find out the reasons behind the refusal to set up the court.

She noted that she has studied the TRC report and its recommendations, adding it was an ‘excellent’ exercise in gathering the views of many survivors across the country.

She said, “I have studied your system and read your Truth and Reconciliation Commission report which was an excellent exercise in gathering the views of many survivors across the country as to what happened during the two consequential civil wars.”

Continuing, she said, “And I think that TRC came forward with a number of very important recommendations, and those recommendations as we know, have not been fully implemented, they have been stalled. Part of the reasons that I am here is to better understand what’s happening with them, and the implementation of these recommendations.”

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