War & Economic Crimes Court at Last? Prince Johnson and Others in Hot Water as Speaker Koffa and 40 other Signs Resolution to Establish War & Economic Crimes Court

Mar 5, 2024 - 22:10
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War & Economic Crimes Court at Last? Prince Johnson and Others in Hot Water as Speaker Koffa and 40 other Signs Resolution to Establish War & Economic Crimes Court

 By: William K. Howard

Capitol Hill: Over forty Representatives of the 55th Legislature, has overpoweringly passed a resolution, seeking the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

Plenary decision comes following about forty one (41) members voting in favor of the resolution.

The lawmaker’s resolution narrated how the civil wars from 1989 to 2003 resulted in the death and destruction of many souls across the country, including the displacement of nearly half the population, shocking abuses, including summary executions, massacres, rape, other forms of sexual violence, mutilation and torture and forced conscription and use of child combatants.

Though the CDC administration made little efforts but was unable to execute it during her six years in power, but the big question is; are Liberians Ready for this? Can they achieve this? Taking into key consideration that many has put behind them the effects of War, and moving on with their lives, though some cannot afford to even retrospect the past, others cannot also wait to witness punitive actions be taken against those who perpetrated harms against them and their love ones.

The resolution states" WHEREAS, Article XIII of the Liberian Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on August 18, 2003, provided for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation".

The resolution further noted that the Liberian legislature enacted the Act to Establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC ACT) in 2005, formally creating the TRC with a mandate to promote national peace, security, unity, and reconciliation by investigating gross human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law, sexual violations, economic crimes that occurred between January 1979 and October 2003, the Liberian TRC submitted its final report to the National Legislature on December 19, 2009, recommending the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court of Liberia, an international domestic court with authority to prosecute individuals accused of gross human rights violations, serious humanitarian laws violations, and certain domestic crimes.

It further quotes section 48 of the TRC Act that provides "The Head of State shall report to the National Legislature within three months of receipt of the report of the TRC, and on a quarterly basis thereafter as to the implementation of the Commission's recommendations," and "All recommendations shall be implemented," and "Where the implementation of any recommendation has not been complied with, the Legislature shall require the Head of State to show cause such non-compliance.

According to the lawmakers resolution note, the Government of Liberia (GOL) has not fully implemented the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to date, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia, despite being obligated to do so under the TRC Act; and, Resolution for Establishment of War Crime Court.

 “Liberia has not prosecuted a single person for the grave crimes committed during its armed conflicts from 1989 to 2003; and the United Nations (UN) and other international partners have experience with the creation and functioning of war crimes courts, including courts with international and domestic participation and expertise”  The instrument also added.

Knewsonline investigation went on gathering the views of others who part took in the Liberian Civil War. They argued that the establishment of the court is partial and therefore does not cover as far back as the 1980s.

Where the Country stands currently, the Boakai government is fighting so hard to deliver on key promises, the signing of some lawmakers have fueled the discourse, with many hoping that the prosecution process will soon begin.

They continued by stating that the UN Human Rights Committee in July 2018, expressed, with regard to Liberia, "concerns that none of the alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and crimes mentioned in the TRC report has been brought to justice" and urged Liberia to establish a process to bring about accountability from past crimes and report back to the issue of impunity and accountability for civil wars -era crimes by 2020.

"NOW THEREFORE, it is resolved by the House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia in Legislature assembled: Expresses its support for full implementation of the TRC recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court in Liberia and commits to working with President Joseph Nyumah Boakai for the Court's establishment", it said.

The resolution maintained that based on Section 48 of the TRC Act that provides that "The Head of State shall report to the National Legislature within three months of receipt of the report of the TRC, and on a quarterly basis thereafter as to the implementation of the Commission's recommendations," and "All recommendations shall be implemented, and "Where the implementation of any recommendation has not been complied with, the Legislature shall require the Head of State to show cause for such non-compliance," therefore this matter before us is overdue, and that the president should act effectively, immediately on said legislative enactment without seeking advice from the legislature because, the TRC is already an Act enacted by the Legislature that is awaiting full implementation.

Conserving the records of the TRC would be crucial in serving the following purposes:

Resolution for Establishment of War Crime Court ensures availability and ownership of the country's collective memory on the conflict, the TRC is just but a fraction of the colossal information contained in these records", the document is quoted.

The instrument added; from an indispensable part of the implementation of the TRC recommendation, promote the culture of justice, rule of law and bolster the ongoing democratization process in Liberia.

"Be a lasting legacy and tribute to the thousands of victims and witnesses whose selfless contribution to the process led to the generation of these records. Ensure that state and international resources put in the TRC process were worth the exercise", the note outlined.

They are also in their resolution calling on President Joseph Nyuma Boakai Sr. to work with the United Nations, international partners, institutions, and civil society organizations for assistance in establishing the Extraordinary Criminal Court in Liberia in a manner that allows the trial of international crimes in accordance with international standards and best practices.

“Therefore, recognizing that economic crimes are the progenitor of war crimes, call for legislative action to establish Economic Crimes Court for the swift and speedy trial of corruption and economic crimes’’.

Meanwhile, following some un-readiness by individual lawmakers, the resolution has been submitted to the Liberian Senate for concurrence with most Nimba county lawmakers voting against the resolution while Representative Musa Hassan Bility abstained, justifying that he will consult his lawyers to ensure that his decision is in good standing with other national security issues.

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William K Howard William K Howard Jr is a young Liberian Journalist who is focused on investigative and human-interest reporting. He comes with about 10 years of experience in mainstream journalism. William K Howard is currently the Deputy Director of News at CT.com Liberia Limited, Kool 91.9FM/TV. His hard work has also earned him several professional certificates in journalism including Journalist of the year 2022/2023 in Liberia's biggest city, Paynesville.