Human Rights Campaigners and Victims of atrocities committed in Liberia have been responding to President George M. Weah’s recent comments on the Establishment of a War Crimes Court to prosecute past crimes in Liberia, saying that war crimes court is not a matter of choice but a transitional justice process that deals with past human rights violations like in case of Liberia.
The call for a referendum or a general decision on the establishment of the Court, the Campaigners said, will only delay implementation of the July 2018 UN Human Rights Committee conclusions that the Liberian government should establish a process of accountability for past human rights violations and report back in two years.
The response by the Human rights campaigners as contained in a oppress release issued recently especially directed at the President’s comment at the Roberts International Airport where journalists confronted him to give his thoughts on the call for the establishment of war and economic crime court in the country.
The President at the time indicated that the Liberian people and campaigners for the establishment of wear crime court in Liberia will have to decide between the establishment of the court on one hand and development peace of the country on the other. The President wondered at the time whether the Court that is being advocated for is needed for Peace and Development.
But in response to the thoughts of President Weah, Human Rights Campaigners and Victims answered in the affirmative as to ‘whether or not the Court is needed for Peace and Development’. The group also noted that a War Crimes Court is the medium through which impunity is addressed for those who bear the greatest responsibility for massacres, summary executions, recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence and atrocities that constitute gross human rights violations against defenseless women, children, older and other vulnerable persons during the back to back civil wars in Liberia.
“Let President Weah know that war crimes court is not a matter of choice but a transitional justice process that deals with past human rights violations like in case of Liberia. There is no need for referendum on the matter of criminal accountability,” the Human Rights Campaigners said.
Additionally, the Human Rights Campaigners reminded the President that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which completed its work nearly ten years ago and which conducted numerous hearings and took numerous statements from victims across Liberia and the diaspora, recommended the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court For Liberia to prosecute past grave crimes.
They recalled that Liberians have conducted multiple marches in the street this year, the most recent being on November 12 to campaign for a War Crimes Court.
The Campaigners further reminded President Weah the petition to the National Legislature by the Liberians on November 12, calling for implementation of the TRC recommendations, which includes the establishment of a War Crimes Court.
A national justice conference, the Human Rights Campaigners and victims, further recalled, was held on November 9, 2018 where numerous emotional calls for perpetrators to be held to account for past crimes were heard.
“The president should further be aware that his recent remarks are interpreted to be against the establishment of the war crimes court, which remains a bitter affront to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – an outcome of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) held in Accra Ghana for Peace, which is also a decision reach by representatives of the Liberian people in 2003.
According to the Campaigners, the President’s latest statement at the RIA while returning from the meeting of the commemoration of the end of World War I, is also a bitter affront to the July 2018 United Nations Human Rights Committee report (Concluding Observations on Liberia’s commitments to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights ICCPR ratified in 2004);
The President’s position is further a challenge to the United States Congress House Resolution 1055, supporting full implementation of Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, which includes the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia; and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) Goal 16 which states Global Peace, Global justice and Strong Institutions of which call for access to justice for all.
The Human Rights Campaigners further sees the president’s response to the public as a non-compliant to PILLAR THREE of the PRO-POOR AGENDA for PROSPERITY AND DEVELOPMENT GOAL, which provides that: A more peaceful, unified society that enables economic transformation and sustainable development, Ending Fragility and the Root Causes of Conflict, Increasing Civic Trust and Coexistence, Ensuring Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights.
“President Weah should not pay lip service to the US Congress House Resolution 1055; the SDGs Goal 16 Global justice; the Pro-poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity (PADP) Pillar Three. This will only elicit Liberia’s isolation by the international community and even lead to economic and diplomatic strangulation and instate fear amid continuous threats from present perpetrators,” the group stressed.
The Rights Campaigners sees it worrisome development in Liberia the stance by President Weah which has a potential to threaten international peace and security and further waste the billion dollars invested to restored peace in Liberia.
Noting that A War Crimes Court is the only way to help guarantee that victims of past violations do not become the next generation of perpetrators in another round of violence and blood bath in Liberia, the Human Rights Campaigners said “… to do the President much good and stability on the issues, we call on the Ministry of Justice to brief Mr. President on detail of the July 2018 UN Human Rights Committee report, the US Congress House Resolution 1055 in compliance to Liberia’s human rights and bilateral obligations.”
The group also maintained that the War Crimes Court is the only way to help assure that development undertaken after war would not be destroyed in the next war, adding “This court is also the only available deterrent factor for perpetrators.”