MONROVIA: Liberia’s Solicitor-General and Chief Prosecutor, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, has strongly excepted to Cllr. Jerome Verdier’s “Liberia Referral” before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and has proffered a barrage of arguments, challenging and exposing what called the “flaws in Verdier’s referral.” Referring to himself as the only Liberian Lawyer duly qualified and listed by the ICC to practice law and represent individuals accused of war crimes, aggression, genocide and crimes against humanity, before the court, Cllr. Cephus said he proceeded to “set the records straight” by presenting before the court a litany of compelling legal and historical reasons why Cllr. Verdier is not legally qualified to make such a referral, and why his TRC report is nothing but a political “white elephant”, with millions of US dollars’ taxpayers money spent on its hearing and investigations, but cannot be implemented.
Introducing himself to the court as one of its venerated listed counsel, Cllr. Cephus told the court in a letter that: “I will never support the policy of any regime that promotes the culture of impunity–I will never play blind eyes to the commission of war crimes, no matter how shielded they may be under the ill-fated argument of defending ‘national security or sovereignty.”
Cephus continued, “I therefore come to, or assume the prosecution office of my dear country with a huge and self-effacing international reputation and character, backed by more than a decade in years of training, experience and practice rarely comparable, and perhaps hardly ever seen anywhere in the annals of law practice amongst my legal peers in Liberia.”
Instead, the Liberian Solicitor-General who said he wholeheartedly subscribe to the tenets of international justice, and as the only practicing courtroom lawyer from my country admitted to the list of counsel of the ICC, clarified that at the moment, there are no “ongoing war crimes, genocide, aggression, and crimes against humanity” being committed under the administration of President Weah, as alleged by Cllr. Verdier, a Liberian citizen and lawyer, adding that indeed, Cllr. Verdier has no legitimate grounds or compelling evidence of the alleged atrocious human rights abuses and violations to ask the office of the Chief Prosecutor to consider and treat the Republic of Liberia as an “ICC Situation.”
As the Solicitor-General and Chief Prosecutor of Liberia whose responsibility it is to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of criminal offenses, pointed out that his letter is written in respect of what he described as the “seemingly politically motivated communication authored by Cllr. Jerome J. Verdier, Sr., a Liberian citizen and lawyer, titled: “Liberia Referral”, in which he craves the indulgence of Your Honour’s office to investigate alleged human rights violations, i.e. war crimes, aggression, genocide and crimes against humanity said to have occurred, or occurring currently under the administration of His Excellency President George Manneh Weah.”
Cllr. Cephus told the ICC prosecuting office that while this is not an attempt to counter the free expression of his opinion, for the fact that the 1986 Constitution of Liberia grants every Liberian citizen the right to hold an unfettered view of events, it is however difficult, if not impossible to draw any clear line of reasoning between the content of his communication and the objective of the “ Liberia Referral” pursuant to Article 13, specifically taking into account the non-existence of the conditions of Article 5 of the Rome Statute within the Republic of Liberia at the moment, to warrant such a referral.
“Further, Article 13 titled: “Exercise of jurisdiction” of the Rome Statute states: “The court may exercise its jurisdiction with respect to a crime referred in Article 5 in accordance with the provisions of this statute if: (a) “A situation in which one or more of such crimes appears to have been committed is referred to the Prosecutor by a state party in accordance with Article 14,” the solicitor-general informed the ICC prosecutor.
He argued that Article 5 of the Rome Statute refers to the limitation of the court’s jurisdiction to the most serious crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, none of which has been committed or perpetrated by any Liberian citizen under the administration of His Excellency President George Manneh Weah.
“This is why the content of the “Liberia Referral” appears to have been tailored or structured on the foundations of innuendoes, half-truths and gross inaccuracies, and it seems a subterfuge employed by Cllr. Verdier and his benefactors to use the ICC to intimidate their perceived enemies and staunch political rivals in Liberia,” the Liberian Justice Ministry senior prosecutor asserted in his letter to the ICC.
He pointed out that his clarification is imperative because as a lawyer on the list of counsel, who is qualified to practice before the Honorable Court (ICC), it behooves him not just to frown upon and condemn any egregious commission of crimes, including but not limited to war crimes, and report the alleged perpetrators to the Court, but also to be the first public official, if such conditions were to exist, to quit and resign his position in opposition to any regime or institution that commits these heinous crimes in the name of defending ‘national sovereignty.’
. According to Cllr. Cephus, it is frustrating to say that the TRC report has become a political “white elephant”, with millions of taxpayers’ money spent on its hearings and investigations, yet its recommendations cannot be implemented because of the litany of unanswered questions and bad judgments that decorate its pages — it has become a subject of emotional debate, and of denial and rejection wherever it is introduced for discussion.
“Perhaps unable to withstand the multiple of questions being asked by most Liberians, including some TRC commissioners as to how some of the findings or recommendations were derived, with Liberian Supreme Court challenges and claims of the lack of due process, Cllr. Verdier had no choice but to take flight, and is now using his absence from the bailiwick of the Republic of Liberia to propagate the enforcement of his controversial TRC report through the ICC,” he narrated.
He then emphasized that upon challenges being made before the Supreme Court of Liberia, the Court after a careful judicial review of the arguments presented by both sides, discredited a number of the conclusions and recommendations of the TRC for the very reason that the Commission sought to convict persons and have judgments inflicted against and upon them without according them the opportunity to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction to defend against the conclusions and their alleged implications, noting that “It is this same Cllr. Verdier, without any substantial evidence being presented, has undertaken a referral.
“In any case, if the decision arises, and which is very much likely, to assess and analyze events covering the periods contained in the controversial TRC report, the exercise may not include a revolt by a group of citizens against their own government or the alleged misconduct of a legitimate army acting pursuant to its constitutional oath of office but shall not however preclude the prosecution of perpetrators of cold bloody murder, rape, etc.,” he further narrated
The Solicitor General who paraded his international legal approbations to the court therefore “craves Your Honor’s kind indulgence to not allow a complaint that is premised on sheer perception or driven by personal hatred and envy, which do not comply with relevant provisions of the Rome Statue and its inception, to obfuscate the uplifting attention of your great office to such a stale referral.”
He then closed his latter to The Hague by saying “…the Government of President George Manneh Weah has not, and will never encourage or shield alleged perpetrators of war crimes, genocide, aggression and crimes against humanity committed immediately following the commencement of the Rome Statute or in the period after Liberia acceded to the ICC Treaty in November 2004, let alone empowering a city mayor to commit war crimes and other forms of violence.”