The agitation for the end of impunity and justice for victims of the brutal civil war in Liberia got to another level yesterday, Wednesday, July 7, 2021 when three leading human rights groups petitioned the Government of Liberia for the full implementation of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), with the call for the establishment of the War and Economic Crime prominent among their demands without further delay.
The three groups, the International Justice Group headed by former TRC boss, Cllr. Jerome Verdier, the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJUL) of Michael Muller and Global Initiative for Justice (GIJ),which is headed by Madam Ysndi Martin-Kpeyi, wrote the communication through the relevant authorities of government which include President George Manneh Weah, Vice President Mrs. Jewel Howard-Taylor, Messrs. Bhofal Chambers, Speaker of the House of Representative, Albert Chie, President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate and Musa Dean, Minister of Justice, and gave background of why the establishment of the war and economic crime court was recommended by the TRC and lamented that 10 years following the end of the work of the TRC and the presentation of its comprehensive final report to the Government of Liberia for implementation, nothing substantial has been done to date towards the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC Report.
“There is no question or doubt as to whether the TRC Recommendations should be implemented. While the TRC Law specifies that the Report is presented to the National Legislature (in order to enhance its check-and-balance or oversight function) Section 43, the Recommendations are presented to the Head of State (Article VII, Section 26(j), and further in Article X, Section 48, providing that “… All recommendations shall be implemented…” : And the Head of State must report to the National Legislature and not the other way around with the Legislature Reporting to the President on its advice to him”, the communication said.
The groups’ petitions which were contained in a document signed by Cllr. Jerome Verdier for and on their behalf, among other things said that the GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA takes immediate steps and actions to begin the implementation of ALL the Recommendations of the TRC, including the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court of Liberia to bring to closure the prolonged period of war and devastation in Liberia without further delays.
It also said that after three (3) years in power, they do not believe that the GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA has the mindset and commitment to meet the demands of the Liberian people and the International Community to solidify the peace process and conclude Liberia’s long running transition process by the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC;
The petition said that the IJG and Partners support the efforts of civil society under the auspices of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) to stage a demonstration at the Capitol Building demanding accountability to end impunity, promote justice and advance the full implementation of ALL the Recommendations of the TRC;
”The failure of the President and the Legislature to act after three years in power or even make an attempt to Implement the TRC Recommendations is an abdication of their constitutional duty to uphold the laws and Constitution of Liberia, thereby violating Article X, Sections 43 and 48 of the TRC ACT, the controlling law of the TRC Process”, the petition added;
The petition furthered that this is not the first time that the Government of Liberia, under the Presidency of Mr. George M Weah has flagrantly violated the Constitution and Laws of Liberia, engaged in widespread impunity and violation of the rights of the people of Liberia without any form of accountability, just cause or explanation.
While the groups made their declaration and put out a series of demands from the government, the petition said they condemn what they said was the flagrant and callous attitude of the government for ignoring and violating the Constitution and laws of Liberia, for which they took a solemn OATH to uphold and defend.
Among the demands from the human rights groups are that the Government of Liberia must act now to implement all the recommendations of the TRC by writing the United Nations and Liberia’s development partners including the United States, EU, AU, ECOWAS and moral guarantors of the peace process who have vested interest in the sustained peace of Liberia, which is impossible without justice, and expressing said intention on behalf of the Liberian people and thereby requesting help to get the process going.
The group further demanded that the failure of the government to so act within the week, that is by the 14th of June a.d. 2021 the government of President Weah and his obstructionist speaker of the house of representative must step aside or be forced out of office by impeachment proceedings, forthwith.
The groups said that the international community should remain seized of this matter. and that all civil society organizations must join the LNBA for a sustained effort of positive civic actions and public demonstration until the foregoing is accomplished leading to the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC report, especially the establishment of the war and economic crimes court in Liberia.
Toughing on the failure of the administration of Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to implement the TRC report and why Mr. Weah should be forced to do so, the groups said the failure of Johnson- Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, to perform her constitutional duties cannot serve as an excuse or justification for President Weah’s nonperformance or failure to act in his capacity as President where warranted like in the implementation of All the Recommendations of the TRC, including the Establishment of the Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.
“Such noncompliance by The President is a violation of the TRC Law which calls for the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC. It is a settled law – it is fait accompli – it can never be changed, modified or amended. The President, the National legislature and courts must accept it, there is no other alternative but to accept it; it is the established law of the land”, the group noted.
The International Justice Group, the lead member of the group announced that it has set up the TRC Implementation Unit(TRC) comprising commissioners of the erstwhile TRC with the objective, among others, to monitor the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC, advocate the scrupulous and full implementation of all recommendations of the TRC including Establishment of the Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Economic and War Crimes Committed in Liberia, provide public education and awareness information to the general public and government, civil society on the work, reports and recommendations of the TRC and advocate for the protection and defense of human rights, free speech and association.
Others are campaign in alliance with the Independent Human Rights Commission(INHCR), the Transitional Justice Working Group(TJRG) and other civil society organizations for the full implementation of all the Recommendations of the TRC as contained in the TRC Report, make quarterly report on the implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC beginning November 1, 2019 and Petition the Government of Liberia through the President or the National Legislature to promulgate laws, adopt public policy options that advances and accentuates the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC beginning with this Petition for the Establishment of the Extraordinary Criminal Court on War and Economic Crimes.
It can be recalled that the three campaigners for war crime court in Liberia recently took part in a virtual public hearing organized by the US Congress to examine the legacy of Liberia’s civil wars on its people and economy, the structure and likely policy implications of a proposed War Crimes & Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, and grassroots efforts to secure rule of law in the country and meet victims’ needs. They were joined by Dr. Alan W. White, former Chief of Investigations, Special Court for Sierra Leone, who is also a leading voice in the United States for the setting up of a war and economic crime court in Liberia.