As the arena of public discourse widens over the possible establishment of war and economic crimes court in Liberia, lead campaigners for and against the effort are spreading themselves quite elaborately on the record why they take their respective positions. The country is acutely polarized between those who support the establishment of the court and those who are opposed to it. Those in opposition contend that Liberian traditional nature relative to peace and reconciliation is diametrically abhorrent to the Western style that calls for prosecution and punishment, and that if money is available to sponsor the court, the proponents must rather focus on spending the money to better the condition of war victims. The man who provided leadership when the nation was seeking ways and means to address ripple effects of the civil war and to restore unity and reconciliation is one of the lead campaigners for establishing the court, and he has been all out in the diaspora drumming up support and building alliances. In his latest move, Cllr Jerome J. Verdier and his Organization, the International Justice Group (IJG) and its partners, the Movement For Justice In Liberia (MOJUL) And Global Initiative For Justice (GIJ) are coming home with the message; they have tendered a strongly worded communication to the Government of Liberia, not only accentuating their support for a war and economic crimes court but also stating why establishing the court is an exigent national imperative. The Analyst reports.
The Chairman of the defunct Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Cllr Jerome J. Verdier and partner Organizations are calling on President George Manneh Weah and the leadership of the National Legislature to eschew their deflationary tactics and move quickly with establishing the War and Criminal Crimes Court (WECC) for which pro-human rights groups and individuals are clamoring.
In the last two weeks, the National Legislature, specifically the House of Senate, has been conducting public hearings over recommendations by its leadership to establish a Transitional Justice Commission to review recommendations of the Verdier-headed TRC and settle the debate about war and economic crimes once and for all.
The Senate leadership’s recommendation has come following President Weah’s communication to the Legislature some months back asking the august body to advise his office on the TRC recommendations.
Verdier is on the list of personalities and experts the Senate has invited to give their opinions on the Transitional Justice Commission.
It now appears he will not be appearing as far as their letter to the Government of Liberia, specifically President Weah, Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Pro Tempore Albert Chie and Justice Minister Musa Dean is suggesting.
Giving reasons why he said the court is a necessity, Verdier said “Justice is important!” and that the court establishment will mark the beginning of breaking the back of impunity in Liberia, which “is now well entrenched in the socio-economic, cultural and political culture of Liberia”.
See below full text of Verdier and others’ communication to the Government of Liberia.
LETTER TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA
PRESENTED TO THE FOLLOWING STATE AUTHORITIES:
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT GEORGE M WEAH
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA
HER EXCELLENCY JEWEL HOWARD TAYLOR
OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA
AND PRESIDENT OF THE HONORABLE LIBERIAN SENATE
HONORABLE BHOFAL CHAMBERS
THE HONORABLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTIVE
OF THE HONORABLE LIBERIAN NATIONAL LEGISLATURE
HONORABLE ALBERT CHIE
THE HONORABLE LIBERIAN SENATE OF THE LIBERIAN NATIONAL LEGISLATURE
HONORABLE F. MUSA DEAN
COUNSELLOR AT LAW
MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND ATTORNEY GENERAL OF LIBERIA
DEAN OF THE BAR OF THE HONORABLE SUPREME COURT OF LIBERIA
Greetings, Distinguished Lady and Gentlemen:
RE: FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF ALL THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE TRUTH & RECONCILIATION COMMISSION OF LIBERIA (TRC), ESPECIALLY THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE WAR AND ECONOMIC CRIMES COURT (WECC) IN LIBERIA
Further to PETITION presented to your distinguished selves on 15th June 20, 2021, we, THE INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE GROUP (IJG) and its partners, THE MOVEMENT FOR JUSTICE IN LIBERIA (MOJUL) AND GLOBAL INITIATIVE FOR JUSTICE (GIJ), wish to say further and admonish you as follows, that:
Nature of Crimes Committed in Liberia
- All the crimes committed in Liberia, covered by the Mandate of the TRC of Liberia are serious international crimes, violating International Criminal Laws, International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law, and egregious violations of domestic criminal laws of Liberia, thereby violating fundamental interests or rights protected by the above cited laws, thereby constituting War Crimes and Crimes Against, many of which are still occurring today under the watch of you all, honorable members of The Liberian Government, and which may not be adequately punished by the exercise of the normal criminal jurisdiction of Liberia.
Liberia’s international duties, obligations, and responsibilities as state party
- Every country, member state of the United Nations Organization (UN), including Liberia, is obligated under Customary International Laws and as a state party (as Liberia is), to existing international laws and covenants, statutes, and agreements, have a binding duty and obligation to protect the rights of its people, institute the rule of law and justice and to prosecute crimes.
Delaying justice, denying justice is obstruction of justice.
- Therefore, the Government of Liberia is legally, morally, and constitutionally obligated and responsible to honor these international obligations and guarantee that justice will be done for crimes committed within its territory and the denial, delay, and failure of the Government of Liberia to implement all the TRC Recommendations, and expense justice by establishing the War and Economic Crimes Court is obstruction of justice, which also is punishable by law.
Correcting misconceptions and honoring our international commitments
- The Government of President Weah made commitments to the International Community when attending hearings of the Human Rights Commission at the UN that upon return, the Government will make a comprehensive position on the issues of justice and the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) in Liberia. It is irresponsible and callous misrepresentation to undertake such commitment and flounder. It has been two years; no such commitment has been made nor a declaration had by the Weah Government on this very crucial national issue. Such conduct or disposition is irresponsible and callously reckless, to say the least.
- On his return from the last General Assembly meeting at the UN, President Weah ( in an apparent reference to former President Sirleaf) said inter alia that he doesn’t understand why people are pressuring him for the war crimes court when those who are responsible [for the war] were in power for 12 years and did nothing:
- When President Sirleaf took office, she inaugurated the TRC which work continued during the entire 1st term of Madam Sirleaf.
- To Her Excellency’s credit, during her second term, she set up a committee to review the Report and advice on the way forward. She was impressed with the work done by the TRC and reserved praise and commendation for the Commission’s unbelievably valuable work, without doubt will go a long way in fostering peace and reconciliation on Liberia. Those documents are on your desk, Mr. President Weah.
- Again, to her credit, President Sirleaf made two quarterly reports to the National Legislature on what was being done to implement all THE TRC RECOMMENDATIONS.
Liberia’s Domestic Law Obligations, duties, and responsibilities
- Article X, Section 43 of The TRC Act provides that “The TRC shall submit a final report containing recommendations at the end of its tenure to the National Legislature and have key findings of the report published simultaneous with its presentation in at least three local dailies in pursuit of transparency and public interest objectives. This was done since 2009; this was done in the past 12 years ago. NOTHING DONE TO DATE
- Article X, Section 48 of The TRC Act 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. All recommendations shall be implemented. Where the implementation of any recommendation has not been complied with, the Legislature shall require the Head of State to show cause for such noncompliance”; NOTHING DONE TO DATE
- The TRC REPORT and Establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) are imperative for the following salient reasons:
- Justice is important! It will mark the beginning of breaking the back of impunity in Liberia, which is now well entrenched in the socio-economic, cultural and political culture of Liberia
- a fair and credible process will help to reinstate and strengthen the rule of law in Liberia.
- Liberians laboring under the burdens of suspicion and false allegations against them will have an opportunity of exonerating themselves before a court of competent jurisdiction.
- Liberia will be fulfilling its international obligation to institute justice and punish crimes and victims and families and communities of victims will receive a measure of relief, healing, and recovery when people are held accountable or brought to justice.
- acknowledging the state of victimhood in the country and acknowledging the rights of victims to redress will go a long way in bringing closure, healing to thousands of Liberians who are still suffering under the yoke of victimhood.
- contribute to durable peace and social healing generally, guaranteeing nonoccurrence and guiding against repetition of those acts of criminality and war crimes so flagrantly committed against the civilian population during the war.
- support and strengthen the capacity of local judicial actors and national judicial institutions.
Why is Implementation delayed
- Corruption and the lack of political will to make hard decisions for the good of the people and society.
2) Fear and Interest – some ordinary people genuinely believe implementing the recommendation will spark conflict or war, while there are those in authorities who have vested interest in impunity and crimes and are either connected to or linked to the war as perpetrators of war and economic crimes or war crimes and crimes against humanity.
3) lack of political leadership to address the issues of impunity and corruption in Liberia because the present leaders are corrupt and do not want to be similarly held accountable in the future – BUT ALL ARE ACCOUNTABLE AND JUSTICE WILL BE DONE!
What must be done
- The Government of Liberia MUST be engaged with the process towards full implementation of the TRC Recommendations and set up an implementation committee of credible people of proven integrity and worth who will draw up a road map towards full implementation and advise Government how to proceed with the comprehensive, synchronized, systematic and orderly implementation of all the Recommendations of the TRC. It is our estimation that setting up the WECC will take 5 years and full implementation will require an additional 5 years.
- The Government of Liberia engages the International Community, including the moral guarantors of the Liberian Peace Process and notify, in writing, the UN Secretary – General of the Government’s readiness for the full implementation of the TRC Recommendations, including the War & Economic Crimes Court (WAECC) and thereby request technical and other assistance in that regard.
- The Government of Liberia, in a meaningful way, engages civil society effort to compliment that of Government for a full and complete and comprehensive implementation of the TRC Recommendations in an organized mechanism for the full Implementation of the TRC Report, especially the Establishment of the War and Economic Crimes court, to inspire confidence of the citizenry in the process.
Jerome J Verdier, Sr (Cllr)