Senate Rejects War Crime Court -Endorses Transitional Justice Commission

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate yesterday endorsed the recommendation of its leadership committee to set up a Transitional Justice Commission as a response to the request of President George Manneh Weah to advise him on how his administration will proceed handling the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

According to reports from the upper chambers of the national legislature, the senate took a unanimous decision after taking inputs from individual senators against the backdrop of the expert opinions garnered from the Solicitor General of Liberia, Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephus, the Liberian National Bar Association and other interested parties.

It is not clear whether senators representing the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) supported or went against the endorsement but Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, who spoke after the plenary said that he did not support it because it was against the CPP stand on the recommendation of the TRC. The Political leader of the Liberty Party and Chairman of the CPP, Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, as part of the leadership committee of the senate had earlier rejected the recommendation by not appending her signature to the document.

“My deliberate REFUSAL to sign the “Position” of majority members of the Leadership of the Senate issued yesterday, is a public affirmation of my firm commitment and support for the establishment of a war and economic crime court for Liberia.  Said “Position” seeks to undercut the desire and popular will of the people of Liberia demanding justice for victims against perpetrators of war and economic crimes. I wish to encourage all Senators IN SESSION to vote down the “Position”; we must vote to ensure justice as a way of ending the culture of impunity that has permeated our society for decades”, Senator Lawrence once stated after rejecting the recommendation.

It can be recalled that On Tuesday, June 22, 2021, the leadership on the senate submitted a three-page document to Plenary, among others, advising the President to constitute a transitional justice commission to determine why the TRC recommendations have not been timely and fully implemented; whether the Commission fully complied with its mandates, such as the face-to-face meeting between perpetrators of crimes and other offenses, and the respective victims.

It was also reported that the leadership advises that its proposed TJC should examine the effect of the August 2003 Act of the Legislature that grants amnesty to participants, including warlords; to analyze credibility and legitimacy issues surrounding the TRC Final Report in respect of the fact four (4) of the Commissioners had serious issues with the Report and consequently, two did sign the document but instead presented a dissenting report.

Information from the senate said the leadership also counsels the President to examine ratification/accession of Liberia to the Rome Statute in 2004 after the civil war on the establishment of a war crimes court and to separate said court if established, that has an international dimension from an economic crimes court, which already exists in Liberia.

The leadership opined that the cardinal purpose for which the TRC was proposed by the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was “to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as the opportunity for both the 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 agitation for the establishment of the war crime court has taken a center stage among the various demands for the government to attend to the recommendation of the TRC report in recent time. A number of rights groups and victims of the brutal civil war have been mounting pressure on the government and petitioning the international community to fast track the court, which according to them if established will put to pay impunity and closure after the carnage that took place in the country.

If President Weah goes ahead to accept the recommendation and implement it, that means setting up of the court will be a foregone issue and Liberians will embrace restorative justice as against retributive justice if the court is established.

It is not clear yet how the agitators of the war will react to it as their zeal was recently bolstered with the Liberia National Bar Association preparing a draft of the proposal for the establishment of the court as well as the recent public hearing by the Human Rights Committee of the US Congress.

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