Unconstitutional, Illegal and Unacceptable – PYJ reacts to US Embassy; Says There’re Laws Forbidding WCC
It was initially a mudslinging between Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon and the controversial Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson, when the latter claimed that Dillon had always brought on the Senate table of plenary the issue of war crime Court to mock at him, and therefore heaping insult on the Montserrado County lawmaker. The debate that ensued did not go a stone throw when the American government through its embassy in Monrovia condemned the election of Senator Johnson to the Senate Committee on Security, Defense and intelligence. With a public chorus backing the US Embassy’s stance to condemn the elections of two senators to important statutory positions, the Nimba County Senator hit back at the US Embassy, describing the embassy’s statement as unconstitutional, illegal, unacceptable and condemnable. He pointed to two amnesty laws which he said precluded warlords of the 1990s from prosecution; The Analyst reports.
In his reaction to the recent statement from the US Embassy near Monrovia terming him a notorious war criminal that should not have been elected as Chairman of the Senate Statutory committee on Defense, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs, Senator Prince Yormie Johnson has sharply reacted to did not mince words when he described the embassy’s statement as unconstitutional, illegal and unacceptable and condemnable.
Senator Johnson said in his outburst when he spoke to a local radio station the in a live interview on a last week: You don’t convict a man without a due process. The American legal system, just like the Liberian legal system, does not convict someone without due process. I have never been indicted and I have never gone to court.
The Senator, who represents Nimba County in the Upper Chambers of the National Legislature, said he does not believe that the Ambassador made input or knew anything of the report on him; instead, he noted that such could be the handiwork of some elements in the embassy who, according to him, must have misled the embassy into the report on him.
Senator said on three occasions he was unanimously elected by his colleagues to serve in the present position – Chairman on Security Defense and Intelligence, and over the years he had a good working relationship with the US Embassy through its military mission to Liberia. He said he cannot understand why this whole issue about his alleged involvement in the civil war is coming up at this time.
Asked why his name continues to come up all the time when the issue of war and economic court is brought up, Senator Johnson said everything is tied down to the 2023 elections. He said they are propagating his alleged involvement with war crimes because the opposition knows that he is supporting President Weah, and he boasted that his support to President Weah is going to play out squarely for the victory of the president.
“It is political! It is highly political because I am a senator for the second largest county next to Montserrado, densely populated, a vote rich county and so wherever I shift, whoever I support in the presidential race, that person becomes the winner,” he explained.
He said, “I supported two different presidents and they became victorious. I supported Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf twice and she became victorious. In 2017, I supported President George Weah and he won. The opposition people know that they can’t win Nimba when I am not with them. So, they are jittery right now.” Senator Johnson said.
He continued: The people are jittery and they are trying to get President Weah out as they are planning to get rid of me, I don’t know how they want to do it but that is why everybody is talking about war crimes.
Senator Johnson further narrated that there is no way the war crime court can come to Liberia right now because, according to him, there are legal impediments to the effect. He cited Article 97 of the 1986 constitution which gives a blanket amnesty to members of the defunct People’s Redemption Council (PRC), officials and agents against any decision taken or act committed during their regime which he called constitutional reason and the other law passed under former President Taylor giving amnesty to all warlords, financiers and their supporters between the period of 1989 to 1997, exempting them from prosecutions for acts committed during the civil war.
“So you have two amnesty laws in Liberia. One is constitutional (Article 97) and one is statutory that was passed by the 51st legislature under President Taylor. So with these laws that grant amnesty from prosecution to all persons, individuals who took part in the war, who sponsored the way, they are all free,” the Senator said.
He said in order to make the war crime court possible, these laws need to be repealed and if you enact another law to bring the court, it will not be retroactive.
When asked further whether putting these laws aside, he will support the setting up of a war court if the Liberian people so desire, Senator Johnson said he is one of those who is ready today to face the war crime court because he wants for his people from Nimba, who were victims of the war, to get justice for the crimes committed against them.
“Look, I am from Nimba County. There were babies – three hundred babies from their parents, brought to Monrovia and dumped in wells upside down, in Duport Road; our people, Nimba people, [who were] civilians took refuge in the Lutheran church, some at the compound where the American embassy is right now, the diplomatic enclave where people took refuge and was broken into by Doe’s regime [which] killed all the people. You think I do not want war crime court? But it will be fruitless when these two laws are in existence. Not possible”, Senator Johnson further explained.
Besides the laws he cited, Senator further said if there is going to be a war crime court on the basis of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), that should have reconciled Liberians instead of being a political institution in which there was division among the commissioners, then there is going to be a serious problem because the TRC was broken into two groups.
Senator Johnson, the field Marshall of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL), further said four of the commissioners – Cllr Pierre Brown-Bull, Reverend Dr. James Coleman, Shiekh Kafumba Konneh and Cllr Dolopei were opposed to what he called the manipulated report of the Cllr Jerome Verdier led side.
He said the result of the referendum conducted with respect to the TRC came up with 85% saying no to the court while 15% voted in favor of it. He said Cllr. Verdier and his group tried to manipulate the outcome, but the four other commissioners wrote their own version and attached copies of their communication to the National Legislature which is still there.
The political leader of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction(MDR), Johnson’s own party that formed a working relationship with the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC) said that even the ACT that created the TRC stated that both the alleged perpetrators and victims should meet at the TRC to present their stories with the view of reconciling. He asked, “So is it the story that I told at the Verdier TRC they will use to convict me? No!
Asked whether he knows Alan white and the statement he made recently against him that he is a notorious murderer, Senator Johnson said he got to know Mr. White whom we first met in Ghana upon his invitation in 2017. He said a meeting was arranged in Ghana and he took along with him 4 of his party executives there where a proposal was made from Mr. White that Johnson should go as a running mate to Benoni Urey with the promise that he will not be considered as a wanted war crime suspect.
Senator Johnson said the atmosphere was detrimental to his refusal so he agreed right there to go as a running mate to Benoni Urey, but upon his return to Monrovia, he trashed the promise and told Urey that he could work with him but instead, Urey should go as a running mate to him, which he said broke down the agreement broke down.
“The next day when Alan White got the information that I declined to work with Urey, he went to the VOA and BBC to say Prince Johnson is a notorious war criminal, he will be indicted and we will bring War Crimes Court. So, he has been using this war crime to intimidate me.”
He further asked: “If I commit crime and you want me to be your running mate to Benoni Urey, is that justice? He has been using some elements at the US Embassy to be writing negative reports about me.”
On his recent outburst with his colleague, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, he said the issue has already been settled with the leadership of the senate. He said he recognized the fact that Senator Dillon, like any other senator, has the right to air anything in plenary but there is a procedure that that should be respected. He said when the agenda of the day is read and if a lawmaker has any other thing to be added on the agenda, he or she can make the case and a unanimous decision can be reached to have it discussed in plenary.
“But unfortunately, the Senator brought up something about the War Crimes Court when we were about to discuss the $25 million package and I objected to it. Moreover, he always wants to make a mockery of me about the war crime court any time he sees me in plenary”, the Nimba county lawmaker said.