MONROVIA – Nearly two decades after the end of their bloody and senseless civil conflict, Liberians are still scratching their heads over how they can draw the curtain on the issue of impunity, especially when it comes to meting out justice to victims of war crimes and bringing to book perpetrators of war and heinous crimes committed against humanity. But now, it seems there is light at the end of the gloomy tunnel for Liberians, given last Thursday’s meeting between visiting United States Ambassador-At-Large for Global Criminal Justice (GCJ), Dr. Beth Van Schaack, and Liberian civil society actors to discuss their work and brainstorm on how the U.S. and Liberia can partner to support human rights and justice and accountability for victims of Liberia’s civil wars.
According to a press release from the United States Embassy near Monrovia, those attending the engagement were from Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), NAYMOTE-Liberia, Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), The Carter Center Liberia, Liberia Council of Churches, Liberia National Bar Association, the Female Lawyers Association of Liberia, among others.
“The United States has stood and will continue to stand by the Liberian people in their work toward justice,” the US Embassy noted.
It can be recalled that Ambassador Beth Van Schaack arrived recently in Liberia in fulfilment of her assigned task to advise the Secretary of State and other Department leadership on issues related to the prevention of and response to atrocity crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Briefing the media upon her arrival in Liberia, Ambassador Schaack acknowledged the absence of accountability relative to the prosecution of perpetrators of war crimes and heinous human rights abuse in Liberia.
“As you also know, there has been no accountability here on the criminal side, or the civil side for those who have been most responsible for those abuses… I will be having some meetings with members of the government and I plan to ask: what the status of the draft statute is and why it is not being put forward; what are the blockages and how can the blockages be solved?
“…I think that the TRC came forward with a number of very important recommendations, and those recommendations as we know, have not been fully implemented, they have been stalled. Part of the reason that I am here is to better understand what’s happening with them, and the implementation of these recommendations,” Amb. Schaack had stated emphatically.
The news of Ambassador Schaack’s meeting with a number of Liberian civil society actors to chart a roadmap that would lead to the end of impunity for perpetrators of war and heinous crimes has been resoundingly welcomed by the Liberian populace.
According to Peter H. Weah, who along with hundreds of his compatriots seemed overjoyed by the news, “We can’t wait to see what happens next. Liberia is all we have. Let me say big thanks to the great people of the Great United States of America. May God bless America.
As for Fred Kwawon Saydee, he is exceedingly thankful for the engagement, but with reservations. “I realized that the real victims of these issues (the youths) are not part of this very important meeting. Young people should always be invited to participate in important engagements like this without any exception. I kindly recommend that we engage the youths at every level of this process through their respective organizations at community and national levels. Thank you for continuously supporting our development agenda,” he noted.
“I support this but there is a serious problem, the majority of the victims of war and economic crimes are ignorant of the fact that they have been harmed and impoverished by those who commit these crimes. How can they deliver? They voted and are still voting to put these same people who are committing these crimes against them,” laments Eric Alfred Drosaye.
“Justice is coming very soon. Liberians, let us cooperate with the international community in the establishment of the war crimes court. Once again, thanks so much to the United States of America for the support and Europe as a whole,” remarks Dafuwah Teasley.