76 Groups Urge Liberia To Prosecute Human Rights Abuses Committed During War

The George M. Weah Administration in the West African of Liberia is coming under increased pressure to prosecute those responsible for and accused of human rights abuses during the country’s civil war.

Liberia-Guinea Map

Map of Liberia

In a press release issued in Geneva over the weekend and copied to the West African Journal Magazine, 76 local and international groups and non-governmental organizations, in a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee say, “The Liberian government should undertake fair and credible prosecutions of international crimes committed during its two civil wars…”

In its submission, the groups noted that “…Although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia in 2009 recommended a war crimes court to investigate and try people responsible for grave violations of international law, Liberia has never moved ahead with this recommendation. The few cases addressing civil war-era atrocities have occurred outside Liberia, notably in Europe and the United States…”

In March, the Deputy UN Secretary General, at a program marking the end of the UN Mission to stabilize Liberia following its wars, told President Weah and his government to address the recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Final Report as a way to move forward from its past.

The submission presented by the 76 groups identifies steps to be taken without delay by the Liberian government to help ensure accountability for serious crimes in Liberia, to be considered by the Human Rights Committee. It also makes recommendations for additions and changes to the commission’s proposed court to enable fair and credible trials, the release said.

“The Liberian government should swiftly establish a committee to develop a roadmap for justice for grave crimes,” Ms. Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch said, adding,  “Liberia should also support efforts by third countries to bring universal jurisdiction cases for civil war-era crimes.”

Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

Liberia’s TRC Final Report contained  major findings related to the root causes of the country’s conflict, the impact of the conflict on women, children and the generality of the Liberian society; responsibility for the massive commission of Gross Human Rights Violations (GHRV), and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Other findings relate to International Human Rights Law and Egregious Domestic Law Violations (EDLV).

The report also made determinations and recommendations for Criminal Prosecution for these violations, Reparations and a “Palava Hut” Forum address impunity, promote peace, justice, security, unity and genuine national reconciliation.

The statement is a nudge to Liberia to be decisive and commit to implementation its own TRC report which has been ignored since the body completed its work in 2009.

The international community has signaled that it is prepared to assist Liberia with setting up a prosecutorial mechanism for war crimes accused.

President George M. Weah of Liberia

President George M. Weah of Liberia

The Weah Administration has not signaled any commitment to implementation of the TRC report, citing it as a low priority.

According to Nushin Sarkarati, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Justice and Accountability, “People in Liberia are taking to the streets and insisting their leaders take steps to ensure justice for past crimes,” adding, “The victims and families deserve to see perpetrators held to account.”

TRC Final Report – Liberia

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine