Int’l Justice Group Warns That Liberia Is Risking Sanctions

Washington DC, USA – August 8, 2019:

“That Liberia is a kleptocracy, this we know, but overwhelming tendencies of criminality, impunity, autocracy, banal disregard for human rights, and the elementary principles of good governance are worrying signs that, if corrective measures are not taken to reverse this trend, Liberia may slide back to the pariah state status it once was…”  – Cllr Jerome J. Verdier, Sr.

IJG Executive Director and Former Liberia TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier Sr.
IJG Executive Director and Former Liberia TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier Sr.

Perversion of Justice

Speaking with journalists Thursday from Washington DC, Capital of the United States of America, a press statement of the IJG quoted the learned Counselor at Law as condemning the acts of criminal elements within government to pervert the ends of justice which got Cllr Varney Sherman off the hook in the Sable Mining bribery scandal case in Liberia.

 Criminal Conspiracy

The IJG statement said the Justice advocacy group has reliably unearthed that the presiding Judge in the Sable Mining case, His Honor Judge Peter Gbenewelee, the prosecution team headed by the Honorable Justice Minister, Cllr F. Musah Dean, Solicitor General, Cllr Cyrenius Cephas, County Attorney, Cllr Edward Martin and the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Honorable Nathaniel McGill constituted themselves into a criminal syndicate to pervert justice in order that Cllr Varney Sherman be let of the hook and set free by minimizing evidence, executive coercion, diminution of records and other artifices to guarantee the acquittal of Cllr Varney Sherman on all charges. To ensure this, without let, His Honor Justice Nagbe posited himself in court at the acquittal verdict to demonstrate solidarity with the scheme in pledge of loyalty to the Chief Executive.

 “Tit for Tat”

According to the international Justice advocacy group statement, copied to West African Journal Magazine, it noted that the Varney Sherman/Sable Mining conspiracy to subvert the justice process was cooked up by the Executive Branch of Government led by Honorable Nathaniel McGill, who criminally solicited and enlisted the help of Cllr Varney Sherman, Senator Grand Cape Mount County, to overtly violate Article 73 of the Constitution of Liberia in order to facilitate the  unsavory impeachment of  Justice Kabineh Ja’neh through a kangaroo trial, in return for a promise by Honorable Nathaniel McGill, guaranteed by his boss, to get him acquitted of all charges in the Sable Mining Bribery Case, thus making way for Justice Joseph Nagbe’s enrollment.

Justice Kabineh Ja’neh was impeached for judgment he rendered in his judicial and official capacity as “Justice in Chambers Presiding” contrary to the expressed provisions of Article 73 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, providing:

“Article 73 No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace. Statements made and acts done by such officials in the course of a judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification, no such statements made, or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding.”

Justice Ja’neh, having been impeached, however illegal and unconstitutional it was, Cllr Varney Sherman has performed his part of the deal and was accordingly acquitted, as promised, following the visit of Justice Joseph Nagbe, at court under the gavel of His Honor Judge Peter Gbenewelee, said to be the stepson of Cllr Varney Sherman. The Honorable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, Cllr Frank Musa Dean, was one of Cllr Sherman’s Defense Counsels initially when the case was docketed in court.

Important also, is that the Honorable Minister of Justice, Cllr. Dean began, in earnest, his legal career at the Sherman & Sherman Law Office, and for many years was a member of Cllr Varney Sherman’s Law Office corps of lawyers and were for a long time publicly known to be buddies and inseparable craft masters.

Spiraling Violence

The IJG asserted that the introduction of violence and thuggery into the political space is abhorrent and ridiculously reminiscent of the ruthless era of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) Youth Wing Task Force of the late President Samuel K. Doe.

“As ruthless as the NDPL era was, what is obtaining in George Weah’s Liberia is the euphoric escalation of violence, thuggery and lawlessness, threatening the democratic space and thereby constituting a major threat to our democratic aspirations for a free, open and competitive society without fear or intimidation but with security, protection and equal opportunity for all.”

What started as an isolated event with Honorable Yongblee Karngar Lawrence and the opposition Liberty Party (LP), spilled over to Honorable Yeke Kolubah who complained on diverse occasions of attempts by government operatives to kill him and some children within his electoral district.

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

Now, violence and gangster-style killings have taken on a national fervor, law and order is rapidly breaking down and a state of anarchy and lawlessness is brewing in Liberia and the Weah Government as yet remains silent spurring widespread suspicions that the President, is without doubt, behind the violence by his CDC’s goons to intimidate and coerce the opposition into submission and clamp down dissent as part of his political ambition to become a dictator in power for 27 years or more, surpassing President William V.S. Tubman.

Weah to be blamed?

  1. While it is true that all the problems of Liberia are not attributable to Mr. Weah, his non-chalant disposition on corruption and human rights and his seeming condonement of the violence is a flaw of his presidency, pointing to a leadership deficit demanding attention.
  2. The President is indecisive, demonstrating a lack of authority and capacity over his men and cannot rein them in to follow the law or operate within the confines of the law. Asset declaration is a case in point.
  3. The social life of the president is more of a priority to him than the welfare of the poor people who voted him to office.
  4. The President, wanting in knowledge and sophistication has surrounded himself with low life figures who have no vision or love for the country.
  5. The President and his team have failed to adopt any appreciable policy approach to address the issues confronting the country. They have no plan for redressing the economy, stimulating national development or national reconciliation.
  6. To date, the President and his team have failed to embrace or appreciate the mammoth demands for the establishment of the War Crimes Court in full implementation of the TRC Report and in furtherance of US House Resolution HR 1055.
  7. The President is giving lip service to accountability and corruption issues. Neither Mr. President nor his officials have been audited or complied with the assets declaration requirements of law. Just as the both the National Legislature and the Honorable Supreme Court have never been audited, Continuing the policies of Former President Sirleaf, rendering these venerable branches of government as now national institutions of corruption and disgrace.
  8. The President granted a construction contract to his friend he claimed offered him a plane as gift without making full disclosure to the national legislature or the people of Liberia directly as to the nature of the gift as is customarily the case. Bribery is an impeachable offense against the integrity of the state.
  9. The President presided over the criminal misapplication of US25m intended for a mapping exercise to remove excess liquidity from the Liberian market. With the explicit consent of the President the money was diverted for private, instead of public use, and a parallel market in foreign exchange was created to exchange missing Liberian banknotes with the US banknotes, bordering on exchange rate manipulation, insider dealing, money laundering, embezzlement, misappropriation of entrusted property, theft of property and fraud.
  10. The President and the Chief Justice presided over a bribery scheme to illegally and unconstitutionally remove a sitting Justice of The Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, in express violation of the Constitution of Liberia, which OATH all elected and commission officers swore to defend and protect, the expressed violation of which renders the House of Representatives, The Chief Justice and President of Liberia unfit to hold office, hence, an impeachable offense.
  11. The President has directly supervised the stealing of public money for personal causes but without accountability. The President withdrew US$80m out of the Liberian International Reserves in New York. Out of this amount only US$55 could be accounted for at the Central Bank. The difference of US$25m was commandeered from the airport to the Rehab Residence of the President. This deliberate, blatant act of thievery by the President is a felonious transgression that renders him unfit for the public trust and office he occupies.
  12. The President, for repressive and dictatorial purposes, embarked upon rearming ex-rebel chiefs of staff that the International Community spent millions of US Dollars to disarm in furtherance of the Comprehensive Accra Peace Accord. This singular act by the President undermines the peace and security of the nation and is against the spirit of Security Sector Reform, and the Demobilization and Demobilization Rehabilitation (DDR) and also against the drive of the nation to move beyond the war experience in pursuit of National Reconciliation:
  1. General Ofari Diah – Asst. NSA Director for leeward Counties, former Chief of Staff, LURD;
  2. General Augustine Nagbe, INPFL
  3. General Daniel K. Bracewell, NPFL
  4. General Ciapha Norman, NPFL
  5. General Charles Bright, NPFL
  6. Other Generals and fighters, remobilize by the President includes Prince Toe, Sam Saryon, Sampson Nieger, Benjamin Taylor, etc

Risking Sanctions and International Isolation

The justice advocacy group is advising the Government of President Weah to be mindful of the precarious situation the country is in now and urgently adopt realistic proactive policies on human rights and justice; corruption and impunity; and good governance to project Liberia as a burgeoning democracy and a success story post UN intervention.

Liberia-Political Map
Liberia-Political Map

The statement further said that the posturing of an autocratic state does not portend well for the country. Manipulating the ouster of a Justice of the Supreme Court because of opinions or judgement rendered during active duty on the bench is unconstitutional and therefore illegal, unpatriotic and immoral, the IGJ statement warned.

The IJG statement further lamented that corruption in government is at an all-time high while essential social services, including hospitals, education, schools, healthcare, sanitation, hygiene and other public services are left wanting as the living standards of the Liberian people continue in rapid decline.

The IJG Statement further decried the government for turning a blind eye to massive human rights abuses, especially against women and the girl children. The alarming rate of murders from rape and other forms of sexual assaults and abuses throughout the country is a cause for condemnation underpinned by the callous indifference of the government, especially the President to condemn these brazen acts of criminal cowardice or demand swift and prompt investigations that will redress the wrongs against our precious women and help to restore their dignity.

The statement called for strong governmental actions from all branches of government against these wanton acts of human rights abuses including the recent deaths of two prison inmates in Nimba County, which sad incidences occurred unnoticed by government or its functionaries and the society at large.

“We condemn this state of affairs in the country and calls on all civil society actors and the international community to deplore government’s lack of action and indecisiveness over human rights, corruption and important national issues including the issue of justice, war crimes court and the full implementation of the TRC Report.

The absence of a well-articulated, conspicuously pro-people policies on changing or strengthening rape laws, like castration of perpetrators, public interest, transparency in government and proper stewardship of scarce resource and justice is a pro-impunity, pro-corruption and anti-people policy, a stance this Weah Government must consider moving away from. Otherwise, our government risk international sanctions and the isolation of the state to the detriment of our people and regression of gains already realized, the statement from the IJG signed by its Executive Director Counselor Jerome J. Verdier Sr. concluded.

By Our International Affairs Correspondent in Washington DC

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

Liberia & France Collaborate To Investigate Alleged War Criminal, Civitas Maxima Says

Geneva – June 12, 2019: In spring 2019, the French and Liberian authorities collaborated on a fact-finding mission relating to proceedings that were commenced in France following the arrest, in September 2018, of Kunti K. for acts committed during the First Civil War in Liberia between 1989 and 1996. This mission required significant logistical resources and took place in Lofa County in northwestern Liberia.

Ex Liberian Warlord Alhaji Kromah and some fighters of the disbanded ULIMO-K Militia - File Photo
Ex Liberian Warlord Alhaji Kromah and some fighters of the disbanded ULIMO-K Militia – File Photo

Civitas Maxima, in a press statement issued Wednesday in Geneva say, this was the first time since the end of the Second Civil War in 2003 that Liberian authorities have proceeded, along with foreign authorities, to undertake crime scene reconstructions relating to war-time crimes. These reconstructions took place in the presence of the French prosecuting authorities, investigating judge, defense lawyers, and the civil parties. Throughout this one-week mission, the contribution of the Liberian authorities was exemplary.

Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project, in its statement said, it  acknowledges the quality of the work undertaken by both French and Liberian authorities and congratulate them for taking this step in fulfilling their international obligations. This, Civitas Maxima and GJRP believe, is an important development in the fight against impunity for crimes that were committed in Liberia during the two Liberian Civil Wars.

Civitas Maxima and Global Justice & Research Project
Civitas Maxima and Global Justice & Research Project

Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project have been collaborating since 2012, and together represent hundreds of victims of the two Civil Wars which killed more than 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003.

Civitas Maxima, represented by the lawyer Simon Foreman, stands alongside Liberian victims and takes part as a civil party in the proceedings against Kunti K. in Paris, the statement concluded.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

No one has faced prosecution in Liberia for human rights and atrocities committed during the country’s devastating civil wars in the 1990s.

International and local rights organizations are coordinating efforts to ensure that recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which include the establishment of a war crimes court are established.

West African Journal Magazine

Former TRC Head And IJG Executive Director Cllr Jerome Verdier Calls For Implementation of TRC Report

Washington DC – April 12, 2019: The Executive Director of The International Justice Group (IJG) and Chairman of the erstwhile Liberia’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) says he is delighted and is lauding the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) and the Transitional Justice Working g Group (TJWG) for recognizing the need for entrenching Justice into the country’s body polity.

Executive Director of IJG and Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier
Executive Director of IJG and Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

He is also welcoming their courageous calls for the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Economic and War Crimes Tribunal for Liberia.

In an statement to West African Journal Magazine on Friday, Cllr Verdier reiterated that the call for the full implementation of all TRC recommendations is in keeping with law and section 46 of The TRC Act when it clearly stated that “The Independent Human Rights Commission shall be seized with the responsibility to ensure that all the recommendations contained in Report of the TRC are implemented and that and that civil society organizations and moral guarantors of The CPA shall be seized of the responsibility to monitor,  and campaign for the scrupulous implementation of all recommendations  contained in the report”.

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

And Section 48 which also provides that “The Head of State shall report to the National Legislature within three (3) 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 recommendations has not been complied with, the Legislature shall require the Head of State to show cause for such non-compliance.”

Chairman Verdier charged that both the Liberian National Legislature and the Liberia President George M. Weah are in open violation of the laws of Liberia and the Rule of Law principle which places the law far above individuals and institutions created by law. The former TRC Chairman said maintaining the Rule of Law is important for maintaining a stable and more peaceful society and acts as the number one incentive for attracting international trade, commerce and foreign investments to the Country.

Liberia TRC
Liberia TRC

“That the Liberia Chief Executive, President Weah, to be in open violation of the law without any plausible excuse or justification is a non-starter especially for a new Government,” Cllr Verdier said, adding that “the President and his CDC- controlled Legislature are undermining the viability of the State and setting very wrong precedence for security, stability and peace of the State because soon the citizens will realize that if these important institutions of State are lawless and disrespectful of the laws then they too as citizens have the right to refuse to obey the laws of the land, pointing to chaos, a breakdown of law and order and the eventual unraveling of our fledgling democratic process.”

The Executive Director of the IJG Cllr Verdier, in his statement, noted Liberia should recognize, as the international community has long since recognized, that the rule of law above all men is imperative because it stabilizes our environment and societies.

“It is very Central to maintaining our modern global social, political and economic order the pursuit of which we all must submit to the rule of law whether it pleases us or not or runs contrary to our intrinsic interest, he maintained,” he said

The learned international human rights advocate and outspoken campaigner for social justice and peace said that “the Rule of Law is our best hope for peace, equity, justice and a civilized society in which the rights of the people are protected and at all times guaranteed.”

Members of the Legislature
Cross Section of Liberia National Legislature

According to him, “President George Weah and the National Legislature are failing and disappointing the Liberian people too early on in their leadership and ignoring the Rule of Law. It is to their own peril because when they stand in need of the law most, the law will fail them, having undermined the law and our institutions of law.”

Verdier emphasized that the full implementation of all the recommendations of Liberia’s TRC Final Report, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia is “sine qua non” to the attainment of sustainable national peace, national  unity, national security and national reconciliation in in a non-threatening society that offers equal opportunity to all.

“President Weah must not disappoint the Liberian people. Too many hopes were hinged to his ascendency. He must take the moral high ground in service to state and abandon petty parochial interests, recognize that he took an oath and made a sworn declaration to put Liberia first, hold Paramount national interest and uphold sacrosanct the Constitution and Laws of the Republic; otherwise, he will be an ordinary and failed leader and admiration by the people will soon diminish and will leave office soon forgotten as a son of the soil and a “man of the people” without a legacy and a champion “without a cause”, Cllr Verdier in his statement said.

Meanwhile, the IJG Executive Director has condemned the recent removal of Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, describing it as a “shameful cowardly act orchestrated by a band of political malcontents without any well-founded basis in law or the Constitution by an overly ambitious Executive branch aspiring to become a dictatorship, a rueful House of Representatives, an ignorant Senate and a highly compromised Chief Justice in a Kangaroo forum that flagrantly violated the Constitution of Liberia, which they neither understand nor appreciate; thus bringing shame and disgrace to our beloved patrimony.”

Chief Justice Francis Korkpor
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor

Cllr Verdier, a veteran and successful senior Liberian lawyer and member of The Honorable Supreme Court Bar, went on to say of all the reasons in law and the Constitution that the co-conspirators could use to effect their cowardly and unpatriotic act, they chose to woefully, shamefully and disgracefully violate the Constitution when in Article 73, the Constitution provides that “NO JUDICIAL OFFICIAL SHALL BE SUMMONED, ARRESTED, DETAINED, PROSECUTED OR TRIED CIVILLY, OR CRIMINALLY, BY OR BY THE INSTANCE OF ANY PERSON OR AUTHORITY ON ACCOUNT OF JUDICIAL OPINIONS RENDERED OR EXPRESSED, JUDICIAL STATEMENTS MADE  AND JUDICIAL ACTS DONE IN THE COURSE OF A TRIAL IN OPEN COURT  OR IN CHAMBERS, EXCEPT FOR TREASON OR OTHER FELONIES, MISDEMEANOR, OR BREACH OF THE PEACE. STATEMENTS MADE AND ACTS DONE BY SUCH OFFICIALS IN THE COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS SHALL BE PRIVILEGED, AND SUBJECT TO THE ABOVE QUALIFICATION, NO SUCH STATEMENTS MADE OR ACTS DONE SHALL BE ADMISIBLE INTO EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM AT ANY TRIAL OR PROCEEDINGS”

In his view, Cllr Verdier held that Justice Ja’neh was under-represented, and his lawyers should be subject to disciplinary hearings and punished or sanctioned, while those lawyers for the prosecution must be disbarred and the Chief Justice deserves to be removed or similarly impeached or made to resign.

Associate Justice Kabineh Jan'eh
Associate Justice Kabineh Jan’eh

Since the case is not over yet, the international lawyer, former TRC head and Executive Director of the IJG called on the Liberian Senate to NOT move to confirm removal of The Honorable Justice Ja’neh until the full bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia disposes of the matter by appeal.

“Advocates or lawyers for Justice Ja’neh must perfect an appeal to the full bench of the Honorable Supreme Court. In which case, the Compromised Chief Justice will be compelled  to recuse himself and the remaining Justices will decide the appeal,” Verdier concluded in his statement.

West African Journal Magazine

 

U.S. House Bill Amendment Will Provide Reward For Arrest-Conviction for War Crimes

Washington DC USA – April 1, 2019: A Bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to, “Amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to provide for rewards for the arrest and conviction of certain foreign nationals who have committed genocide or war crimes.”

Former Liberian Militia Leaders
Former Liberian Militia Leaders

Known as H.R. 1819, North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District Republican Virginia Foxx introduced the bill on March 18, 2019 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

There are direct implications for Liberian warlords, if the proposed Bill, becomes law in the United States.

Several major war actors named in Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) are yet to face prosecution for their roles in gross human rights abuses during the wars in the West African country in the 1990’s. A TRC Final Report was submitted to the Government of Liberia in June 2012 but recommendations contained therein have since been ignored.

The TRC, in its Final Report catalogued location, victims and types of violations committed by the various militias in Liberia’s civil war as follows:

County Victims Violations
Montserrado 14,980 22,094
Bong 12,546 22,175
Lofa 11,296 18,863
Nimba 7,784 12,794
Bomi 5,970 9,840
Gbarpolu 7,285 13,574
Grand Bassa 6,227 10,739
Margibi 3,394 5,154  
Sinoe 5,706 9,266  
Maryland 3,934 6,162  
Grand Kru 3,296 5,568  
Grand Gedeh 4,010 6,569  
River Gee 4,030 6,839  
Rivercess 2,315 3,566  
Grand Cape Mount 5,768 ,9354  
Unknown 781 1,058  
TOTAL 93,322 163,615  

Of the various violations cited by the TRC Final Report, the top five included Displacement, Killings, Assault, Abduction and Looting by militias.

88 % of Violations were committed by the NPFL, LURD, Liberia Peace Council, Militia, ULIMO, MODEL and the Armed Forces of Liberia during the wars in the 1990s; the NPFL and LURD being the top two, according to the TRC. 19 Perpetrators were named  for cooperating with the TRC process and not recommended for Prosecution.

The Leaders of the 8 major warring factions recommended for Prosecution included:

Charles G. Taylor – NPFL

Prince Y. Johnson – INPFL

Roosevelt Johnson (Deceased) – ULIMO & ULIMO-J

Alhaji G.V. Kromah – ULIMO & ULIMO-K

George Boley – Liberia Peace Council

Thomas Yayah Nimely – MODELl

Sekou Damate Konneh – LURD and

Francois Massaquoi (Deceased) – Lofa Defense Force

TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier
TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier

Those named as bearing the greatest responsibility for extra judicial excesses included leaders of the various militias, some of whom presently serve in the Liberian Government.

Former rebel leader turned former President Charles G. Taylor is serving a 50 years jail term in the UK following his conviction for his role in the war in the war in neighboring Sierra Leone. Prince Y. Johnson is a Senator from Nimba County in Liberia’s National Legislature. No one has been prosecuted in Liberia for their role in war and economic crimes.

Other war actors who fled Liberia are being being identified, arrested and prosecuted in the United States and Europe.

U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee
U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee

The latest Bill is an attempt by the U.S. Congress to hold accountable perpetrators in Liberia and others elsewhere around the world for their roles in genocide and war crimes.

The major perpetrators have been identified in Liberia and their arrests will facilitate prosecution in a court whose location is to be determined, once it is up an running. The TRC Final Report recommended the mechanism for the establishment of a War Crimes Court.

Additional Congressional Bills are also making their way through Committees in the U.S. for the setting up of a War Crime Tribunal in Liberia. Once the H.R. 1819 becomes law in the U.S. the State Department will work with various U.S. agencies to implement the  provision of the reward for the arrest abnd conviction of those foreign nationals who have committed genocide or war crimes.

Recently, two Liberian rights groups – the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJL) and the International Justice Group (IJG) visited the office the U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington DC to offer support for, “House Resolution 1055 among other things seeks to affirm strong United States- Liberia ties and support for democratic principles. The Resolution also calls for the full implementat ion of the Truth and Reconci l iat ion Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia…”

The Weah Government in Liberia is refusing to committ to implementation of the TRC Report, inspite of urgings of local and international rights organizations, the United Nations, European Union and the U.S. Government.

By Our International Affairs Editor

West African Journal Magazine

 

Accused Liberian War Criminal Indicted In Switzerland: To Face Trial

Geneva, Switzerland, March 26, 2019: It appears that a former Liberian rebel and war actor will face prosecution in Europe, Switzerland after all.

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber

The SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) reports that after nearly five years of investigation, the country’s Swiss Attorney General has issued an indictment of Alieu Kosiah for war crimes he allegedly committed during Liberia’s back-to-back wars and his case will now goes to trial.

A statement from the Office of the Swiss Attorney General seen on Tuesday by the West African Journal Magazine says, “The defendant is accused of having ordered the murder respectively murdering or participating in the murder of civilians and soldiers hors de combat, desecrated a corpse of a civilian, raped a civilian, ordered the cruel treatment of civilians, recruited and employed a child soldier, ordered several pillages and ordered and/or participated in forced transports of goods and ammunition by civilians.”

Accused War Criminal Alieu Kosiah
Accused War Criminal Alieu Kosiah

Mr. Kosiah was picked up and detained in Switzerland since 2014 and he is the first person to be held for prosecution on charges brought by the Office of the Swiss Attorney General.

Following criminal complaints filed by several Liberians in 2014, the accused Mr. Kosiah was identified as a former rebel commander with the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO). He has been a resident of Switzerland. The Attorney General then launched an investigation into criminal charges that Kosiah was responsible for committing war crimes in Liberia.

According to the Office of the  Swiss Attorney General, the collection of evidence against the accused was complicated by what it called the “lack of cooperation from Liberia and long period of time which had elapsed since the events in Liberia.”

About 25 witnesses have given testimonies to the Office of the Swiss Attorney General which has also received legal assistance from several international organizations.

Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Liberia was wracked by  horrendous civil wars in the 1990s. Various militias are accused of committing gross human rights abuses against unarmed civilians including the intentional dislocation of large sections of the populations.

Following the wars, belligerents agreed to the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which completed its work in June, 2012, submitted its Final Report to the Liberian Government and among several recommendations called for the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal to prosecute those identified as responsible for gross war and economic crimes.

But The Government of Liberia has been reluctant to implement recommendations of the TRC.

Accused Agnes Taylor and Tom Woweiyu
Accused Agnes Taylor and Tom Woweiyu

Some of those accused in the report including former rebel warlord turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL) have angrily rejected any attempts to bring them to justice and have vowed to resist the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal in the West African country. The main rebel leader Charles Taylor turned former President Charles Taylor was forced from office, later arrested, prosecuted and convicted on 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity for supporting rebels who carried out atrocities in Sierra Leone in return for “blood diamonds”. He is presently serving a 50 year jail term.

The reluctance of the new Weah Government to commit to fully implementing the recommendations of the TRC, in spite of calls the local rights groups and the international community, has led to a campaign to support the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal in Liberia.

President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor - File Photo
President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor – File Photo

Support for proposed Congressional House Bill 1055 is growing in the U.S. for the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal.

Seal of International Justice Group
Seal of International Justice Group

Last week a rights groups including the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJL) and the International Justice Group (IJG) led supporters to the office of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presented a statement in which they said, “… we are equally optimistic that Resolution 1055 will be a reality, War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia will be a success story, and corruption and impunity will become history. It is only when we achieve these milestones, will we become an economically, socially and politically vibrant nation..”

Seal of Movement For Justice In Liberia
Seal of Movement For Justice In Liberia

Already, some supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) led Government are accusing rights groups of supporting the “economic strangulation” of the Weah government by their statement to U.S. House Speaker Pelosi.

Several Liberian war actors including former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tom Woweiyu, Agnes Reeves Taylor and Martina Johnson are facing international justice. Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabateh, a former ULIMO rebel commander, is currently serving a 30 year prison term on immigration fraud charges in the U.S.

Sealed indictments have been drawn up against some Liberians which have been accused of war and economic crimes in Liberia.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

Others accused of committing atrocities and who fled the country are living under assumed names in parts of Africa, Europe and the United States. One of such persons is a former commander in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who, in the early days of the rebel invasion in Liberia, led a death squad that murdered a prominent Liberian architect and Mayor of the suburban city of Clay Ashland, Mayor Mr. R. Vanjah Richards. At the time, the Defense Ministry in Liberia said Major Johnson and his men “deviated from their mission”. Johnson later disappeared from Liberia.

West African Journal Magazine has been reliably informed by credible sources that the accused, Henry K. Johnson, is hiding out in the U.S.

International investigators say they will continue to pursue accused Liberia war and economic criminals and bring them to justice or bring justice to them.

By Our Correspondents in Europe, Liberia and the U.S.

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

 

Movement For Justice In Liberia To Hold “War Crimes Tribunal March” In Washington DC March 21st

In the wake of ongoing poor governance and lack of accountability and the pervasive culture of impunity in Liberia, diaspora Liberians, supporters and friends of Liberia, under the organizing umbrella of the Movement for Justice in Liberia have obtained approval for a Demonstration and March at the Capitol in Washington DC.

March Approval
March Approval

An approved copy which was sent to West African Journal Magazine shows that the application was made by the Movement for Justice In Liberia (MOJL) to the United States Capitol Police Board for the purpose of, “gathering to support House Resolution 1055 (H.R. 1055) which calls for the establishment of a war crimes Tribunal and strong diplomatic ties with Liberia for Better Governance culture in Liberia.”

Marchers and those demonstrating are authorized to carry hand held signs, placards, banners and a portable sound system during their event on Thursday, Marc 21, 2019 in Washington DC at Union Square at the foot of the Capitol Building, the seat of the US Congress.

In an interview on Thursday, a representative of the Movement for Justice in Liberia Mr. Ansony Sieh said the organization was formally launched last year following their participation in a protest march during the visit of the Liberian President George M. Weah at the UN General Assembly.

Ansony Sieh of MOJL
Ansony Sieh of MOJL

The group says it has been actively advocating for establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia and promotion of good governance in the West African country and has written letters the UN, ECOWAS, AU, the US Congress and foreign diplomatic missions in Liberia.

The Movement for Justice in Liberia has also issued statements on national issues including the “billion dollar” financial scandal in Liberia and will continue its advocacy, Mr. Sieh emphasized.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 passed Resolution 1055 “to reaffirm strong U.S.-Liberia ties and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Recommendations.

Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) completed its work and submitted a Final Report to the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration in 2009. However, the Government of Liberia has failed to take the necessary steps for implementation of recommendations, in spite of local and international urgings to address gross human rights abuses and economic crimes committed by major actors; some of whom serve in high positions in the current Liberian government.

The UN, Germany, the United States, European Union and local non-governmental organizations have made private and public representations to the current George M. Weah Administration on the matter but without success so far. The Weah Administration has made no formal commitment to pursue the establishment of a war crimes tribunal.

TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier
TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier

Liberian diaspora civic groups and individuals and international human rights organizations including the International Justice Group (IJG) have been vigorously  lobbying the U.S. and European governments for support for the establishment of an accountability mechanism like the War Crimes Court. International war crimes investigators who traveled to Liberia over the years to collect first-hand evidence from victims and eyewitnesses have presented their findings to the U.S. government including lawmakers to make the case for passage of the resolution which supports the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia.

Senator Prince Johnson
Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Johnson

Those recommended for prosecution in the TRC Final Report include now jailed former rebel leader turned former President Charles G. Taylor of the National Patriotic Front, (NPFL), Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL), Alhaji G.V. Kromah of United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO-K) and Dr. George S. Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).

Others include Thomas Yahya Nimley of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Sekou Damate Konneh of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Estimated attendees at the rally is put at 250 – 500. Mr. Sieh of the Movement for Justice in Liberia says the event expects to attract a sizeable number of Liberians, supporters of justice and friends of Liberia.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

Dutch Supreme Court Upholds Gus Kouwenhoven’s Conviction; Extradition Pending

The Hague, Netherlands December 18, 2018 – The AP is reporting that the Supreme Court in the Netherlands has upheld the conviction of the notorious Dutch arms smuggler Gus Kouwenhoven – a long-time associate of former rebel turned ex-President of Liberia Charles Taylor.

Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor
Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor

Kouwenhoven who operated the Oriental Timber Company (OTC) in Liberia was convicted in 2006 of international arms and timber smuggling including supply of cars, weapons,  and ammunitions to the main rebel group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in exchange for access to timber, diamond and natural resources of the poor West African country during its devastating civil war in 1990s. He appealed that conviction and was cleared.

However, new evidence surfaced on which the Dutch national was convicted again early 2017 and sentenced to 19 years  in prison.

In his 2016 book on conflict diamonds entitled, “ The Lion That Didn’t Roar: Can The Kimberly Process Stop the Blood Diamonds Trade?”, author Nigel Davidson wrote that, “…The Netherlands utilised its national war crimes legislation to initiate a prosecution about the related issue of so-called ‘conflict timber’. Although not a conflict diamonds prosecution as such, the war crimes legislation was used to prosecute timber trader and Dutch national Gus Kouwehoven. Reminiscent of the conflict diamonds problem, Kouwehoven allegedly provided financial assistance through is logging activities to human rights violators. Kouwenhoven was charged with war crimes for his role in the conflict in Liberia, as well as breaching United Nations sanctions. The indictment alleged that in at least four locations, Kouwenhoven committed, directly or indirectly, the killing, inhuman treatment, looting, rape, severe bodily harm, and offences against dead, sick or wounded persons. Machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used in an attack that made no distinction between active combatants and civilians…”

A Dutch Magisterial Court in 2006, however, did not find Kouwenhoven criminally liable for the alleged crimes. An Appeals court in 2008 overturned the decision and ordered him re-tried and he was subsequently convicted.

Charles Taylor Fighters
Charles Taylor Fighters

At the time of Mr. Kouwenhoven’s arrest last December in South Africa, the Executive Director of Global Witness, in a press statement said, “The arrest of Gus Kouwenhoven marks a banner day for the people of Liberia and those around the world who suffer at the hands of companies that trade in conflict timber and minerals. The message to those that trade guns for resources and profit from international crimes is that the rules of the game are changing. You will be found and you will go to jail…”

“Gus” as he was known in Liberia, was a business fixture at the once famed Hotel Africa Hotel in the northern western Liberian suburb of Virginia.

“Years of dogged work by the Dutch government, and now the South African authorities, are paying off and are finally bringing an infamous criminal to justice. Global Witness applauds their efforts. Charles Taylor has already been sentenced and imprisoned. Kouwenhoven now faces a similar fate,” the Global Witness official said last December.

Mr. Kouwenhoven, now residing in South Africa who was appealing his second conviction but with the Dutch Supreme Court’s decision, he is now awaiting extradition to the Netherlands.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

His lawyers argued before the Dutch Supreme Court that the Kouwenhoven could not be prosecuted because of am amnesty granted to him by former President Taylor in 2003. That argument was rejected by the Court and his conviction upheld.

Over 250,000 Liberians were killed in the country’s civil war and another 1 million others were displaced internally and externally by the bloody conflict. Charles Taylor himself was convicted of charges by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in the Hague in May, 2012. He is currently serving a 50 year prison sentence in the UK.

In Liberia, the Administration f President George M. Weah is facing international and domestic pressure to establish a war crimes court to prosecute those accused of gross human rights abuses and economic crimes.

But the Weah government has said that the establishment of such a court is not a priority.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

 

OPINION – Liberia: LEVERAGING THE WAR & ECONOMIC CRIME COURT

State Of The Nation

The Liberian economy is shrinking daily, mostly because of uncertainty. Grant that the UN drawdown, slump in international commodity price and other cash-flow minimizing events going into 2018 started the decline, but the change of government and the first few bold but inconclusive economic initiatives by the new government have ushered an atmosphere of uncertainty which is not good for business.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

The widespread perception that the new officials have gone on a spending spree buying homes and expensive assets even outside Liberia does not help. Two major loan schemes for nearly US$1Billion on which months of tangible and political capital were expended seem to have shadowed out. The suspicion of unauthorized printing of currency and the alleged stealing of LD$15.5 Billion, even if untrue, have left a gaping hole in the confidence of the people and the owners of capital. As a result, dozens of missteps that would otherwise be excusable for an infant government are now glorified into scares of dooms day nearing. All this, while the ability of the ordinary people to make a reasonable living is increasingly grueling, daily. People are hurting, at least for that, there is no dispute.

In the wake of the economic reversals pervading the country, a voice is rising among a large segment of the population; both in the country and the diaspora, and among key international stakeholders, for a final reckoning; the establishment of a War and Economic Crime Court, to hold accountable those responsible for the violation of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) and the pillaging of the resources of the country under the canopy of war. The trauma of war is manifested every day in the violent outburst of youths when motor accidents occur, mob executions of accused thieves in public spaces and the massive explosion of an illicit drug culture among the youths, a by-product of the war.

There are some who are asking, “Why now? Why wasn’t the same pressure brought to bear on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for a War Crime Court?” President Sirleaf would not have implemented the punitive recommendations of the TRC; she did not have the fortitude to hold herself accountable. (To her credit, she did implement some of the less controversial items). That should be expected, but President Weah is not anchored by the same weight. When asked about the War Crime Court on his return from France over the last weekend, President George Weah, answered in such a manner as to make a disparity between the War Crime Court and his New Economic Plan, the Pro-Poor Policy for Prosperity and Development. I get the impression that key policy makers believe it is either War Crime Court or Economic Development. I think this is a misread; we can have both. In fact, the former will lift the latter.

Crimes Against Humanity

We need not argue that heinous crimes were committed in Liberia that fall under the definition of crimes against humanity. Non-combatant men, women and children were killed because of their ethnicity, some past disputes and, in some cases, for the like of it. In countless places in the country, including St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Duport Road, Fandell, Po River Bridge, Gbarnga, Buchanan, Yekepa, Zwedru, Greenville, Caldwell, Monrovia, hundreds of thousands of people were maimed, drowned, decapitated, hearts taken from bodies while the victim was still alive, eaten and youths drugged and conscripted into battle to heartlessly do the dirty work of their masters. Liberians witnessed militias rip open pregnant women and extract their fetuses while dancing to their war songs in amusement and fanfare. Daughters and wives were forcefully taken from their families and made into sex slaves; some never to be seen again. Militias and their warlords commonly celebrated their cruelty by displaying skulls of their victims on their cars and even using their intestines as toll gates. Whole towns and villages were wiped out; people seeking rescue in God’s church were mutilated and many were stripped of their dignity. This does not begin to capture the depth of cruelty brought on the innocent people of Liberia. For one to suggest that asking those who have been accused of such cruelties to have their day in court is unreasonable and untimely falls flat in the face of reason.

Liberia Civil War Injured Victims
Liberia Civil War Injured Victims – File Photo

The demand for accountable is a cardinal part of reconciliation and national healing. It is justified under both domestic and international law. Liberia is a signatory and state party to the Geneva Conventions, Vienna Convention and all the International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) and protocols regarding, among other things, the conduct of war and the treatment of civilians and those who surrender in armed conflict. Like International Humanitarian Laws (IHL), the recommendation of the TRC has binding effect on the Government of Liberia and there are consequences for non-compliance. The TRC is an Act of the Legislature; it is Liberian Law. There is another argument that the Comprehensive Peace Initiative Agreement (CPA) signed between the Liberian warring factions, the very warlords who perpetrated the atrocities, granted amnesty to the perpetrators.  Self-amnesties are kinds of amnesty promulgated by persons or governments while in position of authority, purporting to protect themselves from prosecution once they relinquish their hold on power. Both self-amnesty and domestic Legislation for amnesty promulgated to unhook alleged violators of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) are not respected under International Law.

Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Torture, ethnic cleansing and most provisions of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) which perpetrators, in the case of Liberia, have been accused fall under peremptory norms in international law or “jus cogens.” A peremptory norm is a fundamental principle of international law that is accepted by the international community of states as a norm from which no derogation is permitted; they are compelling laws that cannot be set aside or pardoned, recognized as a whole as being fundamental to the maintenance of the international legal order. They include the prohibition of genocide, maritime piracy, enslaving in general, torture, refoulement and wars of aggression and territorial aggrandizement, among others.

Relying on the principle of “Pacta sunt servanda,”Article 26 of the Vienna Convention bars state parties to the convention from invoking provisions of their internal laws as justification for failure to perform obligation to prosecute and punish crimes under the Geneva Conventions, Vienna Convention and other conventions to which the state is a party. For example, many of those accused of crimes under the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) proffered the argument that the Lomé Accord which ended the Sierra Leone Conflict granted amnesty to the warlords but their claims to immunity were summarily denied by the court.

Already, many who committed war crimes in Liberia have been brought before courts and made accountable in jurisdictions other than Liberia. Charles Chucky Taylor was tried in a Florida court for crimes committed in Liberia and sentenced to 99 years imprisonment. His father, former President Charles Taylor was handed to the Special Court for Sierra Leone(SCSL) by the Government of Liberia, represented by its Solicitor General Cllr Taiwon Gonglor; so to suggest that Liberia does not ascribe to the International War Crimes Court is ludicrous. Former President Johnson Sirleaf’s failure to occasion the implementation of the recommendations of the TRC was predicated purely on the principle of self-preservation. She was unwilling to rollout a program that bars her and other co-accused in positions of power from public office for thirty years. If renewed pressure on the Government of Liberia for a War and Economic Crime Court, including a recent US Congress Resolution in support of Justice for victims of the Liberia Civil War, is anything to go by, one need not be a rocket scientist to know that the quest for some form of accountability for War and Economic Crimes committed in Liberia will not dissipate. Government’s continued rejection of the notion of War Crime Court puts Liberia at odds with the key international players in a battle we, a poor and dependent country, cannot win. We may as well ride the wind.

Leveraging Calls for War & Economic Crimes Court

Every problem brings with it an equal opportunity for finding a solution. My advice to the Government of Liberia is that we leverage the situation and use the international quest for a War and Economic Crime Court to attract the support for our economy necessary to gender growth and the upliftment of the lives of our impoverished population. Every post-war country that submitted to the demands of the international community for accountability was economically strengthened through the programs of direct economic support. Germany, Japan, Italy, Rwanda, South Africa, Vietnam, and next door Sierra Leone, are examples.

Instead of fighting against the inevitable, the Government of Liberia needs to go back to the Recommendations of the TRC and the Virginia Declaration of the Liberian National Conference ( June 19, 2009) out of which most of the TRC recommendations were taken, and identify those programs that have the highest potential of fostering reconciliation, unity and economic relief, and begin negotiations with international stakeholders with the hope of establishing a War and Economic Crime Court on Liberian soil concomitant with international provision of support for all the identified programs recommended by the TRC and the Virginia Conference.

Liberia TRC
Liberia TRC

Some of the recommendations for which the government should seek international support in pair with the establishment of a War and Economic Crime Court in Liberia include:

  • That those who died as a result of the conflict be memorialized by monuments and multi-purpose halls erected in the name of victims at all sites of massacres.
  • That individual reparations be granted to victims of Liberia’s civil crisis in the form of psychosocial support, educational scholarships, microloans, livestock support, agricultural support, and food aid.
  • That community reparations be granted to affected populations in the form of centers for psychosocial support, support to communal farming, and priority rehabilitation of roads, schools, and health facilities.
  • That community leaders should be empowered to use “under the palava hut” management to deal with all those that have acknowledged their wrongs and are seeking forgiveness.
  • That political appointments be based on merit.
  • That a national culture center be established to promote Liberia’s diverse culture.
  • That welfare centers be created to provide care to those who can no longer provide for themselves, including the elderly, mentally disturbed or mentally handicapped.
  • That vocational education be provided to adults in the form of literacy and skills-training programs.
  • That youth receive pre-technical qualification trainings in order to seek employment.
  • That the curriculum for children and youth be updated to include reconciliation, peace-building, human rights, and patriotism.
  • That more recreational opportunities be created for children and youth.
  • That more rehabilitation centers for deviant youth be established.
  • That a Peace and Reconciliation Commission be established to oversee, support, and encourage reconciliation activities throughout the country.
  • That a National Peace and Reconciliation Conference be held annually, rotating between all 15 counties.
  • Establish a special judiciary review committee to monitor the government’s progress on implementation of these and other TRC recommendations
  • That the economy be Liberianize and local businesses protect

Support for the establishment of a war crime court in Liberia, including the construction of the court, training and employment of hundreds of Liberians and the implementation of the measures listed above will require hundreds of millions of dollars that will serve to augment the weakening Liberian economy. The acceptance by Liberia of the establishment of the court will increase confidence in justice and the rule of law in Liberia. The Government may ask for international security, should it determine the need for additional security presence. The return of the international force will not only increase security but add new energy to the economy in terms of the additional cash flow affiliated with the large number of expatriate workers in the country. Handled properly, Liberia’s acceptance of the War and Economic Crime Court and the other recommendations will strengthen the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and catapult the Liberian economy back into the high growth trajectory.

Non for Self, But Country

My recommendation to leverage may come across as blunt and insensitive to those who have been accused. Far from that; I believe in the presumption of innocence, an aged old legal doctrine ascribed in the Latin “ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat,” meaning, the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies. Those so accused must be brought before a court of competent jurisdiction where they will have the chance to confront their charges and defend themselves, even at the expense of the sponsors of the War and Economic Crime Court, in cases where the accused are incapable of footing his own legal fees.

Liberian Voters At Rally Town Market jpg
Liberian Voters At Rally Town Market – File photo

Occasioning the court and leveraging the other growth centric programs are but small sacrifices every citizen can make to the betterment of country. For those, including my Uncle, Sen. Prince Y. Johnson, who are edgy about the prospects of a War Crime Trial and who have spent countless hours grand standing their patriotism and love for country, this is their moment to show that patriotism and be remembered for something good. Inscribed over the chapel door at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis is the Latin phrase: “Non Sibi Set Patraie.” Let me admonish those who are being cowed into fear of a War and Economic Crime Court to adopt this motor: “Not for Self, but Country.” Let’s embrace the War Crime Court and kick impunity and all its attending vices out of Liberia.

Read my new book, The FOG – War, Love & Country, about my experience in the Liberian Civil War and my take on reconciliation and national unity, informed by experience of other post war countries.

About the Author

Cyrus L. Gray
Cyrus L. Gray

Cyrus L Gray, Jr., is the Author of the Negro Nation (www.amazion.com), the International Shipping Guidelines; and Publisher of the New Liberian Magazine (renamed LIB BUZNEY). His new book, “FOG (A Story of War, Love and Country)” will be published in December 2018 with first rollout in Monrovia. As a day job, he is a Logistics Business Development Consultant with Core competence in Air and Seaport Development. His recent work was Co-Consultant for the crafting of the Economic Analysis of the Mesurado Fishing Pier (Oct. 2018) at the Freeport of Monrovia, for Liberia’s National Aquaculture and Fisheries Authority (NaFAA). He can be reached at: cyrus.grayii@gmail.com

US Lawmakers Signal Major Support For War Crimes Court In Liberia

Washington DC – November 14, 2018:  In a strong signal against the perpetuation of a  pervasive culture of impunity in Liberia since the end of the brutal back-to-back civil war that brought the West African nation of Liberia to its knees, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 passed Resolution 1055 “to reaffirm strong U.S.-Liberia ties and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Recommendations.

Flag of Liberia
Flag of Liberia

As part of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2003, all belligerents in the Liberia conflict agreed to the establishment of a  Truth or Reconciliation mechanism to investigate “perpetrators of massacres, sexual offences, murder, economic crimes, extra-judicial killings, and all incidents of gross human rights abuses and violations from January, 1979 – October 13, 2004. The aim of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which began work in earnest 2006, was to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation”.

Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement ARTICLE XIII: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

  1. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission shall be established to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an 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.
  1. In the spirit of national reconciliation, the Commission shall deal with the root causes of the crises in Liberia, including human rights violations.
  1. This Commission shall, among other things, recommend measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims of human rights violations.
  1. Membership of the Commission shall be drawn from a cross-section of Liberian society. The Parties request that the International Community provide the necessary financial and technical support for the operations of the Commission.
Former Fighters In Libera - File Photo
Former Fighters In Libera – File Photo

The TRC completed its work and submitted a Final Report to the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration in 2009. However, the Government of Liberia has failed to take the necessary steps for implementation in spite of local and international urgings to address gross human rights abuses and economic crimes committed by major actors; some of whom serve in high positions in the current Liberian government.

The UN, Germany, the United States, European Union and local non-governmental organizations have made private and public representations to the George M. Weah Administration on the matter but without success so far.

Liberian diaspora civic groups and individuals and international human rights organizations including the International Justice Group (IJG) have been vigorously  lobbying the U.S. and European governments for support for the establishment of an accountability mechanism like the War Crimes Court. International war crimes investigators who traveled to Liberia over the years to collect first-hand evidence from victims and eyewitnesses have presented their findings to the U.S. government including lawmakers to make the case for passage of the resolution which supports the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia.

IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera
IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera

The Chief Investigator of the International Justice Group (IJG) Mr. Garretson Al Smith who played a key investigatory role which helped with the passage of U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1055 said, “this is a major step in the accountability process for those who are accused of committing war crimes in the West African nation.”

Prior to the vote on the Resolution, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Ed Royce stated that, “ …The Africa Subcommittee worked across party lines and alongside the international community and the people of Liberia to apprehend the notorious warlord Charles Taylor. Today, he remains behind bars. In 2003, the Government of Liberia, rebel groups and political parties signed a comprehensive peace agreement.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to ensure justice for the people of Liberia. Unfortunately, however, this war crimes tribunal has never been established, although Liberian government figures and activists alike have continued to call for one. This resolution repeats this important call.”

According to the U.S. lawmaker Representative Royce, “…We have turned the page on this horrific chapter in Liberia’s history. In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there officially ended. It is not often we get to celebrate the successful end of a mission, and we remember the 202 peacekeepers that lost their lives to bring peace and stability in the region…”

Former Warlord Prince Y. Johnson

In a recent interview on a local radio station in his home county of Nimba in northeastern Liberia, a former militia leader turned Senator Mr. Prince Y. Johnson threatened those calling for his arrest. “If you were to come to arrest me, I will fight you. You know why? The same crime you want to arrest me for is the same crime Taylor committed. When you said you killed my ma, you then compensated Taylor with the Presidency. You paid Taylor to be President of Liberia…,” Johnson angrily said in the interview.

Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper
Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper

He cited calls to arrest and prosecute him for alleged war crimes as “selective justice” and defended his role as a fight to save his kinsmen who, he said, were being massacred by the Samuel K. Doe regime. Johnson and his militia were responsible for snatching former President Doe from the base of the Peacekeeping Force on September 9, 1990, after killing nearly 70 members of his entourage during the late President’s visit there. Doe was later tortured, killed and his body mutilated by rebel fighters loyal to Johnson.

The former warlord said Parliament in Liberia passed an Amnesty law for all acts committed between 1990 – 2003 and defiantly added, “ If you want, come catch me. The resistance you will find from young guys…it will be maximum, uncontrollable and ungovernable…”

Liberia’s TRC Final Report

Liberia’s TRC Final Report recommended the prosecution leaders of warring factions for “…human rights violations, including violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, war crimes and egregious domestic laws of Liberia and economic crimes…”

Liberia - TRC
Liberia – TRC

Those recommended for prosecution include now jailed former rebel leader turned former President Charles G. Taylor of the National Patriotic Front, (NPFL), Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL), Alhaji G.V. Kromah of United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO-K) and Dr. George S. Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).

Other former warlords named for prosecution in the TRC Final Report were Thomas Yahya Nimley of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Sekou Damate Konneh of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Rebel Leaders Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO -J faction and Francois Massaquoi of the Lofa Defense Force (LDF) pre-deceased the TRC Final Report.

US – Liberia Relations

US Representative Ed Royce
US Representative Ed Royce

The U.S. wields significant economic power and influence in Liberian matters and the House Resolution is expected to force the hand of the Weah government to implement the TRC Final Report or it will face further international isolation and sanctions. The Liberian Administration is already facing a crushing economic deterioration and has been unable to access international loan facilities.

The Weah government is said to be frantically seeking unconventional avenues to solicit loans and lines of credit to keep it afloat amidst rising local economic discontent and pressure to deliver much needed relief.

In his prepared remarks before passage of the House Resolution on Liberia, Chairman Royce noted that, “Much more needs to be done to crack down on corruption and create a more conducive environment for trade and economic investment. The government must ensure policies are in place to encourage businesses to invest, grow and create jobs. But this resolution affirms the U.S. commitment to continue to partner with Liberia to support civil society, rule of law and good governance. We stand by the Liberian people in their continued efforts for a more prosperous and democratic Liberia…”

Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes
Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes

On last Monday, hundreds of Liberians marched in the capital Monrovia in support of victims and survivors of the war and presented a petition to the Government of Liberia, the United States and international partners in which they called for the setting up of a war crimes court.

The Weah Administration Liberia has not officially responded to the U.S. House Resolution.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

US House of Representatives Passes Resolution for War Crimes Court Establishment in Liberia

Washington, D.C. – The US House of Representatives File Photo

House of Representatives tonight passed H. Res. 1055to reaffirm strong U.S.-Liberia ties and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Ed Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“I rise in support of H. Res. 1055, which affirms the strong ties between the United States and Liberia and calls for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations. I want to thank Reps. Donovan and Johnson for their work on this resolution.

During my time as Chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, we held hearings and passed legislation to bring attention to the brutal civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone that killed 200,000 people and displaced more than 1 million – one of whom, who was also orphaned by this conflict, worked in my own office in Congress. We heard a young girl – no more than 10 years old – recount the atrocities she herself endured during the war, a gruesome illustration of the horrific and lasting impact this conflict had on the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Africa Subcommittee worked across party lines and alongside the international community and the people of Liberia to apprehend the notorious warlord Charles Taylor. Today, he remains behind bars.

Liberian President George M. Weah

In 2003, the Government of Liberia, rebel groups and political parties signed a comprehensive peace agreement. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to ensure justice for the people of Liberia.

Former Liberia TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

Unfortunately, however, this war crimes tribunal has never been established, although Liberian government figures and activists alike have continued to call for one. This resolution repeats this important call.

We have turned the page on this horrific chapter in Liberia’s history. In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there officially ended. It is not often we get to celebrate the successful end of a mission, and we remember the 202 peacekeepers that lost their lives to bring peace and stability in the region.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was democratically elected in 2005 and reelected in 2011 before stepping down from power. Last year, the country experienced its first democratic transition of power since November 1944. This further strengthened democratic institutions and set an important precedent for future leaders.

Liberian Peace Activists March For Justice

Much more needs to be done to crack down on corruption and create a more conducive environment for trade and economic investment. The government must ensure policies are in place to encourage businesses to invest, grow and create jobs.

But this resolution affirms the U.S. commitment to continue to partner with Liberia to support civil society, rule of law and good governance. We stand by the Liberian people in their continued efforts for a more prosperous and democratic Liberia.

The United States and Liberia have shared close historical, political and economic ties over the course of a nearly 200-year relationship. The United States is home to an estimated 80,000 people of Liberian ancestry. This resolution commends this diaspora population, which has been instrumental in America’s efforts to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Liberia.”

Source: Foreign Affairs Committee, US House of Representatives