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

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

 

Special Feature: Liberia – The Reality Is That Government Is Struggling To Deliver Relief

Monrovia, Liberia – December 21, 2018: Liberians are playing the “waiting game” with the expectation of a grand national economic redemption by the United States and the international community.

Liberia PAPD

However, the stark reality is that the unfortunate elements of donor fatigue, the country’s non-strategic posture, lack of credible national and economic support systems and poor fiscal management make for an unattractive courting by the international community.

The attempt at not projecting a “doom and gloom” characterization of the West African country is a real struggle because the truth can be “inconvenient and harsh”.

The bold face truth is that the Government is really struggling to meet expectations.

Voting queue in Liberia
Voting queue in Liberia – File Photo

The general sentiment among most Liberians is to remain hopeful and resilient because the alternative is depressing. But the bare facts are that it will take more than hope and wishful thinking to wrest the country from the downward spiral and economic depravity that are impacting the country in these modern times.

The George Weah’s government which is clocking one year at the helm of governance is struggling to project its best face but the head-winds of lack of technical capacity and qualified personnel coupled with inexperience are a drag on national progress.

Pro-Poor Pillars For Prosperity and Development (PAPD)

 The Government has laid out an ambitious roadmap to guide its march to prosperity and development with a timeline of achievement by 2023.

In Pillar 1 , the Liberia Government states that it is, “To empower Liberians with the tools to gain control of their lives thru more equitable provision of opportunities in education, health, youth development, and social protection”. But the challenge is the successful application of proven systems, criteria, trained human capacity and measurable results to this goal. This will pre-suppose that existing national health infrastructures, educational programs and curriculum, and youth engagement and programs are reviewed for quick impact returns.

Pillar 2 projects the goal of “A stable macroeconomic environment enabling private sector-led economic growth, greater competitiveness, and diversification of the economy.”

To government’s credit, a macro loan scheme with oversight management by the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) was launched recently. But like most fiscal systems in Liberia, the management, eligibility criteria and promotion of awareness effort for small businesses who are expected to benefit are unclear. How is such a loan facility system structured to accommodate repayment? Will this loan facility be extended to small businesses in leeward counties? How much non- repayment tolerance is built into this scheme? What does success looks like from implementation of this macro finance scheme?

In April, 2018, a local paper the Daily Observer reported that the President of the Bankers Association In Liberia and President of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) Mr. John B.S. Davies passionately spoke up against the enactment and enforcement of a law which makes the Liberian dollar the sole currency of the country and legal tender.

“…Mr. Davies believes that the use of the Liberian dollar as sole currency will cause local banking institutions to lose relationships with foreign correspondent banks to maintain their offshore accounts (accounts held in foreign banks), which transactions are traded with United States dollars. Local banks will not be able to pay depositors in the event of a run on the bank for huge United States deposit, owing to the depreciation that dollar deposited may be nationalized,” Mr. Davies said, according to the paper.

It is quite evident now that in spite of that grave warning then, the Government proceeded to advance Pillar 2 of its “Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development; the result of which points to a total disconnect from Government’s public policy and stated goals. Today, the non-availability of local Liberia dollars in commercial banks is reaching crisis proportions.

Pillar 3 states its goal as, “A more peaceful, unified society that enables economic transformation and sustainable development. The crux of this pillar is ending fragility and the root causes of conflict. But the achievement of this goal is a non-starter because Government has ignored local and international calls for addressing past incidences of gross human rights abuses and impunity. The roadmap to address the ugly history demands that leaders rise above personal and partisan interests and boldly commit to implementing recommendations contained in the Final Report of the country’s  Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which completed its work since June 2012.

The installation and respect of a culture of rule of law remains elusive and contributes to the “fragile peace” posture of Liberia even after three democratic elections. There is a reason why the erosion in state institutions and governance and lack of trust in government is pervasive; the “Liberian way” of doing things dominates to the detriment of the people and Republic.

Pillar 4 offers that, “An inclusive and accountable public sector for shared prosperity and sustainable development”. The gulf between ordinary civil servants salaries and senior government officials is astonishingly incomprehensible. Part of the solution to set up accountability for public officials is the lawful system of “Asset Declaration”.

CDC Logo
CDC Logo

In spite of a pronouncement by the country’s Chief Executive President Weah to his Ministers and officials to comply with the law, they have deliberately ignored compliance and in some instances offered incomplete asset disclosures. Even President Weah’s Declaration is sealed. Accountability and transparency in such matters are the first seeds of building and gaining the trust and confidence of citizens. Worst is that the National Legislature sees itself as above the law, refuse to be audited and refuse to hold public officials accountable through credible hearings.

Additionally, investor confidence is very seriously impacted by the almost daily disclosure of scandals in government; namely, the questionable infusion by Government of $25 million USD in the local economy to shore up the local currency using un-named money changers, the bribery and extortion attempt by officials at the National Housing Authority (NHA), the construction of massive real estates by President Weah within one year of his ascension to the Presidency, the near catastrophic loss of millions of dollars from Government’s account to a fraudster, the confusing explanation from Government of the whereabouts of about $16 million Liberian dollars, etc.

The Liberian Government is totally convinced that its Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development can be achieved through designated Development Corridors, Economic Zones and Roads through northern-central, south and south-eastern parts of the country which are comprised of heavy population centers.

The argument can be advanced by Government that it inherited a very difficult economy and infrastructures; However, the Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) led Government has been seeking state power since 2005 and should be held acutely accountable for providing solutions. Liberians voted for solutions and it is time to deliver for them or show them a credible and implementable plan that they can subscribe to and believe in because they  believe it will begin to transform their lives.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

The “Economic Calvary” from the US and the international community is not coming anytime soon because the strategic importance of Liberia is not that attractive these days. International economic aid humanitarian assistance are now defined and designed around lessons learned from past experiences and adaptation to the  “complex Liberian development agenda and programs”; no longer just a blank check.

The Liberian Government must sincerely engage and utilize the experience and services of members of the opposition in order to appear united, broad-based and credible to its own citizens and the international community, if the country is to move beyond its notorious designation as a “problem state”.

The opposition is not an enemy but represents other Liberians who hold different political and economic philosophies.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

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