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: Text Of Statement Delivered By Protesters Delivered To Int’l Community

PETITION STATEMENT

September 24, 2018

The Coalition of Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB), a mass-based umbrella pro-democracy and pro-advocacy organization consisting of over 26 civil society organizations, youth/student groups and trade unions, have peacefully rallied and assembled conscious and patriotic Liberians from every sphere of our society to petition you in pursuit of L$16 billion (US$106 million) that mysteriously disappeared under the government of President George M. Weah.

With oneness of purpose and an unhindered allegiance to Liberia and posterity, we have come on this day to send this clarion message to our International Partners through you:

1 We call on you and all international partners of Liberia to launch an immediate independent international forensic investigation into this missing L$16 billion saga which has both economic, social and security implications. The nation remains terrified by this mystery.

1 We call on you to withhold all direct support (in terms of financial and non-financial aid) to our government until it can fully account and restitute this stolen L$16 billion. All those linked in this horrific economic plunder and mass looting against the State and its people must be prosecuted and made to fully restitute such amount.

1 We call on you to prevail upon the Weah-led government to immediately release the internal investigative report of the Central Bank of Liberia that former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf referenced in her latest interview on BCC. This report in our opinion could unravel a lot of hidden secrets and untold realities.

1 We call on you to assist Liberia in auditing all financial transactions done so far under President George M. Weah and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. We are also concerned about the recent infusion of US$25 million in the Liberian economy by the Weah-led government. We are also interested in knowing the source of this US$ 25 million and how it was infused in the economy. This we believe must be thoroughly investigated as well.

2 COCUBOMB craves your indulgence most respectfully to launch an investigation into the giant-sized private properties being constructed and/or purchased by President George M. Weah and some high-profile members of his government in just six (6) months of his tenure. We are confident that such investigation could also dig out some hard truths about this missing L$16 billion.

3 We call on you to prevail upon the Weah-led government to ensure full asset declaration by all public officials especially the President either before or during the course of the Independent International Forensic Investigation.

1 We call on you to expedite the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia. This we believe would end the longstanding culture of impunity and guarantee justice for Liberia and Liberians especially war victims. This approach would certainly serve as a deterrence for would be war and economic criminals.

1 We submit to you the urgency to fully overhaul/upgrade Liberia’s financial management system in order to maintain fiscal discipline, accountability, transparency and public integrity at all levels. The need to reinforce and rebrand anti-graft institutions such as LACC, GAC, FIU, PPCC, LEITI and IAA cannot be overemphasized. Corruption especially in the judiciary must also be dealt with.

1 We demand that all former and present heads of these institutions (NPA, MoFDP, CBL, MICAT and RIA) that had/have direct link to this missing container immediately recuse themselves and be brought in for investigation by an independent international forensic investigative panel.

The people of Liberia through COCUBOMB remain very concerned and disturbed about those missing billion (US$106 million) that vanished without any trace up to now. It is sad that the government has been dishonest and inconsistent in releasing the facts. Accounts surrounding this missing L$16 billion from the MoJ, MoFDP, MICAT and even the Office of the President remain contradictory and are compounded with fundamental flaws.

The government cannot be the accused, the defendant, and at the same time the jurist. The Liberian people need their money back. Those who viciously siphoned our resources MUST account and account now! THE PEOPLE are resolved about this and we will not rest until this L$16 billion is fully accounted for by those we describe as ‘vicious economic scavengers and plunderers of our State’.

In all of these, we assure the Liberian people and the International Community that we shall remain peaceful, civil and matured as we pursue this irreversible and patriotic path of bringing an end to systemic corruption in Liberia.

The people deserve better – they deserve to rise above poverty, misery and inequality. It cannot be business as usual. The International Community must ACT to help rescue Liberia from perishing. The popular call of our PEOPLE is “BRING BACK OUR MONEY”.

COCUBOMB calls for the full protection of Journalists Philibert Brown of Hot Pepper Newspaper and Rodney Sieh of FrontPage Africa. We also call on you to protect the rights of campaigners who are demanding the full restitution of this L$16 billion. As we jealously protect the sovereignty and heritage of our State by standing up to those barriers (corruption, nepotism, tribalism, cronyism and religious intolerance) that kept us down as a people, we call you to join us in this pursuit to ensure that President Weah and his government account for L$16 billion that disappeared in thin air.

Done and sealed on this 24th Day of September A.D. 2018 in the City of Monrovia by through COCUBOMB, a representation of the Liberian people.

Signed: ______________________________________

                                 Jeremiah S. Swen

                     Secretary General, COCUBOMB

 

Approved: ____________________________________

                                   Martin K. N. Kollie

                               Chairman, COCUBOMB

To: US Embassy, United Nations, European Union, African Union, ECOWAS, French Embassy

Reputable Organizations that have endorsed this statement:

1 Student Unification Party (SUP)

2 People Action Network (PAN-Liberia)

3 Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL)

4 Movement of Justice in Africa (MOJA)

5 Liberia Labor Congress (LLC)

6 Workers’ Union of Liberia (WUL)

7 Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD)

8 Alliance for Transitional Justice in Liberia (ATJL)

9 Teachers in Action for Concerns (TAC-Liberia)

10 Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY)

11 Patriotic Consciousness Association of Liberia (PACAL)

12 Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL)

13 Movement of Social Democratic Alliance (MOSODA)

14 Financial Communication Sector Union (FCSU)

15 National Cosmetology Union of Liberia (NCUL)

16 Association of Opposition Political Parties Youth League in Support of Weah (AOPPYL)

17 Concerned Liberians in the Diaspora (CLD)

18 Citizen Action for the Establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Courts (CAEWECC)

19 Zorzor and Salayea Muslim Development Association (ZSMDA)

20 Forum for Democracy and Civic Education (FODCE)

21 Liberia National Student Union (LINSU)

22 TAG – Liberia

23 Concerned University and College Students (CUCS)

24 Conscious High School Students of Liberia (CHSL)

25 S. K. Doe Community Youth Association (SAKDOCYA)

26 Masses Against Poverty (MAP)

27  Federation of Sinkor Youth Association (FESYA)

28 Liberian Youth for Democracy

29 Agenda for Peace and Democracy

30 National Youth Against Violence (NYAV)

 

International Justice Group Seeks Explanation of Missing Bank Notes In Liberia

WASHINGTON, DC ––In the past two days and prior to that, Liberia has been stained by lots of serious economic crimes––from money laundering, organized corruption to illicit contracts and the abuse of power to possess state assets such as the International Trust Company (ITC) which has now been renamed as the International Bank.

Scales of Justice

According to a blog posted on its website, the IJG says some of these deadly criminal acts allegedly date back several years, particularly in the last two decades. However, these crimes became excessive in the past 21 years, beginning in 1997 to 2018.

Meanwhile, the IJG fullest attention is drawn to the recent extreme and undue level of theft of public funds and the misuse of public trust exhibited in the country with the printing and personal possession of more than LD$16 billion Liberian

dollars which cannot be traced or accounted for so far.

Accordingly, the printed funds disappeared despite documents showing that the previous and current Liberian administrations were fully aware of the funds’ arrival in the country.

WHY IS THE CDC-LED ADMINISTRATION REFUSING TO AUDIT THE ADMINISTRATION OF FORMER PRESIDENT SIRLEAF?

From all applications and indications, this action by those allegedly involved, including those who authorized and approved such activities, is considered an economic crime in general and money laundering to be specific.

The IJG calls on the current Liberian President George M. Weah and former President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to explain to the Liberian people and the international community, in clear terms and unwavering terms, what happened to the money and where it is. The IJG is also engaged with the international community and various international financial security institutions, global intelligence agencies and others to ensure that a full investigation in this matter is reached, especially since money laundering of this nature has global implications including the fact that the money was printed in Lebanon.

Map of Liberia

The IJG urges President Weah and the Liberian government to institute an immediate inquiry into all financial and economic crimes committed in Liberia in the past 20 years. We also call on President Weah to heed the call of the Liberian people, Liberia’s international partners, and global human rights organizations to commit to the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia.

“There can be no genuine reconciliation, unity, peace, and development in any nation without justice. Liberia and the Liberian government need to do the right thing by establishing and supporting an international framework that holds accountable anyone who committed these crimes”, says IJG Executive Director Counselor Jerome J. Verdier, Sr.

“The ongoing money laundering saga in Liberia is because of rewarding impunity and protecting murders and abusers in Liberia. This must stop now! Or else, President Weah’s administration, his officials and officials from former President Sirleaf’s administration will have to make a decisive choice: endure international isolation including a travel ban and asset forfeiture or elect to protect war and economic criminals,” said IJG’s Chief Counselor Verdier.

The IJG is putting in place a mechanism to ensure that all those accused of war and economic crimes, money laundering etc. will be exposed to the international justice system for tough actions, including asset tracing/tracking and confiscation, international arrests, trial, and imprisonment if found guilty.

The IJG calls on all foreign diplomatic missions accredited to Liberia and West Africa to refrain from granting travel visas to Liberian national (both civilians and officials) and others suspected of economic and war crimes in Liberia to enforce the doctrine that impunity has no space in civilized societies.

This is not the first time that a missing container saga occurred under a presidential watch. In 2007 two ships allegedly with printed money disappeared at the National Port Authority in Monrovia. Then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cried when her National Security Agency told her that former Minister Morris Saytumah, now a Senator for Bomi County, was responsible as part of a Criminal Cartel. That criminal cartel is still operational, and impunity is fueling their zest for the crime.

We also recall the mishandling of the EBOLA funds; the US$30 million maternity fund, etc., the Japanese Fund, the Police Uniform corruption saga, the Executive Mansion’s annual revolving funds/allocations, the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company’s corruption, the milking of NOCAL and stealing of funds obligated through multiple contract deals; the Ministry of Public Works/Nigerian Praise Tony Lawal’s millions of dollars illicit and unfinished contracts corruption, and the multiple public theft and organized corruption at the Ministry of Finance from 2011 to 2018.

President George M Weah

We are of the firmed opinion that the Weah Administration believes it can benefit from ignoring national, regional and international calls for justice and accountability in Liberia, thereby furthering the institutionalizations of the impunity it hopes will not hold them accountable for crimes they intend to commit.

If the current government, under President Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), fails to pursue justice by refusing to fully implement all the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia and the various audit reports which implicated higher government officials, some of whom filed annual taxes every year in the U.S. reporting bogus earnings and committing fraud, theft and economic crimes generally as U.S. citizens, THE GOVERNMENT RUNS THE RISK OF TURNING LIBERIA TO THE PARIAH STATE IT ONCE WAS.

In another development, the IJG will file a formal complaint and Freedom of Information’s request to obtain the tax filing documents of individuals with U.S. citizenship or Permanent Resident status, have filed taxes in the U.S. while working in Liberia (and with the Liberian government, past and present) and have under-reported their alleged stolen wealth obtained through organized corruption and money laundering.

An additional request will be made to the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Internal Revenue Service at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The reason for this is to expose and investigate the stolen wealth these individuals acquired from Liberia over the past few years.  In the coming weeks, the IJG will name all those suspected of economic crimes and organized corruption in Liberia during the past and current Liberian administration and will submit same to the international criminal justice system, including Liberia’s partners.

Amongst those suspected include former cabinet ministers, deputies, assistants, heads of autonomous agencies, members of the legislature, and some well-connected business people, family members and friends of those in power.

Finally, there is credible information that prominent Liberian journalist Philibert Browne and his family are in danger, receiving constant threats from individuals and gangs allegedly claiming to be operatives and supporters of the authorities. He is under serious threat, his wife and children all received death threats on their cell phones including on Facebook.

We applaud the Weah Administration and the Liberian police force for deploying several police officers including armed men at Mr. Browne’s place for their personal protection.

Ex-President Sirleaf presents President Weah with a golden football. Who is protecting who?

Mr. Browne, publisher of the Hot Pepper Newspaper, is the publisher/investigative journalist who first broke the story about the missing money and the container when, in June this year, IJG’s investigators visited Liberia as part of the ongoing fact-finding on organized corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking, war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

On behalf of the international community and Liberia’s foreign partners that are watching the unfolding circumstances in the country, we urge the Liberian government to continue to provide protection for Journalist Browne and his family. Meanwhile, a small team of the IJG investigators will continue to remain in Liberia to gather additional information on economic and war crimes.

International Justice Group ((IJG)

Washington DC USA

New International Human Rights Advocacy Group Established

The global fight for international justice has just intensified with the formation of a new organization known as the International Justice Group (IJG).

Scales of Justice

As part of its programs, the group says, “We as the IJG, research, document, publish and advocate for the appropriate and relevant solution to the commission of the following crimes: drug trafficking, Crimes Against Humanity, Human Trafficking and Economic Crimes and Money Laundering. Led by the venerable former head of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and human rights lawyer Jerome Verdier, the IJG has as its motto, “Let’s Strive For Peace” 

Programs

“Crimes against humanity (common in times of war) are certain acts that are internationally and knowingly committed as part of a pervasive or organized attack or individual attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population. Finalized fifty years later in 1996, the United Nations Draft Code defined crimes against humanity as various inhumane acts, i.e ” murder, extermination, torture, enslavement, persecution on political, racial, religious or ethnic grounds, institutional discrimination, arbitrary deportation forcible transfer of population,” the IJG says.

As part of his global program, the new group of international advocates say their work is, “…to research, investigate, document, expose and hold accountable , through the international justice system, individuals and groups that are responsible , support and aid in the commission of crimes.”

International Human Rights Lawyer and IJG Executive Director Jerome Verdier

 

Leadership

Leadership of the IJG include Luigi Spera, Principal Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Massa Washington, Deputy Executive Director for Justice, Advocacy and Policy and John T. Stewart, Special Adviser and African Programs and Senior Director. Chief Investigator is an international security expert Garretson Al Smith while Koleh Boayue serves as Senior Program Officer and Counsel for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

The group’s Director for European Programs is Amos Kortu while Ms. Adriana Maria Maria Lopez serves as Director of South and Latin Americ Programs. Mr. Mambu James Kpargoi is Director of Media and Public Relations.

Advocacy

The IJG joins a list of credible international human rights and advocacy groups who are dedicated the promotion of international justice and accountability.

Establish recently, the IJG is expected to officially launch shortly.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Human Rights Watch Tells Liberia To Prosecute Past War Crimes

TRC Final Report

TRC Recommendations for Internationalized Domestic War Crimes Court

The international non-governmental organization dedicated to research and advocacy for human rights around the world Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the new Weah Administration in the West African nation Liberia “should take prompt steps to pave the way for fair investigation and prosecution of serious past crimes committed during Liberia’s brutal civil wars.”

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

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) Associate Director of its International Justice Program Ms. Elise Keppler, “President Weah has a chance to make history by ensuring that Liberia’s victims at long last have a chance to see the people who committed crimes against them held to account.”

“Liberia,” she said, “has made important progress to advance post-conflict stability, but no one has faced justice in Liberia for the brutal crimes during that period.” The call to the new Weah Administration is an attempt by the international community and human rights advocates to pressure the authorities ib Liberia to hold accountable those who committed grievous atrocities during the Liberia civil crisis. An estimated 250,000 people died and nearly 1 million others were internally and externally dislocated due to the conflagration.

According to HRW, “…during two armed conflicts – 1989 to 1996 and 1999 to 2003 – horrific abuses were committed against civilians in Liberia. These included summary executions and numerous large-scale massacres; widespread and systematic rape; mutilation and torture; and large-scale forced conscription and use of child combatants. The violence blighted the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, displaced almost half the population, and virtually destroyed the country’s infrastructure.”

Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier
Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

In July, 2017, the former head of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Counselor Jereome Verdier recommended that any incoming Liberian Administration should address the following:

“(i)That the future government of Liberia considers domestic prosecutions of domestic crimes including murders, and diverse theft cases and graft;

(ii) That the future government of Liberia establishes a committee that will review the Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with the mandate to prepare a timeline, modalities, strategies and how the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC can be accomplished in keeping with law as an advisory tool for government actions;

(iii)That the future Government of Liberia considers the establishment of a robust economic and financial crimes commission to pursue the long list of cases of economic crimes in Liberia and commence redress mechanisms ahead of the establishment of The War Crimes Court for Liberia;

(iv) That the future government of Liberia considers inculcating the values and culture of the rule of law into the socio-cultural and economic and commercial fabric of the Liberian society as a matter of high priority;

(v) That the future Government of Liberia also prioritizes national reconciliation efforts and initiatives to advance national healing and the transition agenda of restoring comprehensive peace, national unity and security to Liberia as a sine qua non for lasting peace, growth and development in Liberia…”

Counselor Verdier also recommended the following to the international community:

“i) That the international community considers continuing or expanding the sanctions regime on Liberian to include travel ban and financial sanctions on specific persons of interest and international arrests and deportations to ensure that there is no haven anywhere in the world for fugitives and alleged perpetrators of economic and war crimes in Liberia;

(ii) That the international community considers assisting Liberia with financial, technical and other forensic assistances in the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth from Liberia;

(iii) That the international community considers reviving and supporting efforts towards establishing a special ordinary war crimes tribunal for Liberia to deal with war time atrocities and crimes committed in Liberia, that closure to that chapter of Liberia’s history can be done with dignity and respect for international norms and standards of justice and;

(iv) That the international community facilitate the accentuating of greater accountability in Liberia by commissioning an audit of all donors and development partners grants, aid and loans to Liberia during the period January 16, 2006 to January 16, 2018…”

Former President Charles Taylor
Former President Charles Taylor

Some perpetrators of war crimes in Liberia have been booked and are facing prosecution in the United States, Switzerland, the UK and Belgium. Chief among them is former rebel leader turned former President Charles Taylor who is serving a 50 year jail term in the UK.

No one has been charged and prosecuted in Liberia for alleged war crimes. HRW, in its letter to President George Weah, said, “…while supportive of the general approach, Human Rights Watch recommended that several elements of the proposal should be revised to ensure prosecutions of past crimes in accordance with international standards…” 

Liberia’s TRC, established in 2003 following the Accra Peace Conference, was to identify the root causes of the Liberian civil war and determine those who were responsible for committing domestic and international crimes against the Liberian people.

Former Liberian President Ellen-Johnson-Sirleaf-MS
Former Liberian President Ellen-Johnson-Sirleaf

The TRC, in its final report, recommended that Nobel Peace Laureate and former  President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 51 others be blocked from holding public offices in Liberia for 30 years for helping to form and finance the country’s warring militias. That recommendation has not been implemented.

The international human rights advocacy group told the new Liberian government to,” As part of these efforts, the new government should revisit the TRC’s recommendations with a view to establishing a court with international assistance to fairly and effectively prosecute international crimes committed in Liberia.”

Ms. Keppler said, “…The countless victims of the unspeakable crimes committed in Liberia deserve justice for what they have suffered.The era of rampant impunity for international crimes should at last close.”

Map of Liberia
Map of Liberia

Some accused perpetrators and their supporters argue that enforcement of some recommendations of the country’s TRC contravenes the country’s Constitution.

A former rebel commander-turned-senator Prince Johnson from northeastern Nimba County, Liberia who is one of those named in the TRC Final Report as a “notorious perpetrator has accused the TRC of using his testimony to name him for war crimes saying. “… due process is what our Constitution requires.”

Senator Johnson has been named as a person of interest for the execution of several U.S. catholic nuns and one Linda Jury; an American citizen of the Hari Krishna faith in Liberia during the war.

Johnson and his rebel forces were also responsible for capturing, torturing and killing former President Samuel Doe in September, 1990.

Reports say international investigators are continuing to collect evidence against some of the major perpetrators for a possible indictment.

With the renewed focus on holding those accountable for their roles in horrific war crimes perpetrated in Liberia, The Weah Administration must now decide how it proceeds to avoid the risk of appearing weak and colluding in avoiding the prosecution of individuals who are some of its political allies and government appointees.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine