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

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)

 

Liberia: How Col. Larry Borteh Was Killed; Other Atrocities and Perpetrators

A team of investigators from the International Justice Group (IJG) says a former member of Liberia’s erstwhile People’s Redemption Council (PRC) military junta which, in 1980, overthrew the civilian Administration of William R. Tolbert Jr.,was killed in 1990 by forces under the command of former rebel commander and leader of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia Prince Y. Johnson.

Colonel Larry Borteh - File Photo
Colonel Larry Borteh

According to IJG international investigators citing witnesses and family members who they interviewed in Liberia, Colonel Larry Borteh, just prior to his death, was residing at the once prestigious Hotel African in the western outskirts of the capital Monrovia. General Johnson, upon hearing that Colonel Borteh was at Hotel Africa, requested to see him. The area was under the control of Johnson and his INPFL forces.

Johnson is now a senator representing the northeast political sub-division of Nimba County in Liberia.

Colonel Borteh fell out of favor with coup leader Samuel Doe in 1984 following accusations that he and 2 other former PRC members Nicholas Podier and Jerry Friday were plotting against him, Doe. Borteh remained largely in private life after until the onset of the civil war which started in December, 1989.

The former PRC junta member left the hotel accompanied by several INPFL rebels and traveled to the Cotton Tree-Caldwell junction which is a main thoroughfare that leads to central Monrovia but also branches off to the township of Caldwell where Johnson and his rebel outfit had carved out their military base. Form there, Johnson and his rebels would launch frequent deadly attacks on government forces and the main rebel National Patriotic Front (NPFL) led by now jailed former President Charles Taylor. Johnson and his forces also regularly terrorized and indiscriminately killed unarmed and innocent civilians and some of his own forces. Johnson and his INPFL forces looted food and goods from the main seaport known as the Freeport of Monrovia. The port was situated in territory which he controlled on Bushrod Island, west of Monrovia.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former INPFL Rebel Commander Senator Prince Y. Johnson

When Colonel Borteh arrived at the Cotton Tree- Caldwell junction, he was immediately arrested by INPFL forces under the command of one Anthony Sonkarley. He was ordered tied up and weighted down with stones after which he was taken to the nearby Stockton Creek into which he was thrown. Colonel Borteh died from apparent drowning at the hands of the INPFL forces under the control of Johnson. The incident occurred in August, 1990 just before the arrival in Monrovia of the ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group known as ECOMOG.

It is unclear why Colonel Borteh was singled out and killed by Johnson forces.

Atrocities and Perpetrators

Several individuals have been identified as alleged war criminals responsible for committing heinous crimes against civilians during the war. Some of those named by IJG sources include Major George Dweh, Lt. Bobby Kpoto, Major Nezee Barway and Lt. Col. Michael Tailey The accused were all part of Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) loyal to slain Liberian President Samuel K. Doe and were fingered by investigators for the killing of Doris Toweh Gballah, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Nah and family, former government Minister Johnny Kpor and the entire Cassell in Monrovia. Others allegedly killed include Mr. and Ms. Samuel D. Greene, John Bright, student activist Wuo Garbe Tappia, Tonia Richardson, Benedict Garlawulo, Robert Quiah, Robert Phillips and Wewe Debar.

The AFL death squads, comprising the named perpetrators allegedly killed Martha Bernard and her sister. One Naomi Gooding and six other women who were taking refuge in the Sinkor suburb were also killed.The victims were all picked from various parts of Monrovia by by death squads.

According to our source, Lt. Colonel Tailey, loyal to former President Doe, was a notorious death squad commander who led government troops to the Lutheran Church compound in the suburb of Sinkor where hundreds of defenseless civilians from the Gio, Mano and other ethnic groups, fleeing targeted violence were taking refuge.

Lt. Col Michael Taily
Lt Col Michael Tailey

Witnesses and survivors said over 600 men, women and children were killed in that massacre although the government at the time denied any involvement and blamed advancing rebels for the attack on the church compound. According to survivors, forces who carried out the Lutheran Church massacre were from the same Krahn ethnic group as then President Doe.

Tailey was subsequently killed in mysterious circumstances on orders of AFL commanders after he was detained on the military base of the AFL known as the Barclay Training Center Barracks in central Monrovia.

Another perpetrator is a former police officer Paul Tuazama who was dismissed from the Liberian National Police (LNP) following the failed coup in 1985 led by another former PRC member and army commander General Thomas G. Quiwonkpa. Investigators say Tuazama operated an NPFL death squad which operated on Duport Road in the Paynesville area, north of the capital Monrovia and allegedly carried a massacre of civilians in that area and in Kakata, which is about 34 miles from the capital Monrovia.

Tuazama currently works at the Liberian judiciary at the Temple of Justice, just a stone throw away from the seat of country’s Legislature and the official offices of President George M.Weah on Capitol Hill.

Local and international pressure is mounting on the Weah Administration to establish a war crimes tribunal and bring to book for prosecution all those identified in the country’s TRC Final Report as responsible for the commission alleged war and economic crimes.

In its Final Report and under the heading,“Statute Establishing the Extraordinary of Liberia” General Part, Article 1 Establishment and Competence, the TRC recommends that,

1. In order to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Republic of Liberia (TRC) to establish an “Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia”, an internationalized domestic court, to combat a culture of impunity, secure justice for victims and ensure that Liberia adheres too, respects and protects prevailing international human rights and humanitarian law standards, an Extraordinary Criminal Court (hereinafter “Court”) is hereby established.

2. The Court shall have all the necessary power and jurisdiction to prosecute persons referred to it by the TRC for gross violations of human rights (GVHR), serious humanitarian law violations (SVLV) and egregious domestic crimes (EDC) as enumerated by this Statute.

3. The seat of the court shall in Monrovia, Liberia.

i. The Court may establish alternative sites to conduct hearings as it deems necessary.

Article 2

Organs of he Court

The Court shall be composed for the following organs

i. Appeals Division

ii. Trial Division

iii. The Office of the Prosecutor and

iv. The Registry

About 98 notorious perpetrators and heads of rebels factions in Liberia were named in the TRC report and recommendation for prosecution for gross human rights violations and war crimes.

Another 54 individuals and entities were recommended for further investigation.

Individuals named by the TRC Final Report are presumed innocent until guilt has been established beyond a reasonable doubt by the final verdict of the court.

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

The Weah Administration has refused to publicly state its official position on the establishment of the Court but has signaled through some of its officials that this is not a priority for Government. Local and international rights and advocacy groups and non-governmental organizations say they are prepared to turn up public awareness and pressure on the Liberian government in order to ensure justice is served. A U.S. Republican Representative Mr. Daniel M. Donovan Jr. last week introduced a Congressional resolution which calls for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia. The Weah Administration has yet to officially respond to this move.

Diplomatic sources say that additional pressure such as cut in foreign aid to Liberia, a travel ban and sanctions against Liberian government officials will be applied to force the West African nation’s compliance with implementation of recommendations of the TRC.

By Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine

 

Alleged Liberian War Criminal Arrested In France

The international justice noose continues to tighten around former alleged war actors in the Liberian conflict.

France Crimes Against Humanity And Genocide Agency

Latest news from France received by West African Journal Magazine say French authorities have picked up a suspected former factional commander for investigation into his alleged atrocities committed during the West African country’s civil war in the 1990s.

French Police

According to France 24 news website, a Liberian national who now holds Dutch citizenship and identified as Kunti K, a former ULIMO commander now living in the French suburb of Bobigny, outside of Paris was arrested by authorities on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. The apprehension of the Liberian war actor was based on a complaint filed with the French government by the victims rights advocacy group Civitas Maxima which is based in Europe. The group also played a key role in raising international awareness about the prosecution case of now convicted former “Defense Minister and Chief spokesperson” of the former rebel NPFL Mr. Jucontee Thomas Woweiyu in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA.

File Photo – Liberian Rebel Fighters

According to the report, ” Kunti K., born in 1974, was detained in a joint operation by the elite GIGN police and officers from France’s OCLCH agency, which investigates war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. He arrived in France in 2016, after leaving the Netherlands and passing through Belgium, said Colonel Eric Emereaux, head of OCLCH.”

French authorites had been investigating the accused Kunti K. The ULIMO rebel faction was named in Liberia’s TRC as committing over 11,500 various forms of abuses and atrocities including forced displacement, killing rape, property destruction and torture among aother alleged criminal actions. ULIMO was allegedly responsible for committing about 7% of overall atrocities in the TRC Final Report and its leaders recommended for prosecution for human rights and international humanitarian law violations and war crimes.

https://m.soundcloud.com/radiofranceinternationale/liberia-suspected-former-militant-commander-arrested-in-france-for-crimes-against-humanity

Radio France International Interview

No one in Liberia has been prosecuted for alleged atrocities committed during the war.

Former Rebel NPFL Commander Martina Johnson

Other Liberians who have been booked by foreign countries include a former NPFL commander, Martina Johnson. She was arrested in Belgium on September 17, 2014 and is facing investigation and prosecution for her alleged role in atrocities committed in Liberia. Agnes Reeves Taylor

She was a former personal bodyguard to former rebel leader turned former President Charles Taylor who is serving a 50 year prison sentence in the UK for his role in the Liberia civil war.

The ex-wife of former President Taylor, Agnes Reeves-Taylor, was arrested in the London on June 1, 2017 and is facing prosecution over four charges for offences she allegedly committed in Liberia.

Chuckie Taylor

The son of former President Taylor, Charles “Chuckie’ Taylor Jr., a US citizen, was prosecuted in America for his role in the war. In October, 2008, he was convicted by a U.S. Court on six charges of committing act of torture and conspiracy to commit torture in Liberia and firearms violations. He is serving a 97 year jail sentence in the U.S.

Former Warlord of the Rebel LPC Dr. George Boley

Another warlord who was residing in NY, Dr George Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC) rebel faction was picked by by U.S. authorities in January 2010 on immigration violation charges and extra judicial killings in the Liberian war.

He was deported to Liberia in March 2012. A witness in Dr. Boley’s case, one Isaac Kannah of Philadelphia, who U.S. Immigration authorities say lied to federal authorities to help Dr. Boley admitted to perjury and obstruction of justice on July 26, 2018 and agreed to voluntarily leave the U.S. He was facing a 5 year jail sentence and $250,000 fine, if convicted It is unclear if Kannah, has left the U.S.

Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah”: Jabateh, a commander in the rebel ULIMO faction was prosecuted in the U.S. on immigration fraud charges, found guilty and is serving a 30 year jail sentence. He is said to have lied to U.S. immigration authorities about his past association with ULIMO rebel faction in order to gain immigration benefits.

In July, 2018, a former bodyguard to President Charles Taylor was removed from the U.S. to Liberia. The former Staten Island resident is Charles Cooper. According to U.S. Immigration authorities, “…An ICE investigation revealed that prior to coming to the United States, Cooper, while a member of the SSS and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, was directly involved in the persecution of civilians in Liberia. Cooper was also identified as a member of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, a rebel group founded by Charles Taylor that committed numerous human rights violations…”

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel laureate has been sued in a civil matter in a US. District Court Boston, Massachusetts by a Liberia national for her alleged role in the war.

A former Presidential guard commander during the early stages of the war in Liberia, one Colonel Moses Thomas, is facing a civil suit in Philadelphia for his alleged role in the Lutheran Church massacre by government troops under his command. Colonel Thomas has denied any involvement.

Local and international pressure is building on the Weah Administration to establish a war crimes court to prosecute those accused of committing human rights violations and atrocities during the war. But the Liberian President, at a recent meeting with opposition political parties purportedly stated that because Liberians are inter-related and since some of the accused are current “decision makers” in government, he could not implement recommendations to hold those individuals accountable nor could he take on a full frontal assault on “endemic” corruption in government. President Weah has been roundly criticized by Liberians in and out of the country for his unwillingness to implement recommendations of the country’s TRC.

Map of Liberia

A mass peaceful protest is planned by Liberians in the U.S. to greet President George Weah who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York later in September. Organizers say their protest is to call for President Weah to establish a war crimes court and fight corruption in the small West African country.

Former Rebel Commander Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson

A major war actor and former rebel commander now turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson who is named in TRC report as a “perpetrator” and recommended for prosecution has in recent days been threatening a return to conflict if there is an attempt to arrest him for prosecution.

Some supporters of President Weah say attempts to prosecute alleged war and economic criminals could destabilize the fragile peace while others say justice and accountability are the best remedies for reconciling Liberians.

Liberian President George M. Weah

Recently, a newly formed rights advocacy organization the International Justice Group (IJG) based in Europe and the U.S. disclosed that its investigators have uncovered individuals listed in the West African country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report  living under different disguises and names to avoid detection and apprehension by authorities for the roles in the Liberian civil war.

“Under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanction to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought by the International Justice Group  as well as the 76 Group and others…” the IJG said.

The group also clearly stated that, ” …under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses a serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanctions to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought to bear by the International Justice Group as well as the 76 group and others…”

Flag of Liberia

Liberia was wracked by back-to-back war starting in 1979 in which nearly and estimated 250,000 people were killed and about 1 million others were internally and externally displaced by roving bands of rebels. The conflict spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone where rebels reportedly hacked off limbs of victims and killed thousands others.

TRC Liberia

International war crime investigators say they will pursue alleged war criminals for full prosecution in and out of Liberia.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia War And Economic Criminals Hiding Abroad, Say IJG Investigators

The International Justice Group (IJG) war crimes investigators in the United States. South Africa, Europe and Canada say they have discovered about 73 Liberian war and economic criminals residing in the US, Canada and other parts of Europe.

Convicted NPFL Spokesman Tom Woewiyu and Former Rebel INPFL Commander Prince Johnson

According to the IJG Investigators, the individuals listed in the West African country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report  are living under different disguises and names to avoid detection and apprehension by authorities for the roles in the Liberian civil war.

They are from the  Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), National Patriotic Front of of Liberia (NPFL), Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) and the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).
Others in hiding are from the Lofa Defense Force (LDF), MODEL, ULIMO-J, ULIMO-K and the LURD rebel factions.

The accused were involved in heinous atrocities committed between April 14, 1979 up to 2003. A team of international investigators was in Liberia in June to conclude the final stages of investigation of these individuals, a source said.

Some of the non combatants and victims of the Liberia civil conflict included the following:

Mr. & Ms. Samuel Greene
Archie Greene
John Bright
Budu Houge
Charles Gbenyon
Robert Quiah
R. Vanjah Richards
James Coleman
Butler Freeman
Mr & Ms. Johnny Nah
Johnny Kpor
Doris Toweh Gballah
Stephen Yekeson
Stephen Daniels
Tommy Raynes
Samuel Tody and
Browne Paul
Henneh Johnson
Phillip Bowen
Michael Doe
Jackson F. Doe
David Q. Livingstone
Moses Washington
James Turning
Chea Kayea
Roosevelt Savice
Gabriel Kpolleh and
Tonia Richardson

Still other victims are:
Wuo Garbe Tappia
Wewe Debar
Exodus Kerdoe and
Benedict Garlawolu

Thousands in Liberia and Sierra and nationals of other countries who are not listed were  murdered by the rebel factions in violation of the four Geneva Conventions which  protect people who were not (or were no longer) taking part in hostilities, including the sick and wounded,   prisoners of war, and civilians.

Liberia TRC
TRC Liberia – Logo

Since submission of the TRC Report and recommendations, in 2009 to the Liberian government, no one has been held to account for their roles in war and economic crimes.

Local and international pressure is building on the Weah government to favorably respond to calls to establish a war crimes tribunal.

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

The International Justice Group (IJG) earlier this week said, “Under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanction to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought by the International Justice Group  as well as the 76 Group and others…”

The Weah Administration has yet to officially commit to the setting up of a war and economic crimes court.

Liberia – TRC Full Report

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

IJG Calls For Accountability in Sierra Leone and Liberia

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio Taking Oath of Office - Reuters
Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio Taking Oath of Office – Photo Courtesy of Reuters

The Government of Sierra Leone led by President Julius Maada Bio is being called upon to “…take bold steps in ensuring accountability and making sure that those response for such ecnomic crimes are held accountable under national and international justice system.”

The call was made on last Thursday by the newly established International Justice Group (IJG) which is dedicated to researching, investigating, documenting , exposing and holding accountable, through the international justice system, individuals and groups that are responsible, support and aid the commission of such acts.

The IJG cited what it described as a report of “an astonishing level of fiscal indiscipline and rampant corruption by former ruling All People Congress (APC) Government of President Ernest Koroma,” adding it “had led to the near collapse of Sierra Leone’s economy by the time the Government of President Julius Maada Bio was sworn into office.”

In citing the dire economic issues facing the West African country, the IJG said, “…the economy was left burdened with external debt amounting to $16 billion USD, a domestic debt amounting to Le $4.99 trillion or USD $658 million and an exploded payroll (salaries and other compensation for government employees of Le 2 trillion (USD $263 million) or 14.4% of the GDP.”

In July, two former top officials of the Sierra Leone government were arrested in an anti-corruption crackdown. Former Vice President Victor Forh was charged with various counts of public funds embezzlement and mis management while a former Mines Minister, Mansaray Minkailu is facing charges for his involvement in the questionable sale of a stake in a mining project to a family member of former President Ernest Koroma at a rather low price.

The former ruling APC and President Koroma have rejected the charges of corruption.

Speaking after receiving a report from a special 12 person commission in July, President Bio stated, ““Corruption is at a level that can destroy this nation”, adding then “I consider the level of corruption that we have met as a national security issue.”

In its call to the Sierra Leonen President, the IJG in its blog said, “Despite tremendous natural resources, Sierra Leone is a national regarded as one of the poorest in the world . About 205 of children die before their 5th birthday because of poverty and poor health, youth unemployment is high and women are struggling to make ends meet…”

In a separate development and just across the border, the IJG has pointed a finger at Liberian President George M. Weah for his continued refusal to implement the Final Report of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

UN DSG Amina Mohammed
22 March 2018. Monrovia: (Left to right) The Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohammed Ibn Chambas, and the United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohammed, meet with the President of the Republic of Liberia, George Weah, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia, Liberia. Amina J. Mohammed is visiting the country to attend the celebrations of the completion of the UNMIL Mandate. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – UNMIL

“…Liberian President George Manneh Weah, like his predecessor former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has failed to show any sign of interest in the administration of justice for the victims of the Liberian conflict,” the group charged.

The IJG held that, ” under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses a serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanctions to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought to bear by the International Justice Group as well as the 76 group and others.

In a blog statement issued on last Thursday on its website, the Weah government was put on notice that the IJG, with its networking partners organizations and institutions, will seek accountability, adding, “This is not a difficult thing for President Weah.”

No one has faced prosecution in Liberia for serious human rights violations, or war and economic crimes perpetrated by major actors since the submission of the TRC Final Report to government in 2009. Liberia was wracked by back to back war starting in 1979 in which nearly and estimated 250,000 people were killed and about 1 million others were internally and externally displaced by roving bands of rebels. The conflict spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone where rebels reportedly hacked off limbs of victims and killed thousands others.

In a statement recently attributed to President Weah at a meeting with members of the opposition, he defended his government’s position of not going after endemic government corruption or the prosecution of war crimes because he said all Liberians are inter-related some how.

The statement has drawn fierce criticisms from some Liberians who are mounting pressure for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal. President Weah is expected to visit the UN General Assembly in New York on September 26 where diaspora Liberians are planning a peaceful protest against his presence and urge him to fully implement the country’s TRC Report including the setting up of a war crimes court.

“… Besides, the reason every notable institution and groups are calling for investigations into crimes that were committed during the Liberian war is not necessarily to punish those bear the greatest responsibility as some may seem to think. It is also intended to exonerate individuals and groups that have been maligned for acts they may have not committed as well as hold responsible those who committed certain heinous acts and yet feel justified…: the IJG noted.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

Liberia Pressed At UN To Announce Decision On War Crimes Prosecution

Flag of Liberia

The Liberian delegation appearing before the UN Human Rights Committee says the Government of Liberia will shortly issue a public statement on how it proposes to address accountability for serious crimes and human rights violations committed during the Liberian civil wars.

HRW Elise Keppler

According to Ms Elise Keppler, the Associate Director of the International Justice Program of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the pledge of the Liberia government “… falls short of what is needed , but it’s a move in the right direction”. In a statement issued on Tuesday, HRW official noted that, ” Liberians have been waiting for many years to see justice for the atrocities suffered during the country’s civil wars – including massacres, summary executions. rapes, torture, and mutilation. Nine years, since Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission issues its report, which called for a special war crimes court tot be set up, not a single person has been tried for war crimes. A handful of cases involving civil war era crimes have been pursued abroad…”

HRW disclosed that when the Liberia delegation which appeared on Monday before the UN body was pressed to say how the Government is responding to the many calls for justice, it responded that, “…Liberia has thus far focused on reconciliation, and argued that President George Weah’s administration is still relatively new. But it conceded that more more Liberians are coming forward to press for justice and indicated it would ‘soon’ issue a public statement on accountability for past crimes.”

Liberian President George M. Weah

Recently 76 international and local groups and non-governmental bodies urged the Liberian government to hold human rights violators responsible for alleged crimes committed during the civil wars. The new Weah Administration has been dragging its feet in issuing a firm commitment to implementation of the Final Report of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

It is unclear how soon the Liberian government will issue its public statement and if it will once and for all commit to responding to cries for Justice.

‘It may only be the smallest of steps, but for a country that lived through 14 years of war and for victims whio suffered the worst crimes imaginable, the promised statement offers a glimmer of hope that one day justice will be served,” HRW official said.

Map of Liberia

Meantime, international investigators say with the conviction of former CharlesTaylor association and rebel spokesman Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu in the U.S. on federal immigration fraud, they are presently pursuing other human rights violators in and out of Liberia.

Investigators are reportedly making regular visits to Liberia to identify victims and survivors and collect evidence for future prosecutions.

http://webtv.un.org/watch/consideration-of-liberia-contd-3501st-meeting-123rd-session-of-human-rights-committee/5807531493001/

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

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

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

Liberia-Guinea Map
Map of Liberia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRC Final Report – Liberia

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

 

UN Pressures Liberia To Implement TRC Report

Liberia – TRC Full ReportThe new Weah administration in Liberia has been put on official notice by a representative of the United Nations regarding the implementation of recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

DSG Amina Mohammed
UN Deputy Sec General Amina Mohammed

Addressing a National Peace Conference in the capital Monrovia on Thursday, the Deputy UN Chief said, “…It is also critical to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation, and for the legislature to pass key bills that will support local inclusion and reconciliation.. These would be timely measures that would assure Liberians that there is strong resolve to see a conclusion to the process…”

Madam Amina Mohammed who is visiting Liberia as representative of the UN to participate in the official end of the UN Mission in the West African country told the conference that, “…To ensure reconciliation and a peaceful and prosperous future, it will be crucial to deepen efforts to address the underlying causes of conflict in Liberia” adding that ” Prevention is critical in averting a relapse into violence.”

The country was plunged into one of modern day’s most brutal armed conflict beginning December, 1989 with a rebel invasion led by now convicted former President Charles Taylor.

An estimated 250,000 people died and another 1.5 million others were internally and externally dislocated. Neighboring counties also saw a spill-over of the Liberian armed strife on to their territories. Thousands others were maimed, raped and mutilated by bands of militias.

UNMIL Peacekeepers From Nigeria
UNMIL Peacekeepers From Nigeria

Following peace talks and cessation of hostilities among warring parties in Liberia, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was set up after UN Security Council Resolution 1509 passed on September 19, 2003.

The UNMIL office was charged with supporting the implementation of the cease-fire agreement and the peace process; protecting United Nations staff, facilities and civilians; supporting humanitarian and human rights activities; as well as assist in national security reform, including national police training and formation of a new, restructured military.

With the gradual consolidation of peace, global body, in 2015, ordered the phased drawn down of peacekeepers. Initial troop strength was 15,000. Total UNMIL fatalities in the Liberian theater was 202 peacekeepers.

UNMIL formally ends its mission on March 30, 2018.

In its final report, the country’s TRC recommended the following leaders of warring factions for prosecution for human rights violations, including violations of international humanitarian laws, war crimes and egregious domestic laws of Liberia and economic crimes:

Charles Taylor – NPFL 

Prince Y. Johnson – INPFL 

*Roosevelt Johnson – ULIMO – J 

Alhaji G. V. Kromah – ULIMO – K 

George Boley – LPC 

Thomas Yahya Nimley – MODEL 

Sekou Damate Konneh – LURD 

*Francois Masssaquoi – LDF 

War lords Roosevelt Johnson and Francois Massaquoi are deceased. LPC militia leader George Boley was picked up by the Federal U.S. authorities in 2010 on immigration charges and subsequently deported to Liberia.

Several alleged human rights violators from the Liberian war have been identified and are facing prosecution in the US and Europe.

Emmanuel “Chuckie” Taylor, son of former President Charles Taylor – sentenced to 97 years  in prison in January, 2009 in a major torture case that grew out of a US investigation into arms trafficking in Liberia.

Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu – a former Defense Chief  and spokesperson for Taylor’s rebel faction and legislator in Liberia. He was picked up in Philadelphia in 2014 and is facing immigration fraud charges. Trial is pending.

Agnes Reeves Taylor – ex wife of former President Taylor was arrested in June, 2017 in the UK and accused of torture and war crime offenses and goes to trial in October, 2018.

Martina Johnson – a former commander in Taylor’s rebel militia who was arrested in Belgium in 2012 and is awaiting prosecution.

Colonel Moses Thomas – a former Presidential guard commander who has had civil suit brought against him in Philadelphia by survivors of a church massacre in 1990 in Liberia.

Alieu Kosiah – a ULIMO rebel commander/ fighter who was arrested in Switzerland in 2014 and accused of war atrocities. He prosecution is pending

Isaac Kannah – charged in an October 2012 indictment with perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in deportation proceedings of George Boley. He was arrested on January 10, 2017, by Immigration and Homeland Security in Philadelphia.

Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabbateh – former Liberian rebel fighter convicted of immigration charges in October, 2018 in Philadelphia and accused of horrific crimes during the war.

An international investigator based in Washington DC says they are pursuing other alleged perpetrators around the world for arrest and prosecution.

Former President Charles Taylor
Former President Charles Taylor

Among several recommendations  advanced in the 370 page TRC report, several Liberians associated with warring faction leaders, their leaders, political decision makers, financiers , organizers, commanders and foot soldiers were recommended for public sanctions.

These individuals were to be barred from holding public office; elected or appointed for a period of thirty (30) years when the TRC Final Report was issued in June, 2009.

Allen Brown Sr.

Randall Cooper

Ethelbert Cooper

Toga McIntosh Gayewea

Jackson E. Doe

D. Bob Taylor

Dew Mason

Nyan Menten

Clarence Simpson

Harry Yuan

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Isaac Nyenabo

Kabineh Ja’neh

Archie Williams

Tonia King

J. Apollo Swen

Mr. Gayewea is a senior adviser to current President George Weah. Mr. Nyenabo was appointed by former President Johnson Sirleaf in February, 2015 as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary accredited to the Kingdom of Belgium with accreditations to the European Union, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. Associate Justice Ja’neh currently serves on Liberia’s highest court, the Supreme Court.

A current and close advisor in the orbit of President George Weah is Liberian businessman Mr. Emmanuel Shaw who was named in the TRC Report for further investigation.

Also listed for investigation is the current Liberian Ambassador to the United Nations Mr. Lewis G. Brown. Both men are associated with convicted warlord and former President Charles Taylor.

A prominent Taylor associate and militia combatant during the civil war Robert R. G. Bright was this week appointed by President Weah as a Cabinet level Economic Advisor.

DSG Amina Mohammed
UN Deputy Sec Gen Amina Mohammed Meets President George Weah

A prominent international war and economic crime investigator and source says they are concerned about the resurfacing of Taylor associates in the Weah Administration and want to know whether Taylor is still involved in the Liberian political theater.

An ex-wife of Taylor is the current Vice President of Liberia. Madam Jewel Howard Taylor was hand picked by President Weah as his running mate in the 2018 Presidential election. Although President Weah has denied any on-going communication with Taylor, observers says they are puzzled by the stocking of the Weah Administration with Taylor linkages.

A diplomatic source says international partners have privately warned President Weah about any connections he may be entertaining with Taylor.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

Diplomatic and international pressure are being ramped up on the new Weah Administration to be decisive and commit to implementing the TRC recommendations.

The Sirleaf Administration and prior Legislature failed to implement the recommendations, citing risk to national cohesion following years of back to back wars. Observers and activists , however, say, failure to fully implement the recommendations is not an option since they represent the only sure way of holding war perpetrators accountable for their roles and genuine reconciliation.

A former warlord and from the northeastern political sub-division of Nimba County Prince Johnson is a sitting legislator who has vowed to resist any attempt to prosecute him for alleged war crimes. Johnson who led the erstwhile  rebel militia known as the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL)  is responsible for the capture, torture of former Liberian President Samuel K. Doe and civilians in September, 1990 at the height of the conflict.

Main rebel leader Charles Taylor who won controversial Presidential elections served between 1997 – 2003 but was forced to step down from office by sustained rebel attacks and international pressure. He fled to Nigeria under a brokered deal but was eventually indicted by the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone War Survivors
Sierra Leone War Survivors

Nigeria, under pressure from the U.S., agreed to turn Taylor over to the Court.

He was subsequently arrested and tried in Netherlands and convicted of ” aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history” and sentenced in May, 2012 to fifty years in jail.

Taylor who is serving his sentence at a UK facility, may die in prison due to his age and length of the sentence.

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

In 2017, the former head of Liberia’s TRC and human rights lawyer Counselor Jerome Verdier, who fled Liberia for fear of his life, after issuance of the TRC Final Report released a statement in which he said, “…We are glad that the international arrests, detentions, deportations and travels ban of these war and economic crimes perpetrators will continue until they are eventually prosecuted for their heinous and egregious  crimes against human kind. There will be no hiding place. Not anymore..”

President Weah has not indicated if he will fully implement the TRC recommendations.

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