By: E. Geedahgar Garsuah Sr.
MONROVIA: Liberia United for Justice and Accountability (LUJA), a human rights and justice advocacy group, has collected more than one million signatures from Liberia’s war victims for submission to relevant international authorities, aimed at the establishment of the much talked-about war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
Mr. Emmanuel Savice, a leading human rights activist, based in Canada, confirmed the latest report, in an exclusive interview with this paper over the weekend.
He revealed that the collection of the signatures from direct and indirect victims of Liberia’s fourteen-year brutal civil war which began from December 1989 and ended in August 2003, was a hectic task, but averred that the process was fruitful as its main objective was met.
Speaking to this paper via WhatsApp from Canada, where he currently resides, Savice disclosed that the campaign which led to the successful gathering of the one million signatures was decentralized across the fifteen political sub-division of Liberia.
According to Savice, with the completion of the signatures assembling, the Liberia United for Justice and Accountability (LUJA), is now seated in a comfortable position aimed at ensuring that the required global pressure is reinforced on the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led Government of Liberia (GoL), headed by President George Weah, to establish the war and economic crimes court in the shortest possible time.
According to the Canada-based Liberian rights campaigner, LUJA’s move is to convince the United States Government and other international partners that many Liberians are interested in retributive (punitive) justice as diametrically opposed to restorative (curative) justice.
He indicated that LUJA has been compelled to take the path of galvanizing the approval of war victims to establish the court, owing to what he described as the “unfortunate circumstances wherein, the CDC led administration has shown total lack of interest and firmed commitment to ensuring that all those suspected to bear the greatest responsibilities for the country decade-long armed conflict in which an estimated 250,000 persons, predominately women, children and the elderly were sent to their early graves, and more than a million others internally and externally displaced are brought to justice to account for their alleged deeds.
Savice frowned on the CDC led government for “playing a low profile” as opposed to leading the charge to ensure that war crimes suspects, who are currently parading the country are made to account for their deeds before a court of competent jurisdiction for their involvement in the unbridled perpetration of mayhem, massacres, murders, recruitment of child solders, rape, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other egregious crimes committed against innocent and defenseless people.
The war crimes court advocate disclosed that the one million war’s victim’s signatures will be used to lobby with the ‘Shakers and Movers’ in Washington DC and to formally petition the US Congress to exert intense pressure on President George Manned Weah and his government to call for the setting up of the war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
Savice maintains that one of LUJA’s primary objectives is to ensure that all perpetrators of war crimes are made to face the full weight of the law sooner than later.
He, however, clarified that the initiative is not meant to target any particular person or group of persons.
He pointed out that LUJA’s determination to see the court setup in Liberia is to allow individuals who allegedly bear the greatest responsibility of civil war are made to account for their war crimes.
Savice emphasized that LUJA’s motive for wanting the court setup is non-political, and that the setting up of the court in Liberia remains the surest way of placing the country on the path of sustainable peace, genuine reconciliation and healing.
He argued that there can be no sincere resolutions to the plights of Liberian war victims when the perpetrators of war crimes are moving around with impunity while others are occupying lucrative and top positions in government.
Savice termed as unacceptable for individuals who premeditated and instituted the killing of 250,000 innocent Liberians to be living lavishly on the citizens’ tax dollars, while the direct victims of these brutal acts are languishing in misery and multi-dimensional poverty.
He added that in the absence of retributive justice, through competent justice procedures, the scars of a senseless armed conflict that displaced more than one million citizens will remain as a nightmare for the current and next generation of Liberians.
The advocate for the war and economic crimes court made known his organization (LUJA) confidence that the submission of the one million war’s victim’s signatures to the US Congress and other international justice organizations will yield positive results.
He categorically refuted assertions in some quarters of the Liberian Nation that Liberians will settle for restorative justice rather than retributive justice.
“We are going to disprove the notion that Liberians do not want war and economic crimes court,” Savice said.
According to him, no stone will be left unturned as LUJA will ensure that all those who participated in the civil war by any means are made to answer for their war deeds.
In May of 2021, LUJA launched the “One Million War’s Victims Signatures” campaign on the Iron Factory Community Sport Pitch, along the Japan Freeway.
The launch of the signatures campaign was geared towards initiating a process of seeking citizens’ consent for the establishment of war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
During the campaign official launch of the ‘One million war victims signatures exercise”, several persons, believed to be war victims and survivors of separate massacres sites including the St. Peter Lutheran Church, Carter Camp, and Du-Port Road, Cow Field, amongst others were seen affixing their signatures to the document calling for the establishment of the war and economic crimes court.
As captured in the June 30, 2009 Final Report of the defunct Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), more than 100 persons who were alleged to have committed war and economic crimes were recommended for prosecution.
30 others, including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who, according to the TRC Final report, bankrolled the armed conflict were banned from holding public office for 30 unbroken years, a measure which was challenged by Sirleaf and associates in Court.
The TRC was established at the end of the peace conference in Accra, Ghana, in 2003 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed by all parties to the Liberian conflict including the international community as guarantors, in August 2003.
Under the CPA arrangement, former President Charles Ghankay Taylor stepped down and departed Liberia for Nigeria, thus paving the way for a two- year Liberian National Transitional Government (LNTG), then, headed by businessman, Charles G. Bryant (late).
In June 2005, the erstwhile National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) enacted the TRC Act into law. But, since then, several of its key recommendations including the prosecution of war crimes suspects, have apparently been swept under the carpet by succeeding Liberian ruling elites.