Home Featured War Crimes Prosecution! …Speaker Koffa Renews Victims’ Hope For Justice

War Crimes Prosecution! …Speaker Koffa Renews Victims’ Hope For Justice

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BY: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: In a short and memorable post-victory speech, delivered at the First Siting of the 55th Legislature, House Speaker, Cllr. Jonathon Fonati Koffa, disclosed that the House of Representatives, under his stewardship, will ask for unfinished business of the now dissolved 54th Legislature including the commitment for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

Cllr. Koffa represents Grand Kru County electoral District# 1. He is the newly elected Speaker of the 55th Legislature following the dissolution of the 54th Legislature on Monday, January 15, 2024.
The House’s new Speaker however, said matters surrounding the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court in the country will need holistic approach from the three Branches of Government including the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.

He indicated that this will create the opportunity for Liberian themselves to make their inputs in finding the best way forward as it relations to the mounting calls for prosecution of individuals accused of commission of war and economic crimes in the country.

He said revisiting the War and Economic Crimes Bill submitted to the 54th Legislature in 2019 by outgoing President, George Manneh Weah, is important in addressing the questions surrounding establishment of the Court in the country.
“I will also request that unfinished business of the 54th will be carried out so that we can finally come to a resolution on some things that were left undone. Notably, the issue of war and economic crimes. We must take up the mantle, listen to our people and finally come to one resolution on that question,” House Speaker Koffa averred.

The new House Speaker expressed his willingness to work with the incoming Boakai-Kong administration for proper running of the affairs of the state and its people.

The outgoing government, led by incumbent President, George Manneh Weah, apparently failed to offer justice to victims of war and economic crimes, despite mounting pressure from both local and international human rights organizations, calling for the establishment of the court in Liberia by the incumbent government aimed at providing alleged war and economic crimes perpetrators the platform to face their accusers.

In September 2019, hopes were raised when incumbent President George Manneh Weah requested the Legislature to “advise and provide guidance on all legislative and other necessary measures towards the implementation of the Report of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), including the establishment of war and economic crimes court.”

In his 2019 Address delivered at the General Debate of the United Nations (UN), General Assembly (UNGA), President Weah told the world that “Considering the importance of this matter, I have already begun consultations…in order to determine pertinent issues such as legal framework, timing, venue, and funding, among others.”

Then, more than 50 legislators of the now dissolved 54th Legislature endorsed a Resolution backing calls for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in the country.

All the above measure actions are yet to be implemented. Weah told journalists in Monrovia in September, 2019, upon his return from the UNGA: “I have not one day called for a war crimes court.”

He subsequently has been silent or dismissive of the court, while unconfirmed reports suggest that Legislature’s leadership has blocked the Resolution supporting a court from consideration.

In 2021, Liberia’s Senate proposed the creation of a Transitional Justice Commission, which, many claimed could essentially impede progress on accountability by revisiting the basic premise of Liberia’s TRC to recommend prosecutions.

The effort was driven in large part by Prince Y. Johnson, alias (“PYJ”) a former warlord turned Senator who currently subject to United States sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act.

Senator Johnson has not categorically opposed to the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court but stressed the need for such war and economic crimes prosecution to be conducted fairly and not based biases.

Senator Johnson has consistently said all those responsible for the Liberian civil war should be held to account for their alleged deeds as opposed to targeting few individuals.

The erstwhile TRC, in its Final Report, identified at least 116 individuals for alleged commission of war and economic crimes, including gross violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws as well as egregious rights violations.

The TRC which investigated factor, causes and antecedent, among others of the Liberian civil war in which an estimated 250,000 persons, predominately women and children were killed, and more than a million others internally and extendedly displaced listed at least 30 individuals for the greatest responsibility of the Liberian Civil war that spanned over a decade.

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