Home Politics America Declares Full Support …For War, Economic Crimes Court; Says “Liberia Needs Justice Now”

America Declares Full Support …For War, Economic Crimes Court; Says “Liberia Needs Justice Now”

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By: Patrick Cooper

MONROVIA: Amid increased public interest for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, the Government of the United States, through its Ambassador–at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Beth Van Schaach, has expressed full support to Liberia.

Appearing on a local radio (OK FM) on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Monrovia, the U.S. Ambassador–at- Large for Global Criminal Justice who is currently in Liberia, noted that the United States government will be disappointed if Liberia does not establish the War and Economic Crimes Court.

The top American diplomat added that public data shows that Liberians want the court and that it is time for Liberian Legislators to listen to the will of the Liberian people.

“It is not possible to build a strong future if you cannot deal with the harms of the past, Liberia needs Justice and the time is now,” she emphasized.

The U.S global war crimes official also expressed the International Community’s willingness to support the court through donor funds to help financially, diplomatically, technically, and going further by sending technocrats and experts, along with a whole group of individuals who work for the war crimes court around the world to assist with capacity building.

According to the U.S envoy, there is a Resolution coming out of the Liberian House of Representatives this week on Capitol Hill in Monrovia which will eventually go to the Liberian Senate for further discussion and onward concurrence.

She noted that it will be fantastic to see both Houses of the Liberian Legislature working together to establish the court.

According to her, once the Legislative framework is done, it will now be turned over to the technocrats to build the court and design what it looks like and ways to bring in the International System.

Ambassador Van Shaack maintained that for the Court to be established, it has to be Liberian led where the necessary Political Will, among senior figures in the Liberian government must be demonstrated.

By that, she assured the public that when there is political will and real genuine progress, then it could bring in the United Nations (UN) experts, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and all of the support of multinational institutions that want to see justice and accountability in Liberia.

Madame Van Shaack disclosed that she has received information of a Draft Executive Order on the Establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court by Liberia`s President, Joseph Nyuma Boakai.

“It was a fantastic thing when I read in President Boakais about his commitment to establish the War Crimes Court, and thats what encouraged me to come to Liberia,” she asserted.

Commenting on widespread rumors that are making the rounds via social media, indicating that negotiations are currently ongoing for the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia to be built in the West African State of Ghana, Ambassador Van Shaach noted that it will be preferable for the Court be local based, so as to enable the people of Liberia including the Press and other civil society institutions to see the proceedings to understand and get a clearer picture of what it looks like.

She, at the same time, noted that the United States government remains committed in seeing accountability in Liberia, and that America is very convinced that having accountability for the past will help contribute to the rule of law for the present and will also will help to get rid of corruption and impunity in Liberia.

“America will be disappointed, I will be disappointed and Liberians will be disappointed if the court is not established,” she cautioned the Liberian government.

On Monday, March 4, 2024, Ambassador-at-Large Beth Van Schaach and her team from the Office of Global Criminal Justice (J/GCJ) also met with the Speaker of Liberia’s House of Representatives, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, at his Capitol Building Office.
There, they discussed the plan and the path forward as it relates to approving the War and Economic Crimes Court by the Liberian Legislature.

Liberia’s House Speaker, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, confirmed through his Facebook account that he assured the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large of the House’s support for justice for War and Economic crimes victims.
“We won’t be rash or insensitive to the concerns of people who feel targeted,” he stated.
According to Speaker Koffa, it must be done right, and if it is what the people want, “their elected Representatives will say so through their votes.”

During the discussion, Speaker Koffa promised to ensure that the debate is thorough and considers everything: reconciliation, maintenance of peace, and fairness to alleged perpetrators.

In February 2024, President Joseph N. Boakai reaffirmed his commitment to holding accountable all those responsible for war and economic crimes in Liberia during the country’s past civil war that broke out on 24, December, 1989 and ended in August, 2003.
In a classified meeting with former United Nations-backed Court prosecutor, Allen White, on January 24, 2024, President Boakai outlined his ambitious plan to prosecute former warlords implicated in mass murders, which resulted in the deaths of at least 250,000 individuals, as reported by the UN.
“In our 176 years of independence, impunity, disrespect for justice, and disregard for the rule of law have fueled unrest in our nation,” Boakai noted.
President Boakai, during the interaction with Mr. White, mentioned that it is imperative that Liberia puts an end to this cycle of injustice.

He noted that those who believe they are innocent must come forward, and together, everyone must move the country forward.
Addressing concerns about the nature of the prosecution, President Boakai emphasized that it is not a witch-hunt but rather a quest for truth and accountability.

President Boakai acknowledged the significance of facing the past, regardless of one’s position during the conflict.
Since the end of the deadly civil unrest in the Country, more than twenty (20) years ago, and the recommendations of the erstwhile Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), for the Establishment of the War and Economic Crimes court, there has be serious public debate across different quarters in Liberia.
Some commentators are of the view that it is better to forget about the establishment of the court and just reconcile the country through a palaver hut engagement wherein both the victims and alleged perpetuators can sit and smoke piece pipe, while on the other hand, many are of the strongest conviction that it will be an injustice to those who suffered the severe impacts of the bloody civil war if there is not a court for those who allegedly committed atrocities can go and account for their actions.
As it stands, the decision on the court`s establishment, lies both with the current 55th Liberian Legislature and the President of Liberia, as citizens including the media, civil society, international partners are all watching to see the final decision from the Liberian government.
As this paper was heading to press, it obtained report that the Lower House of the National Legislature has passed a Resolution for the Establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

Over 40 Lawmakers have already signed the Resolution which has been subsequently forwarded to the Upper House (Senate) for its possible concurrence.
The nearly three decades of conflict in Liberia devastated the country and disrupted the lives of almost all Liberians. Forceful displacement accounts for 36% of all violations reported to the erstwhile Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Twenty-three types of violations were recorded and forceful displacement more than doubled the next highest violations type-Killings, according to the Final Report of the TRC, dated June 30, 2009.

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