Home Politics Liberia’s War Crimes Court …As Congressman, Chris Smith, Justifies Its Necessity; Craves America’s Support

Liberia’s War Crimes Court …As Congressman, Chris Smith, Justifies Its Necessity; Craves America’s Support

by newsmanager

By: Frank P. Martin

WASHINGTON/MONROVIA: United States Congressman, Chris Smith, (GOP, New Jersey), who is also chairman of the House Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, on March 27, 2024, issued a strong statement, outlining the necessity and justifications for the establishment of the court in Liberia and the significance for America provide support for the effective operation of the court. Congressman Smith told the US Congress that the establishment of the court would help to redress the wounds of Liberia’s decade-long brutal civil war.

According to the U.S. Congressman, the creation of the war crimes court will mark a significant and historic step towards ending the culture of impunity in Liberia.

He maintains that in the absence of justice and accountability, the rule of law will be undermined and corruption would take preeminence.

The American Lawmaker believes that in recent decades, Liberian people have suffered untold human rights violations and economic crimes while perpetrators acted with near-complete impunity during the country’s multiple civil wars.

Another aspect that the congressman highlighted is that since Liberia’s dark days, minimal efforts have been made to address such crimes, notwithstanding recommendations in 2009 by the erstwhile Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), to establish a war crimes Court aimed at ensuring justice.
Smith said since Liberia’s President, Joseph Nyuma Boakai, assumed office, local and international communities—including the American Government—have eagerly awaited the establishment of the Court.

“This promise was made to the Liberian people who want real change—they desire democracy, human rights, and justice,” Smith further quoted the Liberian leader, Joseph Nyuma Boakai, as saying during his inauguration on 22, January, 2024.

“The U.S. Congress is also closely monitoring the establishment of this Court as a way to advance good governance and healing for the people of Liberia.

He told the Congress that the United States of America (USA), has “long supported Liberia with foreign aid, providing over $162 million in 2023 and more than $4 billion over the last 20 years.”

He stressed the importance of justice and accountability for the people of Liberia, because they are the necessary and critical steps for assuring lasting peace and the people’s confidence in the rule of law in the country.

Many international and local rights groups have called for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court.

But the previous Government of Liberia (GOL), then, headed by former President George Manneh Weah showed little or no interest in the establishment of the court which is also backed by many members of the US Congress.

“As a presidential candidate, Joseph Boakai stated repeatedly that War and Economic Crimes Court needed to be established for the Liberian people to end impunity and for the nation to get healed.

In his inaugural address, President Boakai committed to pursue ‘the establishment of War & Economic Crimes Court to provide an opportunity for those who are thought to bear the greatest responsibility for the civil war in which an estimated 250, 000 died, predominately women, children and the elderly. Exactly one month into the exercise of full government control and power, Liberia’s President Joseph N. Boakai, reiterated his commitment to ensuring those bearing the greatest responsibilities of war and economic crimes are brought to bear the consequences of their actions.
Excerpts from a classified interview/meeting held between President Joseph Boakai and former United Nations backed Court prosecutor, Allen White, on January 24, 2024, unveils President Boakai’s ambitious plan to prosecute former warlords named for mass murders that left at least 250,000 persons dead, according to a UN report.

“You know in every country that boosts independence, especially ours 176 years, and you know well that it is because of the impunity, the disrespect and disregard for justice, that has created all the upheaval in this country. And we believe that injustice has created all these fears of impunity, we have to lay this to rest. The facts be known that people who think that they are innocent to come up and let’s move this country forward,” Boakai stated.

“This is not a witch hunt; it is part of testifying as what we know about what are doing. So that the victim can be known on the bases of knowledge and truth. And that’s what we’re doing,” the Liberian President maintains.

“Most people have known and if they were on the other side, they would like the truth to be told, and the truth, is truth. Each and every one had been either offended, and so we should be happy that will finally close the shop down of the history of those years. And that’s what we are doing.” President Joseph Boakai emphasized in a conversation with former UN Persecutor Allen White.

More than a million others were internally and externally displaced, while Liberia’s economy which was abysmally destroyed by various former armed warring factions is yet to regain its pre-war state.

Another prominent American state official, Ambassador Beth Van Schaack underscored the need for the establishment of the war crimes court in Liberia.

Van Schaack is the Ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice of the US government whose offices are responsible for advancing efforts around justice and accountability wherever atrocities have happened worldwide.

In her letter to Liberians, published on the US embassy website recently, Ambassador Van Schaack stressed that in the absence of justice and accountability, the rule of law will be undermined and that corruption would take preeminence.

“When there is no accountability for the worst crimes known to humankind, it undermines the rule of law and contributes to corruption and lawlessness.

“In so many ways, there can be no true and lasting peace without justice,” she indicated.

Van Schaack noted that the creation of the court will also show Liberia’s unpreparedness to revert to those days that left bitter memories which families of victims are still fighting to overcome.

The US envoy said that Liberians have waited far too long to see justice for the horrific abuses they suffered in the country’s two civil wars, despite recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Amb. Van Schaack assured Liberians that the US will be on the alert to ensure that those advocating for justice do not face any form of threats to their safety from anyone during and after this struggle.

“The United States will also be watching closely to make sure that those advocating for justice do not face threats to their safety and that all Liberians can step forward and speak about this effort without fear of intimidation or retribution,” she said.

Amb. Van Shaack also stressed the need for victims and witnesses to play a central role in the work of the future Court, and they must be able to do so freely and safely. She thanked President Joe Boakai for taking keen interest in the creation of the court during the early period of his administration.

“Like so many Liberians, I—along with the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, my colleagues here in Washington, and others within the international community—was very pleased to see President Boakai’s announcement in his inaugural address that he would begin the process of creating a War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia. I applaud President Boakai for making justice such a priority in the early days of his administration,” said Amb. Van Shaack.

Amb. Van Shaack also said she was thrilled to see a resolution from Liberia’s House of Representatives in strong support of the War and Economic Crimes.

“Congratulations to the Speaker of the House and other Representatives for taking steps to implement the very important and welcome recommendations of the 2009 Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Now, over to the Senate,” she added.
Liberia’s Vice President, Jeremiah Kpan Koung, weeks ago, also received Dr. Van Schaack at his Office on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.

The meeting, according to a release from the office of the vice president, focused on the progress being made in the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.

The delegation expressed satisfaction with Liberia’s peaceful transfer of power and improvement of its democratic credentials.

According to the release from the VP Office, Madam Van Schaack referred to President Boakai’s commitment to the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia as contained in the Liberian President’s Inaugural Address, a statement that she believes resonates with the United States agenda to support Liberia in strengthening the rule of law and eliminating the culture of impunity.

“The court will prosecute major cases based on the gravity of offenses; using Sierra Leone as an inference where nine (9) individuals were prosecuted. The United States Government remains supportive in providing technical and financial assistance for the establishment of the court,” Van Schaack revealed.

In his response, Vice President Koung welcomed the US delegation to Liberia and expressed gratitude to the US government for its continuous support of peace, stability, and national development.

The Vice President emphasized that President Boakai is the Chief Architect of Liberia’s Foreign Policy and that he (VP Koung) is prepared to follow the lead of the Liberian President in the interest of the Liberian people.

“I believe in the vision and wisdom of President Boakai and I am deeply committed to supporting his agenda for Liberia,” VP Koung told the US delegation.

The Liberian Vice President also stressed that prosecution should be impartial and consultations should be broad-based to avoid selective justice.

The Liberian civil war stands as one of Africa’s most devastating conflicts.
The war began in December, 1989 and ended in August, 2003, with the resignation of President Charles Ghankay Taylor, who later sought sanctuary in the federal republic of Nigeria with the concurrence of top African leaders, then, including South Africa’s then President, Thabo Berki; Nigeria’s Olusugun Obasanjo, among others.

The back-to-back armed conflict resulted into the loss of over 250,000 people lives including ordinary citizens, foreign residents, and even some Senegalse peacekeepers, and other members of the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The conflict also saw widespread exploitation and drugging of child soldiers, massacres, cannibalism, disappearances, acts of inhumane torture, rape and gang rape, amputation, and the commission of other egregious crimes, further compounding its human toll.

But, there has been no justice for the victims of the war on Liberian soil while some perpetrators of the atrocities committed during the war are currently elected and appointed to prominent and lucrative positions in government.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment