Home Governance PYJ Signs War Crimes Court Resolution… As Majority if Senates Endorse pact

PYJ Signs War Crimes Court Resolution… As Majority if Senates Endorse pact

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MONROVIA: The Upper House of Liberia’s bicameral Legislature, (Senate) has concurred with the House of Representatives (Lower House), on the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

On March 5, 2024, the House of Representatives endorsed and signed the Resolution which calls for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.

The document was immediately forwarded to the Senate for its approval.

The Senate later mandated its Judiciary Committee to analyze the instrument and report to plenary in two weeks.

Following the Committee’s Report, 24 out of 29 Senators signed the Resolution behind closed doors.

The decision was read in the Senate’s Session on Tuesday by Senate’s Chief Clerk, Nanborlor Singbe.
Nimba County’s Senator, Prince Yormie Johnson, alias “PYJ” who was not initially mentioned on the list of Senators who signed the resolution, accused Senate Pro-Tempore, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, of not soliciting his signature.

After a brief exchange between Senator Johnson and Pro-Tempore, Karnga-Lawrence, the Nimba County’s charismatic Senator and former warlord, requested for the Resolution and subsequently affixed his signature to it.

The signing of the Resolution by Senator Johnson was followed by other Senators including Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, Bill Twehway, and Geevon Smith. The Resolution was signed in open session, bringing the total number of signatures to 28.
Maryland County Senator, James Bannie, was the only Senator who did not sign the War and Economic Crimes Court Resolution.

Senator Bannie stated that the Resolution violates Article 66 of the Liberian Constitution, which grants the Judiciary absolute authority to carry out such functions.

According to him, the court cannot be established in Liberia if the legislature is responsible for its execution.

He, at the same time, argues that establishing the court outside Liberia would have a lesser impact.

Once established, the court will address crimes committed by individuals during the civil war that lasted from 1989 to 2003 and resulted in the loss of an estimated 300,000 lives, predominately women, children and the elderly.

“I believe establishing the court in Liberia will put to rest the culture of impunity in our country and give justice to victims of war and economic crime in our country,” Senator Simeon Boima told Senate Plenary.

Grand Gedeh County Senator, Zoe Emmanuel Pannoh, warned that signing and endorsing the Resolution should not be a mere political bluff, but a serious instrument that would speedily generate legislation for an enactment of Laws by the Executive Branch of Government for the Court’s establishment.

“Since one of my colleagues called me yesterday for signing of this document, I have been relieved. I think this rescue mission really came to rescue. But, the resigning of this document should not be business as usual—our regular politics things in this place. We should go beyond, to make sure that the court is established for our people who died during the war to get justice. I am happy that we agreed to sign this Resolution because my eighty years old mother will certainly feel relieved about her younger brother who was President of this Nation and was killed by Prince Y. Johnson,” the Grand Gedeh told Senator Plenary.

Senator Pannoh dispelled rumors that establishment of the court would lead national crisis.

“My colleague Prince Johnson and other distinguished colleagues of the Legislature from Nimba County have built mutual and friendly relationship since I became lawmaker in 2005. Nimbains and Grand Gedeans have living together. Some Nimbaians are Town chiefs in Grand Gedeh while Grand Gedeans Town Chiefs in Nimba. So, who going be fighting here again when we co-existence peacefully,” he asked.

Bong County Senator Prince Moye: “My people in Bong County will be happy to see the court being established for victims of several massacres and tortures in many parts of the county will receive justice.”

Many lawmakers who signed the Resolution, endorsing the House of Representatives’ decision expressed admiration for the court establishment but Grand Gedeh County and former leader of the erstwhile rebel faction, Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), Thomas Yaya Nimely, rejected establishment of the Court.

Yaya Nimely, who is also former Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Liberian war era, said the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and the Accra Peace Accord signed in 2023 didn’t recommend establishment of the War Crimes Court, but both documents recommended reconciliation among Liberians through palaver hurt discussion.

Senator Nimely’s erstwhile rebel faction, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), that reportedly entered Liberia during the war era from Ivory Coast, according to the Final Report of the TRC, carried out series of human rights violations in the Sinoe, Rivercess, Grand Bassa and Margibi counties.

According to reports, Senator Nimely’s MODEL looted and burnt down the then ‘Oriental Timber Company (OTC) plywood factory’ in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.

However, the former MODEL boss told Senate Plenary that establishment of the Court by President Joseph Boakai and his government would not help to address the basic social and economic needs of the Liberian people, instead it would inflict more hardship on the nation’s struggling population that is already overwhelmed by abject poverty.

The Grand Gedeh County Lawmaker maintains that those who are pushing for the court establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court should instead pay more attention to “rescuing the 4.5 million people of Liberia who are mostly younger and in their 40 years in age.
Meanwhile, Senate Pro-Tempore and Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence expressed delight to seeing her leadership paving the way for the the creation of a platform through which justice would be provided for victims of war and economic crimes in Liberia.

The Senate Pro-Tempore Lawrence: “I am pleased to announce that, Twenty-seven (27) Senators have signed the Resolution, endorsing the establishment of the war and economic Crimes courts in Liberia. Thanks to Senators who have confidence in my leadership and signed this Resolution. I also thank to those who have other views on this matter.”
She disclosed that the Senate leadership has communicated with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Cllr. Jonathan Fornati Koffa, and members of the House of Representatives, seeking their concurrence.
“We believe this decision will bring an end to the perception in the public that Members of The Liberian Senate are against establishing the war and economic crimes court. We believe this decision is the beginning of ending impunity in Liberia,” the Grand Bassa County Lawmaker noted.

The decision by the Liberian Legislature to support the Resolution for the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court came after a meeting with the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Beth Van Schaack.

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