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Boakai To Act on War Crimes Court Resolution

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MONROIVA: The bicameral Liberian Legislature has forwarded to President Joseph Nyuma Boakai the instrument for establishment of the War and Economic Crimes in Liberia.

In an unprecedented move to end impunity and seek justice for Liberia’s troubled past, House Speaker Jonathan Fonati Koffa told Liberians that over 30 Representatives affixed their signatures to the Joint Resolution.

In its concurrence, the Senate specifically decided on separating the court into two, namely: an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia to be known as UN backed “Special War Crimes Court for Liberia (SWACCOL)” and a second, named as the Anti-Corruption Court to address economic crimes.

Interestingly, Speaker Koffa told Liberians that the instrument from the Senate is not far different from the resolution sent to them for concurrence.

“Our legal team read through what the Senate sent to us. We believe the documents were same, so there was no need to waste time with it when we need to end impunity in the country,” Speaker Koffa disclosed.

The document entitled: “Joint Resolution #JR-001/2024” of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia was sent to Executive Branch of Government for the establishment of an extra ordinary criminal court and a domestic corruption court for war and economic crimes.

The Legislature provided several legal reasons why they took the decision, principal of which is to align their decision with the 1986 Constitution and other international protocols and conventions to which Liberia is a signatory.

They decided that justice should prevail and that there should be no impunity for those who bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, other violations of international humanitarian law and other domestic crimes which occurred during the Liberian civil crisis.

They also decided that pursuant to Chapter 1, Article 1 of the 1986 Constitution which vests in the people of Liberia the right to alter and reform their government when their safety and happiness so required, and consistent with provisions of Article 57 which authorized the Executive to sign all United Nations Conventions on human rights, treaties, protocols and agreements, including, but not limited to, the Rome Statute of 1998, all of which the Legislature ratified under Article 34(D); the Legislature supports the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations including the timely establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia to be known as UN backed “Special War Crimes Court for Liberia (SWACCOL)” to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between the period 1979 and 2003.

The bicameral Legislature also decided that consistent with Article 34e (b) (j)(I) of the 1986 Constitution, the Executive shall develop a legal framework and submit same to the Legislature for enactment into law for the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Court (ACC), under domestic jurisprudence, for fast-tracking the trial of those who will be investigated and subsequently indicted for acts of corruption and other economic crimes committed from 1979 to 2003 and such crimes committed from 2004 to present constituting constitutional rule.

This fast-track corruption court shall remain the primary court for the dispensation of justice for corruption and other economic crimes going forward, in line with Liberia’s Penal Code and prevailing international laws and standards”, part of the decisions taken in the resolution said.

The document said that the President shall write the UN, the EU, and the US Government, expressing the Liberian Government’s intention to establish the Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal on Liberian soil and thereby request financial and other assistance; develop a financial resource mobilization plan and submit it to the United Nations, the EU, the US Government, and other international partners to seek financial and economic support for the establishment and operations of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal on Liberian soil or alternatively to a country to be designated.

It also said that the President shall report to the Legislature as to the progress made on the establishment of the two courts as well as challenges, if any, or outcome(s) of his engagements with the United Nations, the EU, the US Government, and other international partners regarding the resource mobilization plan and results, including domestic resource mobilization through the budgetary process, pursuant the Resolution.

The Legislature also agreed that consistent with Chapter 2, Article 5C of the 1986 Constitution, the President shall issue an Executive Order to establish the Office of War Crimes (OWC) within the Ministry of Justice, and appoint forthwith, a Special Envoy or Officer-In-Charge (OIC), duly certified by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, or the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) or any other International Courts and Tribunals with the relevant experience, qualification and competence in international criminal law and practice, to organize and coordinate all actions and activities regarding the Court and assist the President to mobilize resources and do all that is legally feasible, including the establishment of a secretariat, where applicable, to facilitate its operations and the successful implementation of its mandate, among others, done in consultation with the UN, the EU, the US, and/or other independent parties

To jump-start this renewed campaign of national reconciliation and healing as the final phase of Liberia’s recovery process, the Legislature, in the Resolution said the President shall implement the following recommendations of the TRC; (a) Offer apology on behalf of the State to the many victims and the people of Liberia in general for its role in the conflict and for the injuries and losses sustained by individuals and communities; (b) Work with the United Nations, the EU, the US Government, and other international partners to set up a Reparation Trust Fund (RTF) for victims and communities worst affected by the conflict, to benefit through direct financial assistance or through development programs and projects; and (c) Continue the National Palava Hut Program and other programs for national healing, peace building and reconciliation; and (d) construct a national monument to commemorate the victims of the atrocities, to serve as a reminder of the war and to create a national consciousness against armed conflicts”.

The document historicized how from 1989-2003, a period of 14 years, Liberians went through perhaps the most difficult part of their country’s existence when many persons were killed while others were displaced from their places of abode before the advent of the brutal civil war and then cited several constitutional provisions as well as international conventions which Liberia signed on to with the view of respecting and protecting them.

“WHEREAS, the various phases of the Liberian civil wars from 1989 to 2003 resulted in deaths of innocent civilians and destruction across Liberia, including the displacement of nearly half of the population, horrific abuses, including summary executions, massacres, mutilation, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and forced conscription and use of child combatants, the Resolution indicated, that Chapter I, Article I of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia vests power in the people of Liberia to institute by their authority and for their benefit the right to alter and reform their government when their safety and happiness so require.

The Resolution also said for the safety and happiness of the people, the Government of Liberia, pursuant to Article 57 of the 1986 Constitution, has signed all United Nations Conventions on human rights, treaties, protocols and agreements, including but not limited to the Rome Statute of 1998, and thereafter, the Legislature, consistent with Article 34(f) has ratified all of the international treaties, human rights conventions, protocols and agreements, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to form part of the domestic laws of the Republic of Liberia; and,

Besides, the Resolution noted that Article 34 of the 1986 Constitution vests in the Legislature the power and authority to establish various categories of courts for criminal offenses and provide for the punishment thereof and the creation of specialized courts, including the Extraordinary Criminal Court is intended for the security of the state as in keeping with Article 34(b), and the Legislature is also empowered under Article 34(1) to make other laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the Republic, or in any department or officer thereof”

The document mentioned that the Liberian Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on August 18, 2003, which provided for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and Reconciliation.
It also said ”the Liberian Legislature enacted the Act to Establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (IRC Act) in 2005, formally creating the TRC with a mandate to promote national peace, security, unity, and reconciliation by investigating gross human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law, sexual violations, economic crimes that occurred between January 1979 and October 2003; and, that the Liberian TRC submitted its final report to the Legislature on December 19, 2009, recommending the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court of Liberia, an international domestic court with authority to prosecute individuals accused of gross human rights violations, serious humanitarian laws violations, and certain domestic crimes”
Section 48 of the TRC Act, the Resolution said, provides that “The Head of State shall, report to the Legislature within three months of receipt of the report of the TRC, and on a quarterly basis thereafter as to the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations,” and “Where the implementation of any recommendation has not been complied with, the Legislature shall require the Head of State to show cause for such non-compliance.”
Besides, the document mentioned that Successive Governments of Liberia have not fully implemented the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to date, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia, due to many technical, legal and constitutional issues arising from the TRC Report and controversy on the actual intent of the TRC as contemplated by the warring factions, African Governments, and the civil society, who negotiated the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord; and,
“The United Nations (UN) and other international partners have experience with the creation and functioning of war crimes courts, including courts with international and domestic participation and expertise”, the document said.
The document said the national legislature has noted that certain constitutional and legal prohibitions have to be considered in the establishment of an extraordinary criminal tribunal for war crimes on Liberian soil and several processes and broad consultations have to take place to derive the best product for the prosecution of war crimes.
It then noted that economic crimes, including corruption, committed between the period 1979 and 2023 and beyond, are cognizable under domestic criminal jurisprudence and in domestic criminal court and the final report of the TRC contains other recommendations besides the issue of war and economic crimes which are yet to be implemented.

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