Home Foreign News Fair Trials, Others, Necessary …Adama Dempster Tells U.S Congress at Liberia’s War Crimes Court Hearing

Fair Trials, Others, Necessary …Adama Dempster Tells U.S Congress at Liberia’s War Crimes Court Hearing

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By: Linda Gbartie

MONROVIA: A Liberian Human Rights and Justice Campaigner, Adama Dempster, has recommended to the United States Government that robust witness protection program, fair trials, and rights protection are necessary for the establishment of the war and economic crimes court (WECC) in Liberia.

Mr. Dempster also recommended that public education on the war and economic crimes court mandate and economic benefits are crucial for the establishment of the court on the Liberian soil.

Mr. Dempster made these recommendations on Thursday, June 13, 2024, when he served as one of the witnesses at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) hearing on the establishment of the WECC for Liberia.

The hearing was hosted by the United States Government through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) on Foreign Affairs of the American House of Representatives.

The hearing, titled: “Next Steps towards Accountability for War and Economic Crimes was held at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., United States of America.

The hearing was intended for witnesses to examine the legacy of Liberia’s civil wars on its people and economy and the next steps for the new office of the WECC and offer recommendations to the United States Congress.

The hearing also provided a platform for witnesses to share their insights and expertise on the current state of accountability in Liberia and the steps that need to be taken to ensure justice for the victims.
For his part, the Liberian Human Rights and Justice Campaigner, Mr. Dempster testified on the role of civil society on the establishment of the WCC.

Mr. Dempster indicated that during the Liberian civil wars gross human rights violations were recalled by the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

He said in 2003 the human rights community transitional justice actors were among civil society representatives who attended the Peace Accord in Accra, Ghana, to negotiate an put an end to the wide spread atrocities across Liberia and as well advocate for the peace a process that mandated the creation of the TRC in 2004 by an act of legislation.

According to him, the TRC mandated the investigation into the root causes of the civil conflict in Liberia and made recommendations for implementation consideration.

Mr. Dempster said that Section 46 of the TRC Act of 2004 referred to civil society organizations as moral guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to monitor and campaign for the full implementation of the TRC and the establishment of the WECC.

He told the U.S Congress that during this period, Liberians waited for over 20 years, hoping that justice will come one day, as such, barely in three months into President Joseph Nyuma Boakai’s regime, his government rekindled the hopes of the people when the 55th National Legislature made an unprecedented move on the establishment of the WECC by signing and adopting a resolution 001/2004 in favor of the establishment of the WECC.

Mr. Dempster said Executive Order 131 by President Boakai on May 2, 2024 was a sign of bringing closure to the culture of impunity in Liberia.

He highlighted that the executive order also provided for the establishment of the office of WECC to facilitate and coordinate efforts leading to the establishment of the court.

Additionally, he told the U.S Congress that a follow up to President Boakai’s decision for the court after he attended the signing ceremony of the Executive Order on May 2, 2024 representing the civil society organizations, he held a meeting with President Boakai and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sara Beysolow Nyantie, on June 11, 2024, to brief the President and gather feedback from him on his position towards the establishment of the court.

“Interestingly, this week President Boakai reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring justice and accountability in Liberia that his government is considering the appointment of officials to the office of the WECC very soon to roll out the process on the establishment of the court and is looking forward to civil society, regional and human right community and united nations to support the courts,” he said.

Further Testifying, Mr. Dempster said that civil society, justice campaigners, women and youth groups, religious and traditional leaders, chiefs and elders, and the Bar Association, Female Lawyers Association of Liberia convened a wider consultation regularly to mobilize and amplify support for the court over the years and they have been tirelessly campaigning for the establishment of the court despite facing significant back lashes.

“Civil society continues and remains the force that has filled the gap between survivors and victims of the war and government including technocrats and remains vocal along the lines,” he emphasized.

Speaking on advocacy and lobbying for the establishment of the WECC, he recommended to the U.S Congress that continue engagement with stakeholders including victims and survivors and public information sharing are crucial.

Mr. Dempster also recommended that leading a process of giving support to victims, survivors and communities affected by the civil is crucial to the operation of the court along the line.

“In the view of civil society, the proposed court is informed by the TRC report and international legal advice will be Liberia first WECC. Civil society should be key members in the drafting of the court status and operations of the office; civil society will have a pivotal role to play in outreach and ensuring that all stakeholders including women survivor, victims, and underrepresented minority groups are heard as part of the process,” he recommended.

He also said civil society thinks international support is essential for technical assistance, infrastructure, and security and budgeting.

“We request the international community including the U.S government to provide legal advises and help Liberia organize a donor conference to support the court and its operation. International expert cannot supplant the vital role that must be play for this court to have a lasting impact on Liberia society the rule of law must be a Liberian led court,” he noted.

Meanwhile, he said that civil society views the establishment of the WECC as a landmark development for justice and accountability despite years of challenges and personal risks they have gone through on the ground and such they recommend that justice and accountability are vital for Liberia healing process and governance.

“Ensure reparation for victims or survivors of the civil war; ensure protection for human rights defenders in side Liberia. International support and collaborations are essential for the court successes and that peace requires justice and the campaign must be inclusive engaging various societal groups and media to make this happen,” he said.

He stressed that the establishment of the WECC in Liberia is a significant step toward justice and accountability.

“It is imperative that both national and international efforts are align to ensure the success of this initiative and the U.S is a vital partner for Liberia in making this happen drawing on the historical ties between Liberia an America and we look forward to support from the United States government on the establishment of this court”.

The hearing was hosted by Members of United States Congress and Co-chairs on the TLHRC, Chris Smith and James P. McGovern.

The first panelist and witnesses who testified at the hearing included Dr. Alan White, Michael Rubin, Elizabeth Evenson amongst others.

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