• WiN Op-ed

Plans for a Liberian War Crimes Court Gain Traction

Circle Pines, MN—Efforts to establish a joint war crimes court on Liberia is gaining momentum. Based on a recent letter written by the Coalition for Justice in Liberia to the U.S. State Department through its Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the group capped the need for lasting peace, justice, truth, and reconciliation in Liberia.

Accordingly, Secretary Thomas-Greenfield further affirmed her country’s commitment to assist Liberia recovery fully, from the relics of decades of war. “The United States is further committed to help Liberia rebuild its democratic institutions, justice system, respect for human rights, and good governance,” the secretary said. This recent wave of commitments was due to a letter written by Ms. Lovetta Tugbeh via the Coalition for Justice in Liberia.

In recent times, some Liberians have expressed fear that unless Liberia brings an end to impunity, people who were very instrumental in the prosecution of the country’s extensive civil war, could find ways to undermine the peace and security of Liberia, whenever they are legally denied access to the nation’s financial coffers. Equally, some have expressed doubts, that with Madam Sirleaf as president, true reconciliation and justice will never be possible.

In a recent discovery by Dr. Alan White claimed that, he had uncovered efforts by some Liberian elements to seek the freedom of Mr. Taylor from his 50 years imprisonment in London, England. Dr. White was the United Nations War Crimes Investigator who was influential in the prosecution of Mr. Charles Taylor for his role in the Sierra Leonean mayhem that claimed the lives of some 120,000 Sierra Leoneans.

It could be recalled, that Mr. Taylor was earlier indicted to stand trial in The Hague for his roles in the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. Consequently, Mr. Taylor the first African head of state to be brought before an international tribunal, he was charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Other offences, alleged to have been committed in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002 under his direction, involved terrorizing the population, murder, rape, the use of women and girls as sexual slaves, enforced mutilations and amputations, as well as abducting children and adults and forcing them to work as laborers or fight in the conflict in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Taylor, who served as president of Liberia from 2 August, 1997 until his resignation on 11 August, 2003, was accused of backing and arming the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The rebel group fought in Sierra Leone from the end of November 1996 - the date on which the Abuja accord peace agreement was signed - until 18 January, 2002, when the Sierra Leone Civil War was officially brought to an end.

The RUF was led by warlord Foday Sankoh, who died in a Sierra Leonean prison cell while awaiting trial.

Taylor's four-year war crimes trial at The Hague has been quite controversial, marked by changes of counsel, procedural objections and delays caused by the need to accommodate the large numbers of witnesses called and cross-examined by both sides. If it was done in Sierra Leone, it could be done in Liberia also.

Many peace loving Liberians also believe, that the fourteen-long civil war in Liberia represented the darkest chapter in the country's recent history. The extensive use of child soldiers and the brutality of attacks on civilians have also had a traumatic impact on the population.

In the aftermath of Mr. Taylor’s trial, an open justice system was established to collaboration with civic organizations in Liberia and Sierra Leone to have Mr. Taylor’s verdict translated into numerous local languages in a bid to make it more accessible to the population.

If indeed a war crimes court is established on Liberia, many Liberians could be indicted on a Tort Doctrine known as Vicarious Liability. This is a strict secondary liability for crimes committed by another. A number of civilian personnel identified with warring factions during the height of our civil war.

The question is, what were they doing there though they may not have directly held arms to fight? Where types of services some of these individuals were providing to our warring parties? In Rwanda, radio personnel and others were indicted for a number of noncombatant roles.

We hope our readers will carefully listen to the Youtube audiovisual clip of Dr. White. What happened to the $50 million that was given to Madam Sirleaf for the arrest of Mr. Taylor?

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