Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 1055) to affirm strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles, and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.
The Clerk read the title of the resolution. The text of the resolution is as follows:
H. RES. 1055 Whereas today the United States is home to an estimated 80,000 people of Liberian ancestry in vibrant communities across the country, who have been instrumental in America’s efforts to build a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Liberia; Whereas Liberia and the United States share close historical, political, and economic ties over the course of a nearly 200- year relationship;
Whereas the people and Government of the United States have a deep interest in Liberia’s democratic stability and postconflict development;
Whereas the civil war from 1991 to 2002 resulted in the death of over 200,000 people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the displacement of over 1,000,000 persons, and the horrific cases of amputations, mass rape, and human rights abuses conducted under the leadership of Charles Taylor;
Whereas Charles Taylor was convicted through the Special Court for Sierra Leone for 11 different charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, such as rape, sexual abuse, and slavery, and violation of international law, including the use of child soldiers;
Whereas a comprehensive peace agreement was signed by the Government of Liberia, rebel groups, and political parties in 2003;
Whereas the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as established under the 2003 comprehensive peace agreement, was formally created in 2005 with a mandate ‘‘to promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation by investigating gross human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law, sexual violations, and economic crimes that occurred between January 1979 and October 2003’’;
Whereas the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report in December 2008 recommending the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia and listed individuals, corporations, and institutions recommended for further investigation and prosecution, among other recommendations; Whereas the Government of Liberia has not fully implemented the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Agreement to date, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal;
Whereas Liberia experienced its first democratic and peaceful transition of power since 1944 after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf respected constitutional term limits and George Weah defeated Vice President Joseph Boakai following a runoff during the 2017 Presidential elections;
Whereas the United States congratulated the people of Liberia on the successful conclusion of the Presidential runoff election and recognized the important role Liberia’s Supreme Court, political parties, security forces, and civil society organizations played in holding a peaceful and transparent contest; and Whereas the United States Government and American citizens have invested in Liberia to rebuild and support democratic institutions, postconflict recovery, economic growth, improved access to education and health care, professionalization of the country’s military and civilian security forces, and efforts to foster accountability and transparency of government institutions:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives— (1) upholds its commitment to maintain and foster the enduring relationship between the people and the Governments of the United States and Liberia;
(2) urges the Government and people of Liberia to support the truth and reconciliation process through full implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal; and (3) supports efforts by the Department of State and United States Agency for International Development to advance Liberian efforts toward national reconciliation through continued support for the rule of law, effective governance, and the robust role of civil society.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from California (Mr. ROYCE) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. ENGEL) each will control 20 minutes. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California. GENERAL LEAVE Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and to include any extraneous material in the RECORD.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California? There was no objection.
Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Res. 1055, which affirms the strong ties between the United States and Liberia and calls for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations.
I want to thank Representative DONOVAN and Representative JOHNSON for their work on this resolution. During my time as chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, we held hearings and we pressed legislation to bring attention to the brutal civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone that killed 200,000 people and that displaced more than 1 million, one of whom was also an orphan, orphaned by this conflict, and he worked in my own office here in Congress.
We heard testimony, for example, also, from a young girl no more than 10 years old who recounted the atrocities she, herself, endured during the war, a gruesome illustration of the horrific and lasting impact this conflict had on the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee worked across party lines and alongside the international community and alongside the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone to apprehend the notorious warlord Charles Taylor, and I would like to thank our staff director, Tom Sheehy, for his help in this regard.
Today, Charles Taylor remains behind bars. In 2003, the Government of Liberia, rebel groups, and political parties signed a comprehensive peace agreement.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to ensure justice for the people of Liberia.
This would be along the same lines of what we had worked to effectively establish for the people of Sierra Leone in terms of their special court. Unfortunately, however, this war crimes tribunal for Liberia has never been established, although Liberian Government figures and Liberian activists alike have continued to call for one.
This resolution repeats this important call. We have turned the page on this horrific chapter in Liberia’s history. In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there officially ended. It is not often we get to celebrate the successful end of a mission, and we remember the 202 peacekeepers that lost their lives to bring peace and to bring stability to the region.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was democratically elected in 2005 and reelected in 2011 before stepping down from power. Last year, the country experienced its first democratic transition of power since November of 1944.
This further strengthened democratic institutions, and it set an important precedent for future leaders. Much more needs to be done to crack down on corruption and create a more conducive environment for trade and economic investment. The government must ensure the policies are in place to encourage business to invest and grow and create jobs, but this resolution affirms the U.S. commitment to continue to partner with Liberia to support civil society, rule of law, and good governance. We stand by the Liberian people in their continued efforts for a more prosperous and a more democratic Liberia.
The United States and Liberia share close historical, political, and economic ties over the course of our nearly 200-year relationship. The United States is home to 80,000 people of Liberian ancestry. This resolution commends this diaspora population, which has been instrumental in America’s efforts to build a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Liberia.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time. Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I rise in support of this measure. Mr. Speaker, I thank Representative DONOVAN for his work on this resolution which reaffirms America’s relationship with Liberia and calls for the Government of Liberia to hold accountable those who carried out mass violence and atrocities during the country’s civil war in the 1990s.
That war resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 people and was marked by gross human rights violations. In the wake of this conflict, the Liberian Government started working to investigate the horrific crimes committed during the war.
In 2005, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission put forward recommendations to follow through on those efforts. But now, 10 years later, the Government of Liberia still hasn’t fully implemented those recommendations. Liberia, as the chairman pointed out, and the United States share close historical, political, and economic ties.
We in the United States are committed to helping Liberia prosper as a stable democracy. The 2017 elections were an important turning point. This was the country’s first peaceful democratic transition of power since 1944.
Today’s measure rightly congratulates Liberia for this achievement. For Liberia to fully move forward, it must deal with its past. So this resolution urges Liberia to implement the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
There must be justice and accountability for the atrocities committed during Liberia’s Civil War. Mr. Speaker, the resolution before us today is a very important step to continue our strong relationship with Liberia, and I am happy to support it.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time. Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to reclaim the time I previously yielded back.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California? VerDate Sep 11 2014 04:01 Nov 14, 2018
with HOUSE November 13, 2018 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD —
HOUSE H9493 There was no objection. Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. DONOVAN), an esteemed Member from the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the author of the resolution.
b 1730 Mr. DONOVAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H. Res. 1055, to affirm strong United States-Liberian ties and support for democratic principles, and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia. My district, Staten Island and South Brooklyn, is home to thousands of Liberians who have fled the turbulence of civil war.
My constituents have directly told me how important it is to them that Liberia establish an extraordinary war crimes tribunal. At this very moment, people who have committed unspeakable war crimes hold positions in the Liberian Government. Murder, rape, mutilation, torture, unfortunately, Liberia has seen it all.
Although it has been decades since these atrocities have occurred, wounds cannot be healed without justice for victims. Moreover, this lack of accountability is leading Liberia into a slow creep backwards towards the murderous mayhem of its civil war days.
Without the justice Liberians are rightfully clamoring for, I fear there will be further violence and turbulence. This is why it is so crucial to call upon Liberia to establish a war crimes tribunal. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have had the great pleasure of working with Chairman ROYCE and Ranking Member ENGEL and the chairman of my subcommittee, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey.
The bipartisan manner in which they have conducted committee business in order to move impactful and consequential legislation is something truly to be admired and replicated. Thank you, Chairman ROYCE. Thank you to Chairman ROYCE, Ranking Member ENGEL, Chairman SMITH, and my Democratic coleader, Congressman HANK JOHNSON, and all of our other cosponsors for supporting this resolution.
I would also like to thank the committee staff, especially Meg Gallagher, Sean ONeill, and Marie Spear, for their work on this matter. I urge all my colleagues to support this resolution and continue to seek justice across the globe.
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my time. Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. SMITH), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. Res. 1055, offered by my good friend and colleague, DAN DONOVAN.
This is an important piece of legislation. It underscores the unfinished business towards Liberia. Liberia is one of our best friends and allies, historically to the present day, for very many reasons, including the fact that freed men and women and former slaves from this country went back and helped to make Liberia what it is today.
Unfortunately, they have had people like Charles Taylor, a despotic leader who killed and maimed and enabled gross rape. He, personally, has been held to account by the Court for Sierra Leone. We all know that David Crane, chief prosecutor, who has testified before my subcommittee on several occasions, did a wonderful job in bringing large numbers of people to justice.
Charles Taylor, for example, got 50 years. I will never forget that infamous photo of Taylor looking down at the floor, never thinking that he would get a 50-year jail term for his crimes. But there are many others who never got prosecuted.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission made serious recommendations that have not been implemented, including establishment of a criminal tribunal for Liberia.
The time has come. DAN DONOVAN’s bill puts the House clearly on record in saying we think this needs to be done, and it needs to be done now. I thank him for his leadership. On the subcommittee, he has been a great voice of reason and strength, as well as for human rights, particularly for those in Liberia.
Last September, he chaired one of our hearings on Liberia, and I thought he did a masterful job, and I want to thank him for that leadership. Mr. Speaker, this is an important bipartisan bill. I urge its passage. Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to close. I yield myself the balance of my time. I again want to thank Mr. DONOVAN and Chairman ROYCE for their work on this effort.
We want to ensure that the U.S. continues to enjoy its centurieslong relationship with Liberia. The measure puts the United States on record again, once again, encouraging Liberia in the right direction toward democratic stability and accountability.
So I urge all Members to support this resolution, and I yield back the balance of my time. Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Speaker, in closing, I thank my colleagues. I thank Representatives DAN DONOVAN and HANK JOHNSON for their work on this legislation, as well as CHRIS SMITH, ELIOT ENGEL, and KAREN BASS for their support.
The U.S. stands by the Liberian people, those living in Liberia, and the diaspora in their continued efforts for a more prosperous and a more democratic Liberia. Reconciliation from the atrocities of the past is an important step in this process and will ensure peace, and it will ensure that the stability remains.
The U.S. must continue to support civil society, rule of law, and good governance to strengthen democratic institutions. I urge my colleagues to support this important measure, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Res. 1055, legislation affirming the United States’ strong relationship with Liberia. Liberia gives us hope that if we are willing to face truth of our past there can be hope for unity after devastating divisions. It takes courage to honestly face your history and find ways to move forward as a country. We must commit to supporting and encouraging this burgeoning democracy. It has been an honor to work with my colleague Rep. DONOVAN. I am encouraged by his commitment to this cause. I am pleased to stand before you today to voice my unwavering support for H. Res. 1055 and ask for yours as well.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. ROYCE) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, H. Res. 1055. The question was taken; and (twothirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the resolution was agreed to. A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.