Six members of the House of Representatives, all from the governing Coalition for Democratic Change, including Speaker Bhofal Chambers have refused to affix their signatures to a resolution, calling for the establishment of an extraordinary criminal court for Liberia to prosecute international crimes, particularly from the 14-year Liberian civil war.
However, more than two-thirds majority (50) of the 73-members House of Representatives signed the resolution, calling on President George Manneh Weah to contact the United Nations, international partners, institutions and civil society organizations for assistance to establish an extraordinary criminal court here that allows trials of international crimes in accordance with international standards and best practice.
The six CDC lawmakers who turned blind eyes on the document include Montserrado County District#5 Representative Thomas P. Fallah; Representative Solomon C. George of Monterrado District#7; Representative Acarous Moses Gray of Montserrado Distric#8; Montserrado District#9 Representative Munah E. Pelham Youngblood; Sinoe County District#2 Representative Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, and Speaker Bhofal Chambers of Maryland County District#2, respectively.
Representative Solomon C. George says he didn’t sign the resolution because according to him, it is untimely. He maintains that Liberia does not need a war crimes court, but an economic crimes court instead, that would help in retrieving some of the country’s stolen money.
The document, read and signed since July 18, 2019, had been held up in the House until last week, when it was made public amid public outcry for the constitution of said court.
It followed recent communication from President George Manneh Weah to members of the 54th Legislature, soliciting their advice on growing calls for the formulation of the court.
But the resolution notes that the matter regarding prosecution of international crimes, as recommended by final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia is overdue, calling on President George Manneh Weah to act effectively, immediately on said Legislative Enactment without seeking advice from the Legislature, because the TRC is already an Act of Enactment by the Legislature.
President Weah himself has been playing a devil’s advocate role on the matter, at one moment, seeking advice from the legislature on the way forward, while in another, going before the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations and questioning why the clamor for the international criminal court now under his presidency when previous Liberian administrations under which the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that gave birth to the TRC was signed, its work completed and recommendations made, were not pressurized for such court.
Returning home recently from the U.N., President Weah told journalists he had never been an advocate for war crimes court in Liberia.
However, the resolution, which originated from the Office of the Chairperson on Claims and Petition, Montserrado County District#4 Representative Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis, notes that the civil wars from 1989 to 2003 resulted in death and destruction across Liberia, including displacement of nearly half the population and horrific abuses, including summary executions, massacres, rape and other forms of sexual violence, mutilation and torture, forced conscription and use of child combatants.
It recalls that Article XIII (13) of the Liberian Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on August 18, 2003, 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 in Liberia. See page 10 for full text of the resolution and lawmakers’ signatures.