The leader of the opposition political party Alternative National Congress (ANC) Alexander B. Cummings, voices his support for the establishment of war and economic crimes court for Liberia to ensure justice, accountability and end impunity here.
In a live address to Liberians Sunday, May 23, 2021 in Monrovia, he said placing individuals above the law, and not holding each other fully accountable for crimes, are practices that have kept the country backward for far too long, saying “This is why I support the establishment of a war crimes court, and a court on economic crimes.”
Mr. Cummings argues that these courts will help Liberians to find justice for victims, and hopefully, lay painful memories of loved ones, and innocent souls to deserved eternal rests.
He also believes they will also lift the weight off the shoulders of accused persons who believe themselves to be innocent or wrongly accused, noting that a court is not just a place to seek punishment, but a place to find truth, to award justice, and to set the innocent or wrongly accused, free.
“Importantly also, these courts will help us heal, be reconciled, and not continue to live in fear of each other. And especially for a court on economic crimes, I believe it ought not to be limited to only the commission of economic crimes during the war but that it must have jurisdictions to deal with current and future economic crimes such as stealing from the people, and passing deals that cheats Liberia and Liberians.”
Mr. Cummings cautions that turning a blind eye to crimes in the name of peace will give us no peace, so even if it is hard and creates fears, Liberians must find the way to achieve it. “We must also find the help we will need to do it. But in the end, we must do it for ourselves, and for our children.”
He says if Liberia will dispense justice fairly and blindly to all who seek it, from rape and the acceptance of bribes by judges and other public officials to crimes against humanity and stealing from the Liberian people, it should be a country that will hold everyone accountable.
“When we do this, our children and their children will live in a more just, peaceful, prosperous and reconciled society than we have today”, he adds.
His comments comes just days after the United States Embassy in Monrovia condemned the election of notorious Liberian warlord Senate Prince Yormie Johnson by the Liberian Senate to chair its committee on defense and intelligence, and Senator Varney Sherman as chairperson on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions, respectively.
“We note as well the continuation of Counselor Varney Sherman, sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for corruption involving judicial bribery, as chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions. By giving Senators Johnson and Sherman these leadership roles,” the U.S. says, “the Senate is effectively ensuring that corruption and lack of accountability flourish.”
Mr. Cummings notes that once again, the careless and irresponsible attitude of the Liberian Government is being exposed, as under the George Weah-led Government, Liberia continues to be internationally disgraced, shamed and laughed at.
He says giving people justice and ending impunity are not issues over which any responsible government ought to wait to be publicly chastised by international partners, stressing, “These are things responsible governments do to cleanse the soul of a nation, and to keep countries secure, stable and peaceful.”
The ANC leader continues that Liberians have seen what it means for their country to breakdown and become lawless, so Liberia does not need to wait and be reminded to do the things it needs to do to build a more just society that will punish crimes.
However, it notes that is hard to stop stealing in government when the people who should be stopping the stealing, and setting the good examples by not stealing, are actually the rogues. “It is also hard to punish anyone for crimes, however bad, when the leaders are looking for special favors from the criminals, or are themselves, benefiting from the crimes.”
He says whether it is committed by Presidents, Ministers, a friend, opposition, or relative, stealing from the people is wrong, and Liberians cannot continue to pretend that one day, stealing in government will stop by itself, adding, “We have to stop it ourselves, because as we continue to see, it is keeping too many of our people poor.”
Reactions from Liberians are mixed to the establishment of the court with families of victims demanding justice and accountability, while those in authority, particularly former warlords in the 54th Legislature claiming immunity from prosecution despite recommendation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Story by Jonathan Browne