The issue of justice for the victimization of more than 250, 000 Liberians and wanton destruction which characterized Liberia’s years of intermittent civil wars continues to be at the core of radio news broadcasts and newspaper publications.
This matter has stimulated debates in many quarters of the Liberian society with substantial support for calls for the prosecution of those who committed the most heinous crimes during our civil conflicts, as well as others who also aided and abetted the commission of such heinous crimes against humanity.
Just recently, former warlord-turned politician Prince Y. Johnson hosted a news conference in Monrovia in reaction to a radio news broadcast attributed to the Independent Commission on Human Rights or INCHR. The Commission was quoted as saying that it was preparing a list of individuals who committed the most heinous crimes in Liberia’s wars for submission to the International Criminal Court or ICC in The Hague.
The crust of Senator Johnson’s outburst was that if he should be taken to The Hague to answer questions to alleged crimes against humanity as recommended by the final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or TRC, it must be legally done through the Liberian Legislature and not on the basis of what he referred to as “cro-cro-gee”.
The former Field Marshall of the break-away INPFL faction of the National Patriotic front of Liberia or NPFL organized in the United States of America as the military wing of the Association for Constitution Democracy in Liberia or ACDL to violently remove the Samuel Kanyon Doe Administration from state power further argued that while he was not afraid to face justice before the World Crimes Court (ICC) being cognizant of the fact that the judges there would be foreigners and would not want to prejudice the trial, he’s also informed about an amnesty clause in the TRC final report which pardons former warlords, expressing the hope that such aspect of the report would be thoroughly discussed by the Liberian Legislature to give the process legal backing and not just to satisfy the desires of a few people.
Another issue of equal prominence in Senator Johnson’s recent reaction was the prosecution of a number of Liberians, including Mr. Harry Greaves, ‘Human Rights Advocate’ Ezekiel Pajepo and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who allegedly lobbied and used all of their international connections to finance Liberia’s civil wars to include the NPFL. In other words, the former INPFL Field Marshall is suggesting that if the former President of Liberia, Mr. Charles G. Taylor could be taken to The Hague for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone, it would be fair enough for President Sirleaf and others equally mentioned in the TRC Recommendations for their respective roles in our country’s civil wars to answer questions before the ICC.
While the Independent National Human Rights Commission in its recent clarification, through its Acting Chairman James Torh may have disassociated itself from the statement issued by one of its Commissioners, Thomas Bureh as his “personal opinion” on grounds that it had at no time decided to even discuss sending anyone to the ICC, it was also important for the Commission to provide additional explanations as to why would one of its Commissioners choose to abruptly proceed with such public pronouncement if and only if nothing of such nature had not at all been discussed or decided.
In as much as the arguments being raised by former warlord Prince Y. Johnson may be something to generate a nation-wide debate in consonance with the adage that “when you haul rope, that rope will also haul bush”, the INCHR must harbor no fear or embarrassment about forwarding warlords and their backers to The Hague because the Final TRC Report empowers it to do so – it’s their job….
To prevent future recurrence of the fratricidal situations of our country or violence of any sort, as well as the belief by politically greedy individuals that war or violence is always the answer to our political problems in Liberia, all warlords and their supporters must be given the opportunity to exonerate themselves from allegations of the commission of crimes against the people of Liberia during our civil wars not only in consonance with the TRC Report, but also Liberian and international humanitarian laws.
Be it leaders and politicians of the Association for Constitution Democracy in Liberia or ACDL who organized the NPFL led by the late former Commanding General Thomas G. Quiwonkpa and Major Charles G. Taylor or those who formed and commanded the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia or ULIMO J and K, justice must prevail; whether it is the leadership of the Liberia Peace Council or LPC or Movement for Democracy in Liberia or MODEL, they all must answer to the alleged commission of crimes against humanity in Liberia; and of course, the hierarchy of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy or LURD and all who aided and abetted the wars in Liberia must also face the world crimes court just as former President Taylor in the Sierra Leonean situation without fear or favor.
And even if this current administration does not ensure the expeditious implementation of the TRC Report or submission of warlords and their backers to the ICC for prosecution, future administrations could be pressurized by the people of Liberia to do so.
Let justice be done to all as we look at the International Criminal Court or ICC in helping to dispense justice here and prevent the recurrence of the bitter past.