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Good start towards War Crimes Tribunal

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The Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives in its 115th Congress, Second Session took a giant step last Tuesday, 13 November by passing House Resolution 1055, calling for the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

The is the first concrete effort by the United States Government to make war criminals in Liberia account for their actions during the country’s 14 years civil war besides arresting, deporting and prosecuting former warlords who committed heinous crimes and crimes against humanity here, including arming child soldiers.

Among others, the U.S. House of Representatives upholds its commitment to maintain and foster the enduring relationship between the people and the Governments of the United States and Liberia, while
urging 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.

It also supports efforts by the Department of State and the 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.

While most ordinary Liberians are supportive of the formation of a war tribunal that would see key actors of the country’s darkest period account for their deeds, others in government and sympathizers think this is an attempt to target individuals unnecessarily, arguing that the past is now behind us, and we should move ahead, howbeit, compromising impunity.

But the United States of America, Liberia’s traditional and historical friend, and rest of the international community firmly believes it’s time to keep impunity in check.

The drafter of Resolution 1055, former Republican Lawmaker Daniel Donovan says wounds from atrocities such as rape, murder, amputation, massacres, among others cannot be healed without justice for victims. Moreover, he notes, this lack of accountability is leading Liberia into a slow creep backwards towards the murderous mayhem of its civil war days.

He fears that without justice, Liberia risks further violence and turbulence. And the writings are on the wall here with vicious individuals, some of them ex-warlords threatening to initiate renewed violence.

Indeed, we agreed with former Congressman Donovan that, unless we as a nation, allow the rule of law to take its course, Liberia would continue to wallop in a vicious cycle of violence. Once, there is no measure of deterrence in place, former and new groups could take up arms and jump in the bush again under the pretext of liberation.

Neighboring Sierra Leone and other countries on the Continent such as Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo yielded to war crimes courts; Liberia should not be an exception.

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