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Justice still eludes Liberian war victims

- U.S. Ambassador-At-Large raises concern in letter

U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Beth Van Schaack, who visited Liberia recently to gather updates on the implementation of the TRC recommendation, has written Liberians an open letter, noting that 

Liberia faces many challenges relative to justice and accountability, not only for the terrible war crimes committed during two consecutive civil wars but also for subsequent crimes and corruption.

Ambassador-At-Large Schaack visited Liberia in November to gather firsthand information about delays over implementation of the TRC recommendation.

In her open letter dated Tuesday, December 13, 2022, she notes that despite the TRC’s recommendation to establish an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia, with a mandate to investigate war crimes and economic crimes, the only justice Liberians have enjoyed to date has occurred in foreign courts.

Amb.  Schaack details that this includes the recent verdict in France against Kunti Kamara, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for complicity in crimes against humanity, torture, and acts of barbarism, while currently, two cases are proceeding in U.S. courts against former rebel general Laye Sekou Camara and former Armed Forces of Liberia commander Moses Wright for charges related to misrepresenting their wartime conduct on immigration forms in attempts to evade accountability.

“My visit followed on the heels of a civil judgment in Pennsylvania against Moses Thomas, establishing his liability for the Lutheran Church massacre and resulting in an $84 million damages award to victims. Because he absconded from the United States, this judgment has never been paid. And just before my delegation and I arrived in Liberia, a suit was filed in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice on behalf of the survivors of the massacre at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church”, she says. Survivors are claiming that Liberia has failed to provide victims justice.

Amb. Schaack cautions that impunity is corrosive; when allowed to flourish in one sector, it will undermine the foundations of peace and the rule of law across an entire society.

However, she observes that these cases outlined would not be possible without the amazing work of the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) and other Liberian and international civil society actors who have rigorously, reliably, and with unwavering integrity worked to keep the dream of justice alive.

She says Liberians can be proud of the work of their compatriots in the GJRP who are working hard to support war crimes accountability, and they should also be concerned, as she is, that the GJRP’s work has resulted in threats and intimidation against its staff members.

She notes that during her recent visit here, it was inspiring to hear such a sustained desire for justice from Liberians, and commends those who shared their thoughts and hopes with her.

At the same time, she hopes that these aspirations, and expectations, will be met by those entrusted with the power to fulfil them, in service of the lasting and just peace the people of Liberia deserve.

She reiterates that the overwhelming message gathered from the visit was a call for those with the power to do so to implement the important recommendations of the 2009 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC).

The stresses that these recommendations reflect the wisdom of Liberian leaders and experts in law, human rights, theology, and journalism, as the TRC commissioners were tasked with the awesome responsibility of generating a framework to prevent a return to mass violence in Liberia, answer the call of victims and survivors for justice and hold accountable those most responsible for war crimes and other atrocities during the 14-year bloody civil war in the country that left about 200,000 people dead.

Previous and current Liberian administrations have been reluctant in responding to calls to make key actors from the war account for their roles with Ex-generals appointed and elected in government in what has clearly seen a nurture of impunity. Story by Jonathan Browne


The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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