Liberia doesn’t need referendum for war crimes tribunal

Liberia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Milton Gbehzongar Findley thinks a referendum is necessary in determining whether or not, the country should establish a war crimes tribunal to prosecute former warlords and ex-fighters who committed heinous crimes and crimes against humanity during the Liberian Civil War. But we respectfully differ with the Minister that Liberians should go to referendum to bring war and economic criminals to book.

Minister Findley reportedly said on a local radio talk show in Monrovia that a referendum is the most likely option to deciding on establishing any war crimes court for Liberia. “I understand that there are Liberians who want the war crimes court but also what are the results from the majority of the people of the country? Do we go to a referendum for this? Let’s go to a referendum. If people are not happy then let’s advocate for a referendum for the Liberian people to decide the way forward on this matter”, Findley said on a recent talk show.

His comment seems to suggest Liberians first need to vote on adhering to international criminal law that has no status of limitation. In other words, whether majority of Liberians are supportive or against prosecution of people who allegedly committed heinous crimes and crimes against humanity such as massacres and other mass killings that occurred here, they have no choice because it’s beyond the jurisdiction of Liberia.

We must conform as a member of the comity of nations, for how could we have, as a nation, turned to the international community for help after butchering one another for more than a decade and now want to brush aside sincere effort by the very international community to help us keep impunity in check? It is just not understandable, but highly deceitful to want to portray such posture.

Lest we forget, it took huge resources and human sacrifice of the international community to ensure cessation of hostilities, disarmament of belligerent armed factions, and conduct of free, fair democratic elections to restore Liberia as member of the comity of nations and the corresponding peace we enjoy today. And a key foundation for genuine and sustainable peace in any nation is justice, which we shouldn’t ignore.

This is why U.S. Congressman Representative Don Donovan terms Foreign Minister Findley’s proposition as not only vague, but falls short of a genuine and robust commitment to establishing a war crimes tribunal for Liberia.

In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as published in Monrovia, Congressman Donovan reminds that from 1991 to 2002, civil war devastated both Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the violence took the lives of over 200,000 people, displaced over 1,000,000 persons and saw horrific cases of murder, amputation, mass rape, and other human rights abuses, saying, “The heinous crimes that occurred during this time are unspeakable, yet many of the perpetrators hold positions in Liberia’s government.

Specifically, he points that with the presence of Senator Prince Y. Johnson and others, the world is watching Liberia’s slowly creep backwards towards the murderous mayhem of its civil war era, and crave intervention of the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State to encourage Monrovia to establish a war crimes tribunal for the country.

We agreed with Representative Donovan that the last thing the rest of the world, wants to see in Liberia is the cycle of violence start yet again. He fears that is exactly what would happen should the perpetrators of vicious crimes be allowed to escape responsibility, as Liberia’s Foreign Minister Milton Gbehzongar Findley seems to be insinuating by calling for a referendum to establish a war crime tribunal.

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