As U.S. seeks answers to TRC recommendations
By Bridgett Milton
A special envoy of the United States Government is in Liberia to seek clarity on delays in implementing recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released since 2006.
The Ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice from the Office of Global Criminal Justice in Washington, DC, Beth Van Schaack, says she is in the country to hear from the Government of Liberia what are the hitches preventing implementation of the TRC report.
According to Ambassador Schaack, she has studied the Liberian system and read the TRC report, which she says was excellent in gathering views of all survivors, and thinks the Commission came up with recommendations that are yet to be implemented.
“One of the reasons for my visit here is to better understand what is happening with the implementation [of] the recommendation from the TRC; as you also know, there has [been] no accountability here, on the criminal side or the civil side for those that were responsible for those crimes and abuses, but instead, we see a number of cases elsewhere and I hope this will reflect the U.S. government’s support for accountability because we’ve done cases in our own system. You may be aware of the name Moses Thomas, who was found liable for his involvement in the Lutheran Church Massacre, Chucky Taylor, who is serving a 97-year sentence for torturing people”, she recounted here Thursday, 6 October in a news conference held at the Embassy of the United States near Monrovia.
She describes the TRC recommendations as very important to the entire world and adds that she is also in Liberia to look at corruption, including sanctions announced by the United States against some Liberian officials with impunity becoming widespread.
“Finding way to increase accountability within our system will go a long in the rule of law and make people believe in the rule of law and have faith in the justice system”, Ambassador Schaack further underscores.
Earlier, the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael A. McCarthy, commended President Weah for his impactful remarks at the 77th United Nations General Assembly last month, where he stood on the global stage and pledged his government’s commitment to fostering an environment for the conduct of free, fair, transparent, and inclusive elections in 2023.
Ambassador McCarthy said the U.S. government fully supports this commitment and looks forward to representatives of every other political party in the country stepping out to issue similar pledges of peace in the pending election cycle.
Among others, the TRC final report released in 2006, recommended the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia and listed key actors from the Liberian Civil War, including corporations and institutions for prosecution.
The Commission also recommended names of individuals to be barred from public office for 30 years, including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, under whose administration the final report of the TRC was released.
It asked the Government of Liberia to establish a National Palava Hut Forum as a complementary tool for justice and national reconciliation, but that people listed for commission of international crimes should face prosecution in court.
But a resolution issued late last year by the Leadership of the Liberian Senate vehemently kicked against prosecution or war crimes court. Instead, it called for a transitional justice framework to address issues recommended by the Commission.
The Senate called on President George Weah to establish a Transitional Justice Commission to determine whether the TRC fully complied with its mandates, such as face-to-face meetings with perpetrators of crimes and other offenses, and their victims; to examine the effect of the August 2003 Act of the Legislature, which granted general amnesty to all participants from the civil crisis, and to examine the effect of the ratification/ascension of Liberia to the Rome Statue in 2014 (after the end of the civil crisis) on the establishment of a crimes court.
The senate also called on the President to consider separation of war crimes court, which it says has international dimension, from the establishment of an economic crimes court that already exists within Liberia’s judiciary, and for which prosecution can take place, using domestic law, and to determine why the TRC Recommendations have not been implemented, among others.
Prior to his election, Mr. Weah had promised to implement the TRC recommendations, but after taking power, he has become very reluctant, as he asked before the UN years ago why was his government being pressurized. Editing by Jonathan Browne