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No amnesty for war criminals

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-Sen. Wesseh

River Gee County Senator and stalwart of the Unity Party, Conmany Wesseh says there will be no amnesty for war criminals especially, people who fully participated either as perpetrators or accomplices during the 14 years of civil wars in Liberia.

Speaking in an interview with this paper over the weekend, Senator Wesseh, who is a signatory to the Accra Peace Accord which gives birth to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said the document did not at given space to grant amnesty to war criminals contrary to claim by some war actors.

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He explains that the establishment of a war crimes court for the country is necessary so those who reportedly committed crimes against humanity can answer their charges and that others want to explain what actually happened during the bloody civil crises that left at least 250,000 persons dead, including women and children.

Sen. Wesseh notes that being prosecuted in court does not necessarily make a suspect guilty, as some alleged perpetrators too may just want to clear their names from allegations levied against them.

A former student leader and ambassador during the regime of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, he clarifies the Act that established the TRC says it should recommend amnesty under terms and conditions of application of individual person making full disclosure of their wrongs and thereby expressing remorse for their acts. 

According to him, some actors are yet to show the sound of remorse especially, during the thematic hearings of the TRC back in 2007/2008, underscoring to create a balance between perpetrators and victims, there’s a need for the establishment of a war crimes court.

However, he points out that taking into count the competing national demands with a limited national budget, it appears that the establishment of the court is far-fetch.

He says establishing such a court requires huge funding that will be used to gather evidence, materials, logistics, and hire professionals.

He cautions Liberians not to engage the establishment of the court with emotions as those accused are not yet guilty or there’s nothing yet to prove guilt.

Commenting on the role of Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson, who commanded the rebels’ Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia in the wars, he says it would have been expedient for Senator Johnson to have rescues himself from discussions surrounding the establishment of said court.  

Sen. Johnson has repeatedly maintained that he along with or warlords who signed the Peace Accord enjoy amnesty, and are, therefore, protected from prosecution.

Wesseh continues that though Senator Johnson is part of the Senate leadership, it would have been professional enough and given the Senate a breathing space was the Nimba Senator to have stepped aside during matters relating to the war crimes court discussion.

He argues that for Senator PYJ to have signed the Senate Leadership’s recent recommendation on the TRC Report to President George Manneh Weah harms the image of the report.

“His presence along and signing of the report undermines the credibility of the report. He’s an actor and key one forming part of the discussion leading or calling for the establishment of the war crimes court is a dark cloud created already,” the River Gee Lawmaker says.

Asked whether he (Wesseh) fears Senator Johnson, who slain President Samuel Doe in 1990, the former ambassador recalls that he played even more fearful roles while serving as an advisor to former interim president Amos Sawyer, moving between battle lines and warring factions.   

The TRC Final Report release in 2008, recommends prosecution for key actors, including warlords who allegedly committed heinous crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Senate Leadership at the Capitol on June 22, 2021, released a 21-page recommendation to President George M. Weah, among others, calling for the establishment of a Transitional Justice Commission instead of a war crimes court, to carry out restorative justice rather than retributive justice.

The document was signed by nine members of the 30-seated Senate, including Senator Prince Y. Johnson and Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie. 

The Leadership asked the President to offer an official apology on behalf of the Republic to the thousands of victims and Liberians generally for its role in the protracted conflict. https://thenewdawnliberia.com/senate-recommends-transition-justice-commission-instead-of-war-crimes-court/-By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor, Editing by Jonathan Browne

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