Leaders of the National International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Committee comprising the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Red Cross of Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, Sierra Leone and host Liberia are in Monrovia discussing National IHL Committee mandate, composition and establishing instrument to insist on their functioning and IHL priorities’ implementation.
The Peer – to – Peer Exchange Meeting on practical guidance towards active national IHL Committees in Commonwealth and English-Speaking Nations of West Africa creates the opportunity for peers to meet and share experiences and to find solutions to obstacles facing national committees.
Opening the meeting, Monday, 28 October in Sinkor, Liberia’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs Cllr. Deweh Gray expressed hope that at the end of the meeting it will be seen that “we’re moving forward” in terms of countries respecting all conventions on IHL that “we are a signatory to.”
Cllr. Gray notes that these meetings provide the opportunity for peers to meet, network, share experiences … and see how others are overcoming some of the obstacles facing their own national committees.She explains so far that the Liberian committee has not had any major obstacle or setback from government officials, saying they have always been available to help.
“Our partners in the Legislature have been able to come to our meetings and help us discuss these issues, show us ways in which we can put forth our national legislation for enactment,” she explains.
The Deputy Foreign Minister hopes that [Liberia] would be able to boast of legislating or domesticating the IHL instruments into its own national laws.From the perspective of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she says the Ministry does all it can to ensure that legislations emanating from the national committee are transmitted to the office of the president and onward to the Legislature for domestication and enactment.
In remarks, River Gee County Sen. Conmany B. Wesseh observes that since the war ended here, there has been growing call about dealing with issues of crimes against humanity, war crimes and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process, which are post arms conflict concerns.
According to Sen. Wesseh, what they are trying to deal with are issues that prepare people to know that a day might come when there is any conflict, you know there is a question to answer if crimes or acts that are not humane are committed.
“We are prepared to champion the cause of ratification for whatever law we haven’t ratified yet,” he says.Also making remarks, Lofa County Sen. Steve Zargo expresses appreciation to the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) for abiding by the Rules of Engagement.
“Today we’re proud that even where they are contributing to peace in Mali … they have been rated high,” Sen. Zargo says.For his part, Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) Mr. Jerome N.J. Clarke,II, says the IHL today remains unchanging, relevant and uncompromising.
Mr. Clarke urges the need to push forward IHL priorities in the West African region and consolidate efforts and resources, cooperate, plan better in sharing experiences and promoting best practices toward better national implementation of IHL.
In Liberia, Mr. Clarke indicates that the Red Cross is stepping up to the ICRC in providing training and dissemination on IHL to the Armed Forces of Liberia, the police and other security agencies.
While Liberia no longer experiences armed conflict, Mr. Clarke notes that it is expedient to work together with the army to ensure full compliance with the IHL especially at the time the country is contributing to the UN Peace Keeping Mission in Mali.
“Furthermore, Liberia through its IHL committee has made significant progress toward the domestication process. A bill has been drafted and ready for submission before the Liberian legislature for enactment into law,” he reveals.
He also references a promised strong legislative backing on the speedy domestication of the Convention.
“Finally, the objective of this 2-day peer-to-peer exchange meeting is not only to discuss National IHL Committee mandate/composition/establishing instrument, but also to insist on their functioning, resources and working procedure to push forward the implementation of IHL priorities, funding from a more pragmatic perspective,” he concludes.By Winston W. Parley