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Crime & PunishmentGeneralLiberia news

Senate signs war crimes court resolution

The resolution, earlier forwarded to the Liberian Senate by the House of Representatives, has divided lawmakers because some have demanded impunity.

Monrovia, April 10, 2024: The Liberian Senate’s plenary unanimously signed a Joint Resolution calling for establishing a War and Economic Crimes Court to end Liberia’s culture of impunity.

The resolution earlier signed by majority members of the House of Representatives was forwarded to the Liberian Senate, craving its concurrence upon a thorough review.

28 of the 29 members of the Senate affixed their signatures to the document on Tuesday, 9 April 2024, including Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson and Grand Gedeh County Senator Thomas Yaya Nimely.

Both men have been fierce opponents of the establishment of the court in recent weeks, often claiming that it will not solve Liberia’s problems. 

For decades, Liberians have been requesting the establishment of the war and economic crimes court to ensure accountability for those responsible for atrocities and economic crimes committed during and after the country’s civil war.

Approximately 250,000 lives were lost during Liberia’s civil conflict, and properties worth millions of dollars were destroyed.

Economic crimes and other abuses continue in the country even after the war because there has been no precedent to deter these crimes.

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The Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Claims and Petitions, Sinoe County Senator Cllr. Augustine Chea told the plenary that the document signed by the Liberian Senate is entirely new.

He said the Senate is now sending the instrument back to the House of Representatives for concurrence before its submission to the Office of the President of the Republic.

Different political maneuverings stalled previous efforts to establish the court largely blamed on the Senate for acting as an obstructionist organ of the Legislature, probably due to some Senators’ links to past atrocities.

It is not clear how this new version from the Senate might be treated in the House of Representatives or how long it will take before it finally gets legislative passage and is submitted to the Executive branch.

The document said the newly established Extraordinary Criminal Court shall be known as the UN-backed “Special War Crimes Court for Liberia (SWACCOL).” 

It shall be mandated to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibilities for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between 1979 and 2003 under Article 34(f).

Consistent with Article 34(e)(b)(j)(l) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, it said the Executive shall develop a legal framework and submit it to the Legislature for enactment into law for the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Court (ACC) focusing from 1979 to 2003.

The agreement also said the President shall write the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States Government expressing the Liberian Government’s intention to establish the Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal on Liberian soil or to a country to be designated.

It continues that the Liberian Leader shall further request financial and other assistance, develop a financial resource mobilization plan, and submit it to the United Nations, the EU, the US Government, and other international partners to seek financial and economic support for the court’s establishment and operations.

The instrument mandates that the President report to the Legislature on the progress made in establishing the two courts and on challenges or outcomes of his engagements with the United Nations, the EU, the US Government, and other international partners.

According to the resolution, it demands an update regarding the resource mobilization plan and results, including domestic resource mobilization through the budgetary process.

The instrument said, “That consistent with Chapter 2, Article 5(c) of the 1986 Constitution, the President shall issue an Executive Order to establish the Office of War Crimes (OWC) within the Ministry of Justice.”

He further mandates the president to appoint a Special Envoy or Officer-In-Charge (OIC) duly certified by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, or the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) or any other International Courts and Tribunals.

The legislative instrument demands that the appointee have the relevant experience, qualification, and competence in international criminal law and practice to organize and coordinate all actions and activities regarding the Court.

The appointee is mandated to assist the president in mobilizing resources and do all that is legally feasible, including establishing a secretariat, where applicable, to facilitate its operations and the successful implementation of its mandate, among other things.

It said these actions mandate shall be undertaken in consultation with the UN, the EU, the US, and other independent parties.

The Joint Resolution furthered that to jump-start this renewed campaign of national reconciliation and healing as the final phase of Liberia’s recovery process, the President shall implement certain recommendations of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

It said the president shall offer an apology on behalf of the State to the many victims and the people of Liberia in general for its role in the conflict and the injuries and losses sustained by individuals and communities.

 It called on the Liberian Government to work with the United Nations, the EU, the US Government, and other international partners to set up a Reparation Trust Fund for victims and communities worst affected by the conflict.

The intent is to have these victims benefit through direct financial assistance or development programs and projects.

The document also wants the state to continue the National Palava Hut Program and other national healing, peacebuilding, and reconciliation programs.

It additionally ordered the construction of a national monument to commemorate the victims of the atrocities, to serve as a reminder of the war, and to create a national consciousness against armed conflicts.

 “Wherefore, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives hereunto affix their signatures this 8th day of April A. D. 2024,” the Joint Resolution stressed.

Meanwhile, the Joint Resolution is an initial step taken by the 55th National Legislature, as the full establishment of such a court shall be done through a bill or an act to be passed by the Legislature.

The Act or Bill must also be signed by the President and printed into a handbill for implementation.

The US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice, Dr. Alan White, who was seated in the chambers of the Liberian Senate, could not speak to the press because he would be meeting with the President of Liberia, Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai.

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One Comment

  1. The president of the Republic of Libera must not sign the bill of constructing war crimes facilities in the Republic of Liberia. The Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) does brought Liberians/ Liberia this far of reconstructing the democracy process and human rights tranquility Liberia/Liberians are experiencing today. The War Criminals Court lobbies Dr. Alan White is looking for more job by fostering the establishment of the War Criminal Court to create conflicts among peaceful Liberians to take us back into conflicts. Liberians did not manufactured animations and guns that were used to killed my father. It was these very people (international communities folks) that advocating for the establishment of the War Crimes Court they initiated the civil war that killed my father and make me to be in exile today. War Criminals Court is going creates problems and bring about another conflict in the future. So the president must not sign the bill of the ratification of War Criminals Court in the Republic of Liberia. I saw the fellows who killed my father and I forgiven them. Therefore, the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) preamble must be articulated by the president to strike down this nonprofits legislation.

    Thank you,
    Great Will

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