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Talks in Monrovia to domesticate arms laws

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Liberian authorities and international partners have ended a three – day engagement aimed at addressing three pertinent conventions on the control of arms by domesticating the Geneva Convention, Kampala Convention and Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).


Climaxing the meeting Friday, 25 May at ECOWAS Radio Compound, Small Arms Commissioner Benoni Knuckles said they addressed three pertinent conventions last week that Liberia is already signatory to, including the Kampala Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty and the Geneva Convention.

He says they discussed the Geneva Convention and they want to consolidate the draft to prepare for submission, hoping that by September, they can go to the Legislature.

According to Mr. Knuckles, Liberia has passed the Firearms Act, and they are now working on the Arms Transfer Law with a decision whether to make that part of the Firearms Law or to make it a separate law.

Mr. Knuckles recalls that Liberia has experienced war which has devastated the lives of people who are impacted in different ways. He observes that Liberia didn’t have any kind of control mechanism or system to penalize some of the actors, so these laws that are being looked at today concern disciplinary actions against those who may commit war crimes.

Fortunately, he says, the ECOWAS Convention has already set the pace for its member states, adding that if Liberia has to order arms, all the member states will know what arms Liberia is ordering and they will have to approve of it.

He says even if a country ordered arms, they might end up in the wrong hands. As such, he notes that last year, the Liberia Humanitarian Law Committee (LIHCL) worked with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to integrate the IHL into its training program.

He says it enables AFL officers to be aware of the consequences of their actions when they go on international peacekeeping operations, and they are more careful when they deal with people who might be impacted such as civilians or prisoners of war.

He concludes that AFL officers are aware of the rules of engagement that previously they were not aware of, making them to conduct themselves in the right manner so that lives can be saved and peace can be maintained.

Earlier, ICRC which supports the meeting in Monrovia says it is glad that it partnerships with the International Humanitarian Law Committee (IHL) in this process.

ICRC Rep. Charles Garmodeh Kpan, Sr. says three thematic areas discussed during their engagement last week covered the issue of the IHL including the Kampala Convention, Arms Trade Treaty and the Geneva Convention.

He says the ICRC is committed to working with the committee to make sure that they come to the end of their journey which is ensuring that the laws that they are discussing will be domesticated.

Also speaking, ICRC Regional Rep. Ms. Myriam Raymond – Jette thanked all participants for the interactive sessions held on the Kampala Convention, the ATT and the Geneva Convention, hoping that the activities in Liberia can serve as example for collaboration in many other member states.

She assures that ICRC stands ready to continue to give support in the drafting of the law and promoting awareness with lawmakers about the issues being discussed now.
ECOWAS Volunteers Program Country Coordinator Ms. Bukola Ayoola says the three days have been very fruitful, expressing ECOWAS’ hope that domestication of the Kampala Convention, Arms Trade Treaty and the Geneva Convention will be well implemented to ensure the peace building process and guarantee sustainable development here.

By Winston W. Parley

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