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Crime & PunishmentGeneralLiberia news

U.S. group conducts hearings on Liberia

- As GUJAN cautions Government of Liberia

A Liberian group is calling on the government to prioritize the establishment of war and economic crimes court for the country to nib the culture of impunity.  

Monrovia, Liberia, June 12, 2024 –As the United States-based Tom Lantus Human Rights Commission conducts a hearing on the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia, the Guide to Justice Action Network Liberia Incorporated, or GUJAN, cautions the Government of Liberia to treat calls for the establishment of a War and economic crimes court with utmost seriousness.

It says that as the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in America conducts today’s hearing on the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, the Liberian government should not treat this with lip service intended to settle political scores.

GUJAN, in a release, strongly cautions that Justice has nothing to do with politics and that the lives and well-being of human beings should never be treated or mixed with politics.

The group thanks President Joseph Nyuma Boakai and members of the 55th Legislature for mustering courage in taking significant steps to end the culture of impunity that has permeated Liberian society, but it stresses the need for more practical actions.

Executive Director, Attorney Abraham Wheon notes that since President Boakai signed Executive Order 0031, establishing the Office for War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia, said office is yet to be physically established with named personnel who shall occupy the office.

“It has been over a month since the President signed the Executive Order which emulated from a Joint Resolution of the national Legislature but since then there has been no further action taken to that effect thus leaving many to draw the conclusion that the process is going to be treated as business as usual.” Wheon points out.

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On May 2, 2024, President Boakai signed the Executive Order to establish the Office of a War and Economic Crimes Court – a major, long-awaited step toward redressing the wounds of the country’s civil wars.

The Office, according to the Executive Order, is empowered to “investigate, design, and prescribe the methodology, mechanisms, and the processes for the establishment of a Special War Crimes Court,” as well as a National Anti-Corruption Court. 

Atty. Wheon thanks the United States Government and other international partners for their sustained  interest in seeking to bring to an end the culture of impunity following Liberia’s most bitter past, adding that he welcomes today’s hearing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission under the topic “ Liberia: Next Steps Towards Accountability  for War and Economic Crimes Court”.

The Commission will hear from witnesses who will examine the legacy of Liberia’s civil wars on its people and economy, and steps for the Office of War and Economic Crimes Court, with appropriate recommendations to Congress. 

A release on the website of the TOM Lantos Human Rights Commission states that the hearing will be hybrid. Members of Congress will participate in person. Witnesses may participate in person or remotely via Cisco WebEx. The public and the media may attend in person or view the hearing by live webcast on the Commission’s website. 

Appearing for the hearings as witnesses are: Dr. Alan White, Co-Executive Director for the Advocacy Foundation for Human Rights. Dr. White is Former Chief of Investigations of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Other witnesses are Yahsyndi Martin-Kpeyei, Executive Director of the Movement for Justice for Liberia; Alvin Smith, Chief Investigator for the International Justice Group, Adama Kiatamba Dempster, National Secretary General, Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, and  Elizabeth Evenson, Director, International Justice Program, Human Rights Watch.

Liberians suffered untold human rights violations during the civil war, while perpetrators acted with near-complete impunity during the upheaval that caused the death of 250,000 persons, including women and children.

Thousands others were conscripted as child soldiers with rape uased as a weapon, but since the cessation of the 14-year crisis in 2003, not a single war crimes trial has occurred in Liberia.

GUJAN strongly believes that Justice can only be done or served when a clearly defined legal framework that would allow victims and perpetrators to faceoff in court to bring to closure the ugly memories. Press Release

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