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U.S. House approves War Crimes Tribunal

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The United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed Resolution 1055, affirming strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles, and calling for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

According to records of proceedings and debates of the 115th Congress, Second Session held Tuesday, 13 November in Washington, D.C., the resolution as read by the Clerk, the U.S. House of Congress upholds its commitment to maintain and foster the enduring relationship between the people and the Governments of the United States and Liberia.

Resolution 1055 was introduced by outgoing Republican Lawmaker DAN DONOVAN of New York’s Staten Island, which one of the highest Liberian inhabitants in America and co-sponsored by HANK JOHNSON

It urges the Government and people of Liberia to support the truth and reconciliation process through full implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal.

It supports efforts by the Department of State and United States Agency for International Development to advance Liberian efforts toward national reconciliation through continued support for the rule of law, effective governance, and the robust role of civil society.

Speaking on the floor, Congressman Ed Royce of California expressed strong support for Resolution 1055, thanks Representative DONOVAN and Representative JOHNSON for their work on the resolution.

He notes that during his time as chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, hearings were held and legislation pushed to bring attention to the brutal civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone that killed 200,000 people and displaced more than 1 million, one of whom was also an orphan, who eventually worked in his office in Congress.

Congressman Royce: We heard testimony, for example, also, from a young girl no more than 10 years old who recounted the atrocities she, herself, endured during the war, a gruesome illustration of the horrific and lasting impact this conflict had on the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

He says the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee worked across party lines and alongside the international community and alongside the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone to apprehend Charles Taylor, adding, “And I would like to thank our staff director, Tom Sheehy, for his help in this regard.”

“Today, Charles Taylor remains behind bars. In 2003, the Government of Liberia, rebel groups, and political parties signed a comprehensive peace agreement.”

He reminded that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to ensure justice for the people of Liberia.

“This would be along the same lines of what we had worked to effectively establish for the people of Sierra Leone in terms of their special court. Unfortunately, however, this war crimes tribunal for Liberia has never been established, although Liberian Government figures and Liberian activists alike have continued to call for one”, Royce adds.

He says this resolution repeats this important call, which has enabled them to turn the page on this horrific chapter in Liberia’s history. “In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there officially ended. It is not often we get to celebrate the successful end of a mission, and we remember the 202 peacekeepers that lost their lives to bring peace and to bring stability to the region.”

Outgoing Rep. DONOVAN notes that his constituents have directly told him how important it is to them that Liberia establishes an extraordinary war crimes tribunal and that at this very moment, people who have committed unspeakable war crimes hold positions in the Liberian Government.

“Although it has been decades since these atrocities have occurred, wounds cannot be healed without justice for victims. Moreover, this lack of accountability is leading Liberia into a slow creep backwards towards the murderous mayhem of its civil war days”, he emphasizes.

The passage of Resolution 1055 by the U.S. House of Representatives is the first major step by the United States to stamp out impunity here amidst pessimism among some Liberians, including ex-warlords currently in government that war crimes tribunal for Liberia is a far-fetched reality with increasing threats of returning to the bushes. Story by Jonathan Browne

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