Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Charles Taylor Prince Johnson Alhaji Kromah & Others
According to the History of humankind, men & women in society were, and are, born free but were, and are, held in chains and human servitude with injustice and degradation everywhere characterized by racism, ethnic/tribal bigotry deeply-rooted in religious, economic and political jealousy/rivalry; war, destruction, human suffering and death; and that these historical conditions were, and are, motivated by or were the causes of some of the world’s past and recent-past Revolutions, notably, the American (1775), French (1789) and the Chinese (1946).
The African Problem
We, the Africans, still live in the ancient world of political tyranny of systemic destruction and death with modern weapons of mass destruction (Boko Haram, the religious, political jihadist and related extremist groups on the Continent come to mind). Indeed, that Africa and Liberia have a serious, deadly socio-economic and political problems of profound abuse of political power, especially, human rights violations is so obvious and so self-evident that it needs no analysis or lecture, but serious political/economic treatment.
Crucial, critical examples have been and are that African Heads of state or Presidents having achieved political power and tasted the “benefits” thereof, refuse to surrender the “Presidential Palace”, consistent with lawful rules of peaceful transfer of power. They employ all sorts of treachery designed to hold on to political power at all costs indefinitely – bribes, threats, brute force, arrests, detentions, kangaroo courts imprisonment and executions, including economic crimes, ethnic-cleansing, genocide and war crimes against humanity upon their own people. In the case of Liberia, the recent civil war nightmare of human rights violations and the corruption or economic crimes, plunder, destruction, death and, now, the new and most recent reported “missing billions of Liberian banknotes speak volumes of Liberian public dishonesty and decadent moral behavior.
The systematic abuse of political power in Liberia and its contribution to graft/greed or corruption, the universal vice found on all continents, in every country and society, irrespective of the level of socio-economic, political development and affluence, has now been, and is, the monopoly in Liberia by massive introduction in government of highly-educated MBAs, MSCs, LLMs, PhDs, etc. These Aristotelians developed corruption into a thriving, big business – of Corruption, Inc. – financed, partly, by government successful public policy of Salary/Wage Allowances. Corruption, Inc. may be likened to the great Mafia!!
But in any democratic political community committed to the rule of law and in which atrocious criminal acts of atrocious were committed, as was the case in the Republic of Liberia, a legal house-cleaning effort for the arrest, trial of the suspected and punishment of the guilty are required, indeed mandated. This effort sends out the message that there will and shall be, no preferential treatment or immunity, given to anyone, irrespective of position and standing in the community.
Given this condition – of profound criminal, political acts and its widespread negative impact on the developing nations of Africa and, particularly, Liberia – the United Nations came up with the idea of the International Criminal Court, designed “to help Africans & Liberians to help themselves” with reasonable “costs conditions”. It is well-known that in every undertaking, no matter how successful, there is room for improvement that comes with the desired “benefits” and associated “costs”.
The International Criminal Court (ICC)
At the end of 19th century, the international community took the first steps towards the establishment of permanent courts with supranational jurisdiction. Representatives of the most powerful nations made attempts to harmonize laws of war and to limit the use of technologically-developed, advanced weapons of mass destruction. The Nuremberg trials marked a crucial moment in legal history and, after that, some treaties, including the Rome Statute, were signed by representatives of member-states of the United Nations (UN).
The UN Resolution No. 260 of December 9, 1948 by the General Assembly Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was the first step towards establishment of an international, permanent criminal tribunal with jurisdiction for crimes yet to be defined in international treaties. After the considerations expressed from the commission, the General Assembly established a committee to draft a statute and study the related legal issues. In 1951 a first draft was presented; a second followed in 1955, but there were a number of delays due to the difficulties in the definition of the term “aggression” but these difficulties were resolved by diplomatic assemblies in the years following the Rome Statute’s coming into force. The Statute was, and is, the result of several, serious attempts for the creation of a supra-national and international tribunal.
Thus, this UN action provided the legal basis for the operation of the International Criminal Court within reformed democratic process under law and supported the world court consistently, persistently since its founding and establishment.
The International Criminal Court is, then organized as an inter-governmental, International Tribunal with jurisdiction and authority to prosecute individuals, including Heads of State and other prominent political personalities for national and international war crimes of genocide. The Tribunal has been, and is, domiciled at The Hague in the Netherlands, designed to complement existing national judicial systems and may, therefore, exercise jurisdiction only where and when national courts are unwilling (as in the cases of Liberia and a majority of African states) or unable to prosecute suspects when the UN Security Council or individual states refer cases to the Court. It began operations on July 1, 2002, the date on which the Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty which serves as the ICC’s legal authority and governing document, came into force. States become supporters and members of the International Criminal Court by ratification of the Rome Statute. Presently, there are 124 states which are signatories to the Rome Statute and, therefore, members of the ICC.
Opposition to the Court and withdrawal Movement
However, there had been, and is, fierce opposition to the Court with threat of withdrawal by some member-states who are signatories to the Rome Statute. The Statute established four core international crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crime of aggression. The Statute was adopted on July 17, 1998 by a vote of 120 to 7, with 21 countries abstaining. Because the manner in which each delegation voted was officially not-recorded; there had been, and is, dispute about the identity of the seven countries that voted against the Statute.
But, it is certain that the People’s Republic of China, Israel, and the United States were three of the seven because they have publicly confirmed their negative votes. Also, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen have been identified by various UN observers and commentators as possible sources for the other four negative votes, with Iraq, Libya, Qatar, and Yemen being the four most commonly identified.
The decision to leave the ICC began with the indictment of the Kenyan President, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, for crimes against humanity allegedly committed after the disputed 2007 elections. They used their positions not only to win the elections, but also, to campaign against the ICC with the claim that “It is demeaning for a sitting head of State to appear before a foreign court”. But, is the ICC a foreign court in the light of ratification of the Rome Statute?
President Kenyatta of Kenya found an ally in Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, an acidic critic of the ICC. Museveni was vocal supporter of the ICC because Uganda was one of the original signatories of the Rome statute at the height of LRA insurgency in Uganda. Museveni and Uganda referred several LRA members to the ICC. But after becoming President, Museveni has become anti-ICC.
The ICC and the African Union (AU)
On October 12, 2013 at the Extraordinary Summit held in Addis, the Ethiopian Capital, the African Union says that the “ICC should not prosecute sitting African leaders . . . that the indictment of H.E Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and H.E William Samoei Ruto, the President and Deputy-President of the Republic of Kenya, respectively, may pose threat to on-going efforts for promotion of peace, national healing and reconciliation, as well as the rule of law and stability, not only in Kenya, but also in the Region.” Therefore, the AU urged the ICC to defer trial amid claims that the ICC unfairly targets Africa. But the Kenyan president is facing charges for allegedly orchestrating a killing spree, while the AU Summit called for cases against sitting leaders to be deferred until the politicians leave office amid claims by Foreign ministers of the 54-member States of the AU that the “ICC unfairly targets African countries”.
Group of African Nations urge Withdrawal
Bolstered, recently, by the AU Summit action, a very small group of African states announced withdrawal from and questioning the “relevance of the International Criminal Court”. This small group of three nations – The Gambia, Burundi and the Republic of South Africa – led by the former President of the tiny Republic of The Gambia, Excellency Yahya Jammeh, who was in the fourth term of his 22-year rule as President of the Gambia.
The belief of the Gambians, like the AU, was, and is, that the ICC unfairly targets only African Heads of State. But the decision to withdraw, according to the Gambian Information Minister, “was that the ICC has been used for the persecution of Africans and, especially, their leaders, while ignoring war crimes committed by the Western leaders. There are many western countries, at least 30, that committed heinous war crimes against independent . . . states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC, not a single western war criminal has been indicted. The ICC, despite being called International Criminal Court, is in fact, an ‘International Caucasian Court’ for persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans”.
The late, former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, strongly criticized the withdrawal from the ICC proposal by the African nations but did not gain support at the AU Summit. Mr. Annan said that “Withdrawing from the court (ICC) would be a ‘badge of shame’”, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu voiced support for the court. Amnesty International urged African nations meeting in the Ethiopian capital not to cut ties with the court, saying “victims of crimes deserved justice”.
The Case for Trial of War & Economic Crimes Suspects and the International Criminal Court
Firstly, as indicated earlier, “In any democratic political community committed to the rule of law and in which several atrocious crimes of all sorts were committed, as was the case in our country, a legal house-cleaning effort of the arrest, trial of the suspects and punishment of the guilty are required, demanded, indeed instituted, that:
a) This effort sends the message that will and shall be no preferential treatment or immunity given to anyone, irrespective of one’s standing and position in the community. It provides legal remedy to the living victims and economic reparations to the families for the loss of their loved ones;
b) Arrest and trial in an open, free and fair system will prevent repetition of criminal acts and the prevailing culture of impunity;
c) The court is established and authorized to complement existing national judicial systems and may, therefore, exercise jurisdiction only where and when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute suspects when the UN Security Council or individual states refer cases to the Court, as in the cases of Liberia and a majority of African states; and
d) The Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty, serves as the Court’s legal authority and governing document; came into force. States become members of the Court upon ratification of the Rome Statute.
Regarding withdrawal from the Court
The African states’ position against the powerful nations that have been involved in war and war crimes against humanity is clearly 100% right, but not for withdrawal from the Court. Examples are the United States in South America, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa; Republic of France in North, South, East and West, all over Africa; and the United Kingdom in the Falklands, North, Central, West and East Africa, etc. There are, also, powerful non-African, Asian states that are only vocal supporters of the ICC, but who have not ratified the Rome Statute and, therefore, non-members of the ICC, but powerful members of United Nations Security Council with authority to refer cases to the ICC. These states include the USA, Russia, the UK, China, and France.
Failure or refusal of these powerful states to act in accordance with United Nations’, the ICC’s rules and Rome Statute questions their commitment to international peace, stability, socio-cultural, economic justice, the judicial system and, particularly, democracy under law, when their troops were and are accused of war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity in such places as Iraq, Afghanistan, north Africa, the Falklands, etc., with none referred to the ICC.
Although, in this legal domain hopefully free of “politics”, but eclipsed by “political considerations”, Africa and Liberia must accept the inherent but painful costs – for the desirable “benefits” of holding African and Liberian leaders accountable for wholesale human rights violations in exchange for these necessary benefits of security, peace, justice, freedom, equality, the pursuit of happiness, because the “stakes are enormously high”, in the case of the absence of the ICC and the desirable benefits.
Now, withdrawal from the ICC by the African states is highly unlikely to resolve the critical socio-cultural, political-economic and legal issues raised by the African States, including the African condition of systematic abuse of political power – civil, political, and human rights violations, with genocide and war crimes against humanity of our own, African Peoples. Indeed, it is reasonable in retaining, increasing and maintaining massive membership in the ICC. It is the rational, productive answer to resolution of the issues raised by the African States for the following reasons, as we advised elsewhere and repeated hereunder for emphasis, that:
a) In the light of the fact that today’s modern, 21st century, World Community is committed to liberal, progressive democracy dedicated to informed decisions by the majority; that the non-Caucasian states effectively outnumber Caucasian states at the UN and other world congregations (including world population), it is, therefore, reasonable and highly likely that the issues raised by the African states will be resolved by active participation by the informed majority of the non-Caucasian states; that the proper, reasonable approach is retaining, increasing and maintaining membership and using the Rome Statue to expose the hypocrisy of the western and other states to demand Change/Reforms of the ICC; and that the ICC is, indeed, not “a foreign court”, since ratification of the Rome Statute automatically concedes membership and jurisdiction of the ICC, including those who are not members but willingly refer cases to the ICC; and
b) The Withdrawal Movement is barking at the wrong tree, because the ICC is a court of law that adjudicates conflicts or disagreements brought before it by parties to the conflicts or disagreements and that Courts of law do not go out seeking litigants; and that Cause(s) of the issues raised by the African States are not found in the trial chambers of the ICC, but in the New York, UN Plaza Halls. Consequently, the non-Caucasian states must use its majority not only to resolve the critical issues concerned with the ICC, but also, the UN system, itself.
Therefore, Packing bags and leaving the ICC is counter-productive and a profound cop-out at the expense of the poor, hungry and sick Africans”.
In this respect, it is very, very important that African and other non-Caucasian states get on the offensive by use of their majority for change. Finally, Law is based, fundamentally, on human Reason, socio-cultural principles, beliefs, values and moral rectitude from which Law draws its powerful punch.
The Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
Now, the TRC approach, based on the successful experience of the Republic of South Africa which was adopted and passed into Liberian law as the reasonable, legal option for peace and security in post-conflict Liberia for open, free and fair trials of suspected human rights violators, punishment of the guilty and amnesty granted the guilty, remorseful violators to whom such amnesty was due; it was, and is, a transitional justice approach from conflict to modern, peaceful democratic rule.
But, the-then former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the alleged major, ruling warlord, was surrounded by suspected war criminals and supporters who held powerful political and economic positions, including law enforcement – police, military and other security-related portfolios, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, etc. In fact, her success as the leading politician and survival of her presidency depended, exclusively, upon the support and cooperation of war, economic and corruption crimes suspects.
Given this reality, implementation of the TRC Recommendations with War Crime Court placed on-ground, in Liberia, was unreasonable and, therefore, unacceptable to them because it meant prosecution and possible long-term imprisonment. Therefore, the Report was side-lined on shelves in the offices of the suspected war criminals where it gathered and is gathering dust during the past 12 years, while the suspects of war & economic crimes were and are rewarded with high-level positions with “Honorable(s)” titles.
The present government of President Weah is something else, dominated by senior, political loyalists and others appointed by the former President who, reportedly, is the power behind President Weah’s Presidential throne having been compromised, also reportedly, with support of campaign contribution by the former President in return for protection from prosecution for alleged war crime allegations. President Weah is, also, surrounded by important political officials – judges and members of the National Legislatures, all suspected war criminals, who hold the key to his Presidency and representatives who were supporters-fighters of Charles Taylor’s NPFL, members of his National Patriotic Party and the INPFL. These officials include members of the Legislature dominated by war, economic or corruption crime suspects – Senators, representatives and members of his National Patriotic Party. Some of these members were “elected” from small communities excised or extracted from existing counties and bestowed “county status” without legal or population merit, only for political and economic (corruption) reasons.
Then there are, also, other suspected war, economic and corruption criminals, like in the past who held and now hold powerful political and economic positions, including law enforcement – police, military, related security officials, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, etc. In the light of the foregoing, prevailing conditions, it would be an illusion to expect prosecution by any war and economic crimes court placed on-ground in Liberia, a repetition of the past 12 years, commitment, planning and clear, precise articulation notwithstanding!!
The proper, reasonable and productive approach, we suggest, is to summon the “political will” and African traditional “guts” to arrest and turn over all war and economic (corruption) crime suspects to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for free, fair and open trials. This decision-action will not only earn and guarantee International Community support led by Liberia’s most major historical benefactor and political ally, the USA, but also economic support in hundreds of millions of US dollars; because it was this economic support that “convinced” Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to turn over her-appointed war-front commander and ally, Mr. Charles Taylor, to the ICC for trial; the rest is history. The FBIs and other BIs cannot, under law and will not do for us that which we can do but refuse to do for ourselves. The ICC will.