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War crimes court confab for November

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Local and international campaigners, calling for the establishment of war crimes court for Liberia are gathering for a major conference next month in Monrovia.

The November conference, which is the first major effort in the country to have suspected perpetrators of atrocities brought to book, will be graced by former lead prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, Stephen Rapp, according to Liberian war crimes court campaigner, Hassan Bility.

Mr. Rapp served as prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2007 to 2009, he led the prosecution of jailed former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor. Mr. Taylor was tried and convicted for aiding and abetting RUF rebels in that country.

Making the disclosure here Thursday via a live talk show, Mr. Billity also reveals other international partners in the ongoing campaign for a war crimes court in Liberia would attend the conference, where President George Manneh Weah is expected to speak.

He welcomes the passage of a resolution to support the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia by the United States House of Representatives’ committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, 03 October as a step in the right direction.

U.S. Lawmaker Daniel Donovan, sponsor of the resolution, says it seeks full implementation of the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, including the establishment of an extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia”.

“My constituents have directly told me how important it is for them that Liberia established an extraordinary war crimes tribunal,” he discloses, adding the TRC report clearly calls for the establishment of war crimes court

However, he clarifies that the resolution is neither a bill nor a law, but rather effort by the committee on Foreign Affairs, calling for full implementation of the TRC recommendations, saying, “It is not a law that forces Liberia to do anything.”

But he reminds that Foreign Affairs committee can affect U.S. funding to Liberia thru USAID and other American government agencies.A former Liberian journalist, Bility is current director of the Global Justice and Research Project in the country.

He says now is the right time for Liberians to end the culture of impunity by supporting the establishment of a war crimes court to make key actors to account.“For me, for other people in the international community, President Weah is the right person, because he is stainless.”

He emphasizes that the current Liberian administration is in a proper position to have this achieved, noting that President Weah’s position on arm violence in Liberia has not changed.“If he took this decision, there is going to be massive support.”

-Story by Jonathan Browne

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