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War crimes Court

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Deputy Defense Minister for Operations Mr. Ernest Vafee has warned of unintended consequences that will evolve when a War Crimes Court is established here, saying it is not just accountability for war victims.

“Are you considering for example Nimba, a riot that breaks up in Nimba, with the military that we [have] now, if riot breaks up in Nimba, another riot breaks up in Bomi, another riot breaks up in Grand Gedeh as a result of whatever decision we’re going to take … do we as a country, have the capacity to deal with multipronged riots?” he asked Monday, 10 December in Monrovia.

Minister Vafee’s comments come at a time Liberians are divided on a call to establish a War Crimes Court to hold war criminals to account for atrocities committed during the brutal civil war here in the 90s.

The current regime of President George Manneh Weah is not in support of the Court being established now, and sitting Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson who controlled a dreaded breakaway rebel faction Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) is a lead opponent to establishing the court.

“When you are considering the War Crimes Court, you should do what we call a cost – benefit analysis,” Minister Vafee said at the Ministry of Defense where defense correspondents were beginning a two day training session on Monday, 10 December.

With the current military, he asks if Liberia has the capacity to deal with multipronged riots (riots taking place at several points), saying what happens if for example riots broke up in Nimba, Bomi and Grand Gedeh Counties as a result of whatever decision taken.

He clarifies that he is not against the establishment of War Crimes Court, but he is recommending that a cost benefit analysis is done that will help one to understand the security implications associated with the decision.

He argues that laws are made for the preservation of societies, noting that when a law threatens the existence of a society, that law should be extracted out.

Minister Vafee continues that he wants this to be contextualized and a complete picture is given of what will happen when the court is established.

He emphasizes that accountability for war victims is good, but he insists that accountability of victims that “threatens your very existence must be looked at keenly.”

He wonders if the millions of dollars associated with running of a War Crimes Court here could be given for the improvement of the military so that it can buy boats to patrol the waters and improve personnel’s livelihood and build roads.

Minister Vafee recalls how during the Ebola crisis here, soldiers were put in harm’s way and made sacrifices, adding that “our” reading of history should be able to tell what has been the positive benefit or the cost associated with all of what is being talked about here.

“For us what worries us, if the people are hungry, people are not taking pay, when there is an epidemic, it concerns us,” he says.

Over 250,000 Liberians were estimated killed and others forced into exile in the civil war that broke out in the 90s, and next crisis that forced saw sitting President Charles Taylor leaving Liberia for exile in 2003 also resulted to bloodshed.

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