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Crime & PunishmentGeneralLiberia news

Warlords in trouble!

--As House passes resolution for War and Economic Crimes Court

Decades of brutal civil war killed over 250,000 Liberians, displaced many others, and destroyed properties worth millions of dollars, but war and economic crimes suspects here have not accounted for their cruelty through any court over 20 years since peace was restored.

By Bridgett Milton

Monrovia, Liberia, 6 March 2024: Trouble is looming for Liberia’s former warlords as more than 40 lawmakers from the House of Representatives have signed a resolution for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court.

If legislation grows out of this resolution and is passed by both legislative chambers, it will boost President Joseph Nyumah Boakai’s quest to establish war and economic crimes.

It’s been over 20 years since peace was restored in the West African country that was destroyed from the 90s through the early 2000s in a senseless civil war. 

Yet, most of those accused of waging carnage here have not faced any court trial for their cruelty, and some of them have even assumed lucrative elected positions on the national level.

Over 40 Representatives have already passed a resolution for the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia so far in the 55th Legislature.

Members of the 53rd and 54th Legislatures received presentations to establish the War and Economic Crimes Court, but those petitions did not pass the Liberian Senate for action.

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In the wake of the latest development in the House, Grand Bassa County Electoral District #5 Representative Thomas Goshua suggested Tuesday, 5 March 2024 that the resolution be passed and sent to the Liberian Senate for action.

But that suggestion didn’t go down well with some members of the ruling Unity Party who did not sign the resolution.

Montserrado County Electoral District #11 Representative Richard Koon and Independent Representative of Electoral District #7 Emmanuel Dahn argued that the resolution should not be passed now.

According to them, they needed time to go and reach out to their people before passing the resolution.

“It will be better you give us at least one week for us to go back to our people who we represent to hear what they have to say on this matter,” said Rep. Koon.

Out of the nine Representatives of Nimba County where Senator Prince Yormie Johnson hails from, only Representative Taa Wangba signed the resolution.

The others kicked against the resolution seeking to establish a war and economic crimes court.

Senator Prince Yormie Johnson (PYJ) is a major anti-war and economic crimes court Liberian politician and a longstanding political godfather of Nimba County.

His brutal defense of his Nimba kinsmen against alleged enemies during Liberia’s civil crisis has made him the ‘political godfather of the County. 

Since 2005, Johnson’s presidential picks have won the nation’s highest seat, and he also dominates the local politics in the vote-rich Nimba County.

Like Senator Johnson, his loyalists dislike the call for war and economic crimes court.

He backed President Boakai’s 2023 presidential bid, but both men are not on the same pitch when it comes to establishing a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.

The resolution to establish a war and economic crimes court is sponsored by Montserrado County Electoral District #10 Representative Yekeh Y. Kolubah and other members of the House of Representatives.

The sponsors of the instrument have backed their decision with recommendations from the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity.

The TRC recommended that both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations should have the opportunity to share their experiences to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.

The Liberian legislature enacted the Act to establish the TRC in 2005, formally creating the forum with a mandate to promote

national peace, security, unity, and reconciliation by investigating gross human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law, sexual violations, and economic crimes that occurred between

January 1979 and October 2003.

The resolution added that the Liberian TRC submitted its final report to the Legislature on 19 December 2009, recommending the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court of Liberia.

It noted that the forum called for the establishment of an

international domestic court with the authority to prosecute individuals accused of gross human rights violations, serious humanitarian law violations, and certain domestic crimes.

Members of the House of Representatives are recommending the full implementation of the TRC recommendations, including the

establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court in Liberia.

They have committed to working with President Boakai for the court’s establishment.

After the signing of the resolution, members of that body were seen in a joyful mood chanting ‘War Crimes Court, War Crimes Court, War Crimes Court, War Crimes Court.

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