President George Weah appears to be mute, as calls for the establishment of a war crimes court and subsequent prosecution of war criminals intensifies amidst a gloomy economic atmosphere here.
“President George Weah has yet to publically share his opinion on accountability for grave crimes committed during the country’s two civil wars, despite his earlier support while serving as a Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF,” a statement released by the office of the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee and published on the Amnesty International website said last Wednesday August 8 said.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (the Committee), a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by its State parties, according to the published statement, issued a strong concluding observations on Liberia’s continued impunity for past crimes and human rights violations and calls upon the Weah administration to establish, as a matter of priority, a process of accountability for war crimes.
The statement comes at a time there are calls by local and international non-governmental organizations for the establishment of a war crimes court here. It also comes at a time the prosecutions of former rebel commanders and military leaders are taking place in the United States and elsewhere in Europe.
The Committee said impunity for past crimes in Liberia is now one of three priority issues before it, adding that accountability for civil war era abuses here is one of the most pressing matters that Liberia faces under its ICCPR review.
The statement further notes that Liberia is now tasked with responding to the UN’s calls to implement measures to provide justice, truth, and reparations for civil war victims, including: “ensure that all alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes are impartially prosecuted and, if found guilty, convicted and punished in accordance with the gravity of the acts committed”; “remove any persons who have been proven to be involved in gross human rights violations and war crimes from official positions”; take “all measures necessary to implement the TRC recommendations”; and develop and implement reparations for war time victims.
It is expected that President Weah would make clear his administration’s intention at the UN General Assembly due in September to bring to justice, in fair trials, all those suspected of criminal responsibility for war crimes.
Liberia’s back to back civil wars resulted in numerous crimes under international law, including the killing of tens of thousands of civilians, the displacement of half the population, summary executions and numerous large-scale massacres; widespread and systematic rape; mutilation and torture; and large-scale forced conscription and use of child combatants. Despite a Truth and Reconciliation Commission report identifying crimes committed by all sides of the conflict, and recommending reparations for victims as well as justice in the form of a special international-national hybrid court, Liberia has yet to take steps to implement such recommendations. According to the Committee’s assessment “such a situation fosters a climate of impunity and fails to achieve transitional justice.”