Press Releases

Liberians Demand War Crimes Prosecutions

Montserrado County, Liberia
22 May, 2009
Categorized as pertaining to: Hearings

Liberians from the 15 political subdivisions of the country have recommended prosecution for individuals who committed heinous crimes and violated international humanitarian laws during the country's civil conflict.

The delegates at the end of three simultaneous Regional consultative meetings of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) called for the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia. They believed prosecuting individuals who bear the greatest responsibilities for atrocities committed will strengthen the rule of law and end the culture of impunity in the country.

The delegates resolved that those who have proven non-cooperative, unrepentant and related to the TRC contemptuously must be tried for not showing regrets for the wrongs they have done to the Liberian people.

They recommended that the TRC should do "due diligence" by recommending prosecution for both individuals and organizations that committed heinous crimes against humanity and violated International Humanitarian Laws.
The delegates rejected any plans to grant general amnesty to individuals who committed atrocities during the country's civil war. They also demanded the prosecution of all heads of the former warring factions, major actors and their financiers.

They further recommended prosecution for individuals who committed economic crimes and illegally benefited from the country's natural resources.

They presented their findings Friday following week long deliberations at the TRC Regional County Consultations held simultaneously in the cities of Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, Gbarnga, Bong County and Tubmanburg, Bomi County.

They insisted that victims of the Liberian conflict need justice, saying that it is a legal obligation which will separate individual responsibilities from collective guilt.

Some of the delegates expressed confidence in a UN backed hybrid war crimes court because according to them it will involve both local and international laws, will be less expensive and will also allow easy access to victims and perpetrators.

The delegates recommended that setting up of traditional forums where other perpetrators will be investigated and if found guilty be sanctioned to other forms of punishments including fines. They named palava hut forums, district county peace consultations and national peace and reconciliation conferences as other means of investigating perpetrators.

However, the delegates recommended the granting of amnesty to under-aged children and individuals who were forcibly conscripted into the various fighting forces.

The delegates said although they recognized the authority of government to grant amnesty, but international law forbids amnesty for individuals who committed major crimes.

They said amnesty should not be free, noting that there should be some criteria and conditions set aside for alleged perpetrators to meet before they can be consider for amnesty.

However, they said children conscripted into the fighting forces must be granted amnesty because they cannot be held responsible for their criminal conduct during the conflict. They also suggested amnesty for individuals who were compelled or forced into committing crimes and perpetrators who made full disclosures during the TRC Public Hearings of their actual roles in the conflict.

On the issue of reparation, the delegates recommended both individual and community reparations. They recommended that government solicit the support of the international community and other organizations to pay reparations to victims/survivors, affected communities, towns and villages and affected institutions/companies.

They proposed reparation packages in the forms of money, infrastructural support, human resource development, training and capacity building, agriculture, micro-grant and health care. The delegates contended that the payment of reparations will heal the broken wounds, ensure a reintegrated system to contribute to the rebuilding process and assist victims of the conflict to regain their lost human dignity.

Delegates at the consultation shared their concerns, best practices, lessons learned and recommendations on the peace and reconciliation process. The consultations were aimed at paving the way for follow up mechanisms and approaches on the implementation of the TRC recommendations.

It was also designed to promote transparency, inclusion, participation and ownership of the peace-building and reconciliation initiatives that will help support social cohesion, democracy and national development. It was also aimed at providing one last opportunity for Liberians from the 15 counties to share their perspectives on how peace and reconciliation can be sustained.

The consultation was one of the remaining key activities of the TRC Planned ahead of the expiration of its mandate in June 2009.

Evidently, the civil conflict came with its challenges and there is a need to undertake post-conflict peace building and reconciliation initiatives that will help support social cohesion, democracy and national development.

Delegates included 13 representatives from each county consisting of women, county authorities, children's parliament, religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society groups, clan representatives and vulnerable groups.
Liberia is recovering from years of conflict that was the backdrop for horrific human rights violations, including arbitrary killing, use of child combatants, rape and sexual violence, separation of families, and looting and destruction of properties. Out of a population of 3 million, an estimated 250,000 Liberians were killed, with as many as 1.5 million displaced.

But scores of key military and political actors that appeared before the TRC during public hearings denied responsibilities of the atrocities.

The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

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