Citizens from South Eastern counties of Liberia Liberia have called for the establishment of United Nations backed war crimes court for Liberia.
The delegates attending Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Regional County Consultation in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County rejected any plans to grant general amnesty to individuals who committed atrocities during the country's civil war and demanded the prosecution of all heads of the former warring factions, major actors and their financiers.
The delegates from the South Eastern counties of Maryland, River Gee, Grand Kru, Sinoe and Grand Gedeh also recommended prosecution for individuals who committed economic crimes during the conflict and illegally benefited from the country's natural resources.
They were making presentations on Amnesty and Prosecution Tuesday following working sessions at the ongoing TRC Regional County Consultation at the Zwedru City Hall.
The delegates said that prosecution of alleged perpetrators is necessary to prevent reoccurrence of crimes committed during the civil war, noting that it will also discourage the culture of impunity that is pervasive in the country. They insisted that victims of the conflict needed justice, saying it is a legal obligation which will separate individual responsibilities from collective guilt.
They expressed confidence in a future 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 South Easterners also recommended the setting up of traditional forums where other perpetrators will be investigated and if found guilty be subjected to other forms of punishments including fines. They also named palava hut forums, district county peace consultations and national peace and reconciliation conference as other means of investigating alleged perpetrators.
But the delegates recommended the granting of amnesty to under-aged children and individuals who were forcibly conscripted into the various fighting forces.
They 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 fulfill before they can be consider for amnesty.
They however said that 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.
The Consultations, which, are simultaneously convening in Region I: Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County; Region II: Gbarnga, Bong County; and Region III: Tubmanburg, Bomi County opened Monday with TRC Chair Counselor Jerome Verdier urging Liberians to take ownership of Liberia's peace building process following the expiration of the commission's mandate.
The delegates are sharing their concerns, best practices, lessons learned and recommendations on the peace and reconciliation process. The consultations will pave the way for follow up mechanisms and approaches on the implementation of the TRC recommendations.
It is 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 is aimed at providing an opportunity once more for Liberians from the 15 counties to share their perspectives on how peace and reconciliation can be sustained in Liberia.
The consultation is 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 include 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.