Press Releases

Liberia's TRC Makes History...Holds First TRC Hearings Ever In The U. S....Focuses on the Diaspora Experience

Monrovia, June 6, 2008 (TRC): Commissioners of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) will next week hold public hearings in the U.S. state of Minnesota, marking the first time any nation has ever conducted such hearings in the United States.

The hearings are scheduled to begin on Monday, June 9th with public sessions set for June 10th through June 14th and will focus on the experience of Liberians in the Diaspora, a dispatch from The Advocates for Human Rights, the Minnesota based organization partnering with the TRC to hold the event reported. All eight members of the TRC are expected to attend the hearings.

This historic event will take place at Hamline University's Sundin Music Hall at 1536 Hewitt Avenue, Saint Paul, MN. The hearings will begin at 9:30 a.m. (Central) each day and will conclude each afternoon at approximately 5:00 p.m., according to the dispatch.

Already commissioners of the TRC have departed Monrovia for Minneapolis, Minnesota to preside over the hearings which will be held under the aegis of The Advocates for Human Rights. They are led by TRC Chairman Jerome Verdier who reiterated the need for stories of experiences of each and every Liberian during the country's troubled past to be heard irrespective of where they reside.

"To fulfill our charter and our mission, we need to hear the stories of our citizens who fled their homes and ultimately their country. Many, many thousand Liberians suffered terrible violence and then suffered again through long and arduous travels and then suffered a third time as they arrived in new communities with little more than the clothes on their backs. Their experiences are part of what happened to our country at war with itself; understanding and sharing those experiences is an important part of our healing process," Verdier said."

The Advocates for Human Rights was founded in 1983 by a group of Minnesota lawyers who recognized the community's unique spirit of social justice as an opportunity to promote and protect human rights in the United States and around the world. The mission of The Advocates for Human Rights is to implement international human rights standards to promote civil society and
reinforce the rule of law.
The organization has produced more than 50 reports documenting human rights practices in more than 25 countries; educated over 10,000 students and community members on human rights issues; provided legal representation and assistance to over 3,000 disadvantaged individuals and families and works with partners overseas and in the United States to restore and protect human rights. The Advocates for Human Rights holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.

More than 1.5 million Liberians were forced from their homes to escape from the violence and destruction of a protracted civil conflict. Because of the historical connection between the two countries, many Liberians eventually made their way to the United States in their flight from war, including some 30,000 who settled in Minnesota. Most of their stories have never been told.

Liberia is recovering from years of conflict that was the backdrop for horrific human rights violations, including arbitrary killings, used 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. Of those forced to flee this violent conflict, many fled to the U.S. because of the strong historical ties between the two countries.

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.

The U.S. hearings will also provide an important opportunity for Liberians in the Diaspora to present their experiences and recommendations directly to the TRC, which is mandated to make binding recommendations to the Government of Liberia.

Each day, the commission will receive testimonies from Liberians who are part of the Diaspora experience. The testimonies will focus on their experiences in Liberia during the civil war, in flight, in refugee camps and as they established new lives in new communities in the United States.

This is the first TRC to make a concerted effort to solicit from Diaspora communities both their stories of what happened to them and their families and their recommendations for reconciliation and systematic change. This groundbreaking project gives Liberians in the Diaspora a voice in the promotion of international justice and human rights as part of the truth, justice, accountability and reconciliation processes in Liberia.

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This had been the official website of the Liberian TRC. The Commission ended operation
in 2010. This website is maintained by the Georgia Institute of Technology.