Press Releases

Public Statement on the Commencement of Public Hearings

November 21, 2007


After nearly 16 months of operations in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia was seriously challenged by institutional, logistics, operational and budgetary constraints, the TRC announces that public hearings of the TRC will commence on January 8, 2008, consistent with Article VII, Section F of the TRC Act " order to restore the human dignity of victims and to promote reconciliation by providing an opportunity for victims, witnesses and others to give an account of the violations and abuses suffered and for perpetrators to relate their experiences in an environment conducive to constructive exchange between victims and perpetrators giving special attention to the issues of sexual and gender-based violence, and particularly the experiences of children and women during the armed conflict in Liberia...." Greater details on events, schedules, venues, etc. will be provided subsequently.

With the successful conduct of the statement taking process, this project will be significantly scaled down and moved into the second phase at the end of December 2007. With the ongoing intensified outreach and awareness program, the TRC will be mainly preoccupied with an intrusive and robust inquiry process, public hearings, national conference and compilation of the TRC final report, the most significant components of the TRC work still outstanding.

Public hearings constitute the forum where victims, perceived perpetrators, war actors, scholars, politicians, activists, and professionals in different disciplines will share their experiences with the TRC and the general public, put forth their perspectives on particular issues being considered by the TRC and make recommendations on the way forward. The hearings are also intended to generate public sympathy for those who experienced abuses, and acknowledgment of the pains and sufferings of thousands of Liberians and foreign nationals, as well as an understanding from the people, nation, the commissioners and policy-makers of the conflicts and its varied trends. Hopefully the hearings will catalyze public-wide debate and embed issues of the conflict into the public consciousness.

The hearings shall be public and in camera and will assume three major forms. Individual hearings will be based upon written statements or interviews given to the TRC when victims and perpetrators act as TRC witnesses insofar as they assist the TRC in establishing the truth of past incidences or experiences from 1979 to 2003. They will share their experiences in the language of their choice throughout the country. These hearings are central to the work of the commission and represent an opportunity for individual victims to have their experiences heard publicly by the Liberian people and recognized by the state as part of the Liberian national experience. It also allows perpetrators a chance to relay their experiences in good faith as part of their contribution to national healing and renewal. This forum will help victims, as well as expose and create a national understanding of the underlining causes and trends of the conflict.

Thematic hearings will consider the trends, themes and root causes of the conflict. They entail a national dialogue on all major issues of the conflict, including human rights abuses, and specifically look at how the conflict affected or was uniquely affected by certain thematic streams running through the various conflicts. It presents a unique opportunity for experts to lend their opinions on the roles that different components of the war played in the conflict. These experts will talk about structural and systemic patterns of violence and its impact, while victim testimony will be used to personalize the narrative. This nuanced version of history will seek to incorporate various levels of a national history that blends the experiences of a diverse range of survivals and actors during the conflict period. This includes women, children, economic crimes, reconciliation and justice, the history of Liberia, youth, the history of the conflict and the role of civic institutions (religious and traditional) in the conflict and vulnerable groups.

Institutional hearings are designed to examine the role, function and impact of the conflict on basic national institutions with the view to evolving a national reform agenda based on contemporary issues resonating in each sector as part of the national dialogue on the way forward. The institutions are: 1. education, 2. legislature, 3. student and other unions, 4. civil society (generally civil service), 6. the economy (structure and shortcomings), 7. the judiciary, and 8. the security sector.

The TRC will be inviting Liberians and non-Liberians alike to assist the commission in its work by appearing when requested to do so or by submitting individual or institutional submissions to the commission for hearings on any of the itemized thematic or institutional issues listed herein above. The TRC Wishes to emphasize that no Liberian is exempt from the TRC hearings. Where necessary, Liberians from the ordinary stations of life, like victims, to the highest offices of the land, including the presidency, as well as members of the cabinet and other executive arms of government; members of the national legislature, the judiciary, civil society, political parties, former warring factions and former officials of government, and Liberians in the diaspora will be called to appear before the TRC in support of its work and the process of national reconciliation and healing.

National reconciliation is a national moral imperative that must include all Liberians. To be successful, there must be a process of national forgiveness that goes beyond political settlement and the negotiated peace agreement. We must eschew national amnesia and embark on the process of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There must be justice without revenge and a change in our national consciousness for a new relationship that fosters national renewal, the well-being of victims and the reintegration of ex-combatants or former belligerents into our national social fabric.

We are aware that if our country makes progress towards national reconciliation, the people of Liberia will have to change the old ways of doing things and conform to the new realism and awakened consciousness against the abuse of power and authority, judicial suppression, obstruction of free movement on the public highway, including the suppression and intimidation of the free press.

We assure all Liberians, our partners and friends that the TRC process is also intended to prevent the outbreak of future violent conflicts and will significantly contribute to the resolution of looming tensions surrounding the politics of identity in Liberia, the culture of elite impunity, inequitable use of natural resources, discrimination, reintegration of ex-combatants and the need for social support infrastructure to accommodate the vulnerable population victimized by our prolonged conflict.

Finally, we hasten to say that much has been accomplished to date with your valuable support and particularly that of the government of Liberia and of all our international partners who share our vision for a better and productive Liberia. We call on civil society and all stakeholders including former belligerents to seize the moment and get involved with the TRC process. We also implore all Liberians to remain steadfast and focus on not only the gains of the past four years, but also on our collective potential to reverse our nightmare into a "...glorious land of liberty with freedom and justice for all...." As one prominent professor said recently, "The wounds of Liberia cannot be healed on falsehood."


Jerome J Verdier, Sr.
Chairman, TRC

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