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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Liberian Lawmakers Approve War Crimes Tribunal In Landmark Vote

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 By Festus Poquie

House members in a milestone vote Tuesday approved the creation of an extraordinary tribunal that will hear war and economic crimes cases committed and documented at various stages of the country’s brutal civil wars.

It was the first decisive stance taken by the legislature since the end of one of Africa’s boldest wars two decades ago.

The law makers gave the President the right to proceed with the establishment of the court without legal interference or input from the body going forward. They also committed the country’s resources to fund a process that will address war crimes accountability.

The court will be looking at alleged crimes committed between 1979 and 2003. The House’s resolution however empowers prosecutors to extend probe beyond the limits of the erstwhile truth commission.

“The House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia in Legislature assembled expresses its support for full implementation of the TRC recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court in Liberia and commits to working with President Joseph Nyumah Boakai for the Court’s establishment,” a resolution backed by 40 House members said.

“This matter before us is overdue, and that the President should act effectively, immediately without seeking advice from the legislature because, the TRC is already an Act  enacted by the Legislature that is awaiting full implementation.

President Boakai has made the functioning of the court an imposing priority for his administration, enlisting the assistance of global justice actors to accelerate the process and bring to closure issues of war time atrocities, which include war crimes, crimes against humanity and breaches of international humanitarian laws.

An estimated 250, 000 people were reportedly killed during the war. The TRC charged 30 war times actors of bearing the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed.

During Liberia’s back-to-back civil wars, spanning between 1989 and 2003,  all parties committed serious violations of international law. In June 2009, Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that Liberia establish a mixed international and domestic war crimes court to try those allegedly responsible for the violence.

Yet, in the two decades since the Accra Peace Agreement was signed, Liberia has failed to hold a single person to account for civil wars-era crimes.

The only prosecutions have been held outside the country on the basis of universal jurisdiction or for violations of immigration laws, as in France, Switzerland, and the United States.

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