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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

War Crime Court in Liberia; a Hopeless Hope

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On March 5, 2024, the House of Representatives of the National Legislature signed a Bill with an intent to create an Act for the establishment of a War Crime Court in Liberia.

This act of the House of Representatives is supported by the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, specifically Article 29 empowers the National Legislature to create laws in this Republic.

However, the signing of the Bill by the members of the House Representatives is the beginning of the process to create an Act for the establishment of a war crime court if the House of Senate concurred with the House of Representatives, and subsequently the Bill is signed by the President of the Republic of Liberia, an Act or law is created for the establishment of War Crime Court, and it is certain that war criminals may be prosecuted based upon the political will of the Government.

History shows that the Civil War in Liberia started on December 24, 1989 and ended in the later part of 2023. The war took many lives of approximately 250,000.

After the first post war election in 2005, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took power as the first female President of Liberia. In the aftermath of her election, many Liberians and international partners advocated for the creation of a war crime court in Liberia. However, the advocacy for war crime court did not work did not work in the Ellen Johnson led government.

Later, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf 12 years terms ended and was succeeded by His Excellency George Manneh Weah.

In the George Manneh Weah led government, the advocacy for war crime court was less thereby making it to lost relevance. In 2023, His Excellency Joseph Nyuma Boakai succeeded His Excellency George Manneh Weah as President of the Republic of Liberia.

Under the leadership of His Excellency Joseph Nyuma Boakai the thirst of House of Representatives managed by a Speaker from the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) grew so much for the creation of a war crime court, and on March 5, 2024, the House of Representatives signed a Bill for the creation of war crime court and forwarded same to the House of Senate for concurrence.

The issue to be addressed is whether or not the creation of War Crime Court in Liberia will meet its intended purpose to prosecute warlords and conspirators for war crimes committed before July 1, 2002? This issue is raised because one of the people considered to be an arch warlord for war crimes committed in Liberia is Senator Prince Y. Johnson.

History has shown that Senator Prince Y. Johnson fought the Civil War in Liberia from December 24, 1989 to October 1992. During this period, the international instrument creating war crime court was not adopted by the International Community.

Let it be made known that I have not come to serve as a lawyer for warlords and their conspirators as some may want to perceive because I lost my little sister Jemamah during the war, and my stepfather was tired (tire bay) by the rebels in Guthrie Plantation, specifically Depending Camp.

The truth of the matter is this process (war crime in Liberia) a reality given the laws governing war crime court? Maybe, it is an act to extort money intended to build Liberia for the benefit of actors advocating for war crime court.

I am a Liberian, and Liberia is the only country that I know to be my homeland inherited from God, and as such prepared to jealously protect it from anything intended to put it into ruin.

War Crime Court in Liberia may be appropriate for war crimes that may be committed in the future which we do not hope for, because the intend and purpose for its creation now will not be realized. Warlords and their conspirators committed war crimes in Liberia from December 1989 up to October 2003.

Unfortunately, the international instrument sought to be domesticated by the House of Representatives for the creation of war crime court in Liberia called the Rome Statute was adopted July 17, 1998.

The same said document (Rome Statute) came into force on July 1, 2002, and granted duty unto every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes.

The framers of the Rome Statute are aware that the International Criminal Court lacks legal competency to prosecute war criminals for crimes committed before July 1, 2002. As such, empowers States to use their own law to prosecute war criminals.

The Rome Statute clearly provides in Article 11 that the International Criminal Court lacks jurisdiction to prosecute Senator Johnson and others who committed war crimes before the July 1, 2002 when the said Rome Statute came into force.

This is not a good thing to express in this narrative, but it is truth, and must be told. The Rome Statute, Article 11(1) provides “the Court has jurisdiction only with respect to Crimes committed after the entry into force of this Statute.” That is, war crimes committed on and after July 1, 2002, the ICC lacks jurisdiction to prosecute perpetrators of those crimes.

Additionally, subsection (2) of the same Article 11 provides “If a State becomes a Party to this Statute after its entry into force, the Court may exercise its jurisdiction only with respect to crimes committed after the entry into force of this Statute for that State, unless that State has made a declaration under Article 12, paragraph 3. of the mentioned provisions suggest that the Court (ICC) or special courts created by the ICC has power to exercise jurisdiction following the 1 July 2002, when the Rome Statute was ratified by 60 States and thus entered into force.

Hence, the creation of war crime court in Liberia now is hopeless hope for the Liberians.

Author Jimmy Saah Bombo, Sr. (Cllr.)

 

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