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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Liberia: War Crimes Office Closing in On Court’s Statutes

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Team of lawyers working with the Office of War Crimes and Economic Crimes Court are concluding the drafting of statutes for the legal establishment and operation of a mixture of domestic and international tribunal that will hear war crimes related cases.

Also concluded is the statute for the special economic crimes court, almost 13 days after President Joseph Boakai appointed Cllr. Johnathan Massaquoi to head the War Crimes Office.

The job is more than 80% done and a panel of local and international lawyers are reviewing for final validation and submission for legislative enactment, a source with knowledge of the workings of the War Crimes Office told the Oracle News Daily.

“The drafting of statutes constitute about 30% of the work. The rest of the task covers outreach and fund raising.”

Boakai on May 2,  issued  Executive Order 131 for the establishment of the Office of War Crimes and Economic Crimes Court.

The office is tasked with investigating and designing the methodology, mechanisms and processes for the establishment of a Special War Crimes Court for Liberia and a National Anti-Corruption Court. It is also tasked with recommending a way to source funds for the court’s operations.

Hybrid Tribunals

Since the early 1990s, hybrid courts have been pioneered in several post-conflict environments, combining international and domestic law. Examples of post-conflict societies that have utilized hybrid courts include Bosnia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Kosovo, Central African Republic, and Sierra Leone.

Perhaps the most important examples for Liberians are the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), established in 2002 to address the brutal atrocities of the Sierra Leonean civil war and Special Criminal Court (SCC) for the Central African Republic.

Taking the SCSL example, rather than being established by a Security Council Resolution, the SCSL was created through a bilateral agreement between the U.N. and the government of Sierra Leone.

The Court had jurisdiction over crimes committed in violation of international humanitarian law and specific crimes under Sierra Leonean law. It had 11 judges of different nationalities including Sierra Leonean, other Africans, Europeans, and an American.

It was seated at Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, though some of its politically sensitive defendants were tried outside of Sierra Leone, most notably Liberia’s Charles Taylor, who was tried by the Special Court at The Hague, using the International Criminal Court’s facilities.

After 11 years of operation and tens of millions of dollars spentthe SCSL tried 23 individuals, completing proceedings against all but one of the defendants. The International Center for Transitional Justice noted that the SCSL broke new ground in many ways, stating, “It was the first court to be established in the country where the crimes took place; the first hybrid court where international and national judges and personnel worked together; the first international court to be funded solely on voluntary contributions from interested states; the first to indict a sitting African head of state, Charles Taylor; and the first to convict individuals for the recruitment and use of child soldiers and for the crime of forced marriage.”


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