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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Over 50 Grassroots CSOs Unite in Support of Jonathan Massaquoi as Executive Director of Liberia’s War and Economic Crimes Court

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In a joint resolution, dozens of civil society organizations under the auspices of the Liberia NGOs Network (LINNK) and the Solidarity & Trust for a New Day (STAND) have voiced their unwavering support for the appointment of Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi as the Executive Director of Liberia’s newly established Office of War and Economic Crimes Court.

The endorsement from  the grassroots activists serves a fatal blow to establishment human rights NGOs who are criticized for commercializing the issues of war crimes accountability and justice in post conflict countries like Liberia.

Former Pentagon official Michael Rubin reveals in an article published in the Washington Examiner, a troubling pattern of fraud and witness tampering by groups like Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project, which have profited handsomely from documenting war crimes in Liberia while compromising the integrity of the legal process.

Rubin details how these organizations, along with the Center for Justice and Accountability, have engaged in a concerted effort to position themselves as the gatekeepers for the new Liberian court, even as evidence emerged of their complicity in tainting witness testimony. These groups have been pressuring President Boakai to think twice on Massaquoi’s appointment.

In contrast, majority of the organizations and leaders backing Massaquoi, experienced the pinch of the wars and are on record for leading legitimate campaign for the court’s establishment with no known evidence of profit making agenda.

For instance Mulbah Morlu who heads STAND is mentioned amongst notable trailblazers for the campaign to prosecute warlords and deliver justice to the more than 250,000 innocent Liberian killed between 1989 and 2003. He was jailed on multiple occasions for his advocacy for the court’s establishment.

The Liberia NGO Network that jointly signed the resolution in support of Massaquoi  has more than 100 membership of rights groupings across the country.

The resolution, signed on July 4, 2024, comes in the wake of President Joseph  Boakai’s executive order to establish the court, a crucial step in addressing the country’s dark history of civil war and economic crimes.

“The urgency of this national moral and legal imperative prompted STAND to issue several statements calling on the President of Liberia, H.E. Joseph N. Boakai, to establish the office of a War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia,” the resolution states, commending the president’s decisive action.

The civil society organizations highlighted the dire need for accountability, noting that despite two decades of relative peace, Liberia continues to grapple with significant challenges, including violent crime, human rights abuses, and the lingering effects of the 14-year civil war that claimed the lives of over 250,000 innocent citizens.

“The lack of successful prosecution of public officials and a firm political will to combat waste and abuse have worsened official corruption, fostering a culture of impunity,” the resolution states, underscoring the importance of the court in restoring trust in the country’s judicial system.

The organizations also acknowledged the Liberian Legislature’s historic move in passing a resolution calling for the establishment of the war and economic crimes court, a decision that was later reconciled through a resolution by the Liberian Senate.

By appointing Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi as the Executive Director of the court, the civil society groups believe that President Boakai has taken a crucial step towards ensuring accountability and justice for the atrocities committed during the civil war and the economic crimes that have plagued the country.

Massaquoi, a Liberian lawyer with more than 15 years court room experience is viewed locally and internationally as someone who will maintain the integrity and independent of the war crimes process due in most part for apolitical attribute

The resolution emphasizes the need to hold perpetrators of war crimes and economic crimes accountable, stating, “Whether baseless or justified, these fundamental inadequacies before 1989 were exploited by protagonists of the Liberian civil war. The current government must seize upon this opportunity provided by the irreversible ‘War and Economic Crimes Court’ mandate to lay a fresh foundation for building trust and confidence in Liberia’s judicial system.”

The joint resolution, signed by representatives of STAND, LINNK, and several other civil society organizations, perhaps represents  collective effort by the mass of ordinary people to  address Liberia’s past and pave the way for a more just and prosperous future.

Below is the full text:

Title:  A Joint Resolution of Dozens of Civil Society Organizations Supporting Cllr Jonathan Massaquoi as Executive Director of the Office of War and Economic Crimes Court

Under the Auspices of:      The Liberia NGOs Network (LINNK) & The Solidarity & Trust for a New Day (STAND)

Background

Twenty-one years have passed since the end of Liberia’s civil war, yet the country continues to grapple with significant national challenges, including violent crime and human rights abuses, which pose grave threats to its peace and stability under successive governments.

At the core of this complex issue lies a longstanding reluctance to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable. Liberia’s dark history of 14 years marked by brutality saw infamous warlords, many of whom have since entered politics, and their followers turning the nation into killing fields, resulting in the senseless deaths of a quarter-million innocent citizens, predominantly women and children.

In response to these atrocities, Liberia established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) not only to facilitate national reconciliation but also to ensure justice for war and economic crimes. The TRC fulfilled its mandate by recommending the establishment of a special court to prosecute those responsible for these heinous acts.

While past administrations deserve criticism for failing to fulfill their patriotic, international, moral, and legal duties to establish a judicial framework addressing past abuses, President Joseph N. Boakai deserves commendation for demonstrating the political will to initiate crucial steps toward establishing a war and economic crimes court to prosecute alleged perpetrators.

Once fully implemented, this decision will not only address Liberia’s most urgent issue of impunity but also present an opportunity for progress in a nation where war victims continue to suffer under corrupt economic governance, partly per petuated by former warlords.

It is unfortunate that since the end of the civil war, Liberia’s democratic governance has been hindered by weak infrastructure and systemic institutional failures, despite the tragic loss of 250,000 innocent lives.

Despite some notable progress, various international reports on Liberia paint a troubling picture of escalating violence, drug abuse, corruption, and acute economic disparity.

Of even greater concern is the fact that a significant portion of Liberia’s youth is increasingly vulnerable to rising crime and drug abuse, threatening the stability and development of a crucial human resource sector vital for Liberia’s present and future.

Violent crime rates remain alarmingly high across the country, exacerbating Liberia’s challenge with impunity, despite two decades of relative peace and stability. Both local and international reports categorize violent crime, both petty and large-scale, as opportunistic, exacerbated by a weak judiciary system and endemic poverty, particularly affecting the youth.

Furthermore, corruption has plagued all governments, past and present, accelerating Liberia’s moral decline into an abyss. The lack of successful prosecution of public officials and a firm political will to combat waste and abuse have worsened official corruption, fostering a culture of impunity.

Data reveals that 70% of Liberia’s population lives in multidimensional poverty, compounded by rising youth unemployment, pervasive corruption, and a steep inflation rate. The lack of trust in the judiciary further increases the potential for instability amid the high costs of living.

Given the emerging regional threat of military coups, it is imperative for Liberians to oppose unconstitutional and disruptive governance methods. Practical measures must be taken to safeguard and strengthen our democracy against external interference.

The most viable steps include improving governance for our people, ensuring easy and equitable access to justice, enhancing measures of public accountability without cherry-picking, fear, or favor, and guaranteeing freedom of speech for all.

Whether baseless or justified, these fundamental inadequacies before 1989 were exploited by protagonists of the Liberian civil war. The current government must seize upon this opportunity provided by the irreversible ‘War and Economic Crimes Court’ mandate to lay a fresh foundation for building trust and confidence in Liberia’s judicial system.

While STAND rallies Liberians to reject all appearances and symbols of undemocratic takeovers in a few West African countries, we also believe this negative regional experience should serve as a cautionary tale for our own government to prioritize the socio-economic and human resource development of its people to strengthen their support for democratic governance.

Subsequently, the Legislature, under the leadership of Speaker J. Fonati Koffa and Senate Pro Tempore Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, made a decision that resonated commendably with the people. With the House passing a resolution calling for the establishment of war and economic crimes courts for Liberia, which was reconciled a month later through a resolution by the Liberian Senate, STAND commends the House’s leadership and all its members for this historic step forward.

The urgency of this national moral and legal imperative prompted STAND to issue several statements calling on the President of Liberia, H.E. Joseph N. Boakai, to establish the office of a War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

Against this backdrop, to ensure accountability for war crimes committed between 1979 and 2003, and economic crimes committed between 1979 and 2024, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai issued Executive Order No. 131, establishing the Office of a War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, and appointing Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi as Executive Director.

WHEREAS, in May, 2005 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was created by an act of the Legislature to  investigate gross human rights violations, systematic abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law occurring in Liberia between January 1979 and 14 October 2003;

WHEREAS, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), commenced and concluded its mandate, followed by a submission of its  final and consolidated reports to the Legislature on June 30, 2009;

WHEREAS, in view of established facts as sufficiently documented by the TRC and other sources, at the early stages of the war, the constituted government was overthrown, resulting in the total breakdown of law and order, placing the entire population at great peril without protection, security, or defense against the onslaught of the various armed factions;

WHEREAS, it has been established that as a consequence of the deliberate, criminal, greedy and thoughtless  actions of warring factions, all institutions within the Republic collapsed; and these various armed factions partitioned the country and governed their respective enclaves where combatants, acting on the command of their leaders, violated the conventions of war by engaging in rape, torture, mass executions, slavery, as well as the use of children in active combat;

WHEREAS, it has been established that the human costs of the war, though incalculable, account for not less than 1.5 million people uprooted and displaced; a staggering 500,000 – 750,000 psychological and/or physical injuries, as well as a minimum of 250,000 killed;

WHEREAS, it has been established that the direct impact of the war on the Liberian economy in terms of lost revenue, productivity and goodwill, as well as destruction of the infrastructure, underemployment, accrued interests, etc. is estimated at between one hundred (100) and one- hundred-and-fifty (150) billion United States Dollars;

WHEREAS, it has been established that in order to prevent mass extermination of civilians, an international military force – Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) – was deployed in the Republic of Liberia against fierce resistance from the armed factions;

WHEREAS, it has been established that documented evidence of atrocities committed in Liberia during the war are currently in the possession of, among others, the United Nations, the United States Government, the European Union, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the International Media, the Economic Community of West African States, the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as some of the victims themselves;

WHEREAS, taking into consideration that an act of the Legislature, which birthed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, expressly and unambiguously states that all recommendations of the TRC submitted before the legislature is law;

WHEREAS, in recognition of government’s statutory duty to the people of Liberia, and as a Member of the international community, to which it remains obliged to respect and uphold the requirements of international humanitarian law;

WHEREAS, being cognizant of this domestic and international responsibility to address egregious crimes which are not pardonable under international law, ensuring that individuals bearing the greatest responsibility for heinous crimes are held to account;

WHEREAS, acknowledging a joint Resolution of the Legislature, which strengthened the authority of the President of the Republic of Liberia, H.E. Joseph Nyuma Boakai to begin the scrupulous implementation of the TRC recommendation;

WHEREAS, recognizing the power of the President of Liberia, H.E. Joseph Nyuma Boakai pursuant to his constotiuted authority to appoint an Executive Director of the office of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia; which was rightfully exercised through the appointment of Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi as Executive Director;

NOW THEREFORE, by the power vested, as stipulated and authorized by our various leadership structures, The Solidarity and Trust for a New Day (STAND) and the Liberia NGOs Network (LINNK), which comprises dozens of civil society organizations, do hereby declare support  for the appointment of Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi as Executive Director of the office of War and Economic Crimes court in Liberia.

PREPARED THIS FOURTH DAY OF JULY IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD TWO THOUSAND AND TWENTY-FOUR.  SIGNED ON BEHALF OF THE COORDINATING  COMMITTEE/STAND & LIBERIA NGOs NETWORK(LINNK)

Mulbah K. Morlu

Chairman

(Solidarity & Trust for a New Day-STAND)

  1. Veronica Slorboh

Gender Coordinator

(Liberia NGOs Network-LINNK)

Beatrice Togba Wuo

Program Coordinator

(Liberia NGOs Network-LINNK)

Rosetta B. Choloplay

Secretary General

(Liberia NGOs Network-LINNK)

Mack D. Flomo

National Director

Global Justice Peace & Human Rights Advocacy Network (GJPHRAN)

Amb Konah K.R. Gaytee

Global Advancement for Refugees, Migrants and Stateless Persons Incorporated (GARMS)

Stephen B. Norman

National Chairman / Executive Director

Liberia NGOs Network (LINNK)

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