Grand Bassa County Rep. Jeh Byron Browne of the opposition Liberty Party has introduced a bill in the Liberian House of Representatives for the possible establishment of a Sierra Leonenean type of a “War Crimes Court (WCC) in Liberia.
The court when established, will seek to bring to justice all former Liberian Warlords, whose warring factions were allegedly responsible for war crimes including, murders, raps, recruitment of child soldiers, pillaging and other related crimes against humanity etc.
The Grand Bassa County Representative pleaded with his colleagues to consider the need for the establishment of the court.
Rep. Browne maintained that need “to sustain peace and genuine national reconciliation is through the establishment of a court to prosecute people allegedly implicated in atrocities during Liberia’s civil crisis.”
He argued that national healing and improvement of developmental agenda can only be achieved in Liberia if lawmakers could reason in setting up a war crimes court.
Browne further argued that ”the Liberian conflict produced several aggressors both within and without our national frontiers who committed worst of crimes against humanity”.
Since the overwhelming calls by Liberians for the establishment of a War Crime Court (WCC) in Liberia, this is the very first practical attempt by a Liberian Lawmaker for the actualization of such demand by the Liberian people.
The Court, once established, will trial those allegedly responsible for atrocities committed during the country’s fourteen year old carnage, which claimed the lives of approximately two hundred fifty thousand (250.000) nationals according to the United Nations estimates.
In spite of the popular nature of the bill among the Liberian people, Political Observers are however wondering whether or not this attempt by Rep. Browne will gain any traction from Members of the House of Representatives, since some of the warlords are also Members of the Liberian Legislature
Notwithstanding, as though he were already pleading a case before the War Crime Court, Rep. Browne pointed out arguably, that“some of them (Warlords) planned, financed, supervised and executed the wanton destruction of our country and its human resources.”
“Today,” he went on, “they seem to be clinging to the mistaken belief that their actions against the Liberian people were justified. He stressed and further argued, the establishment of this court to deal with these issues has become the most prudent thing for us to do today.”
In an apparent attempt to hold accountable those who committed economic crimes, the Liberian Legislator wants those he referred to as “the aggressors who have impoverished majority of the people in Liberia while they and their cronies mellow in the resources of the state to be made to account for their respective actions.”
Rep. Browne is also recommending that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which suggested the prosecution of suspected war criminals, serves as a bridge for the future for Liberians whose rights were trampled upon.
Browne expressed concern that theTRC recommendations have since been “thrown into the dustbin, thereby creating the need for such a court to be established.”
The proposed legislation was received by plenary, the highest decision making body of the House and later turnedover to the House relevant committee for possible deliberation and subsequent recommendation to plenary.
TRC had recommended the prosecution of several persons for bearing the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed during the civil war and a 30-year ban for other prominent Liberians, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, from political activities for making financial contributions to support the rebel factions during the war.
Opinions have been divided on the recommendations with some people criticizing TRC for not seeking peace and others pushing for a war crimes court to try perpetrators of massacres as a way of uniting and reconciling the Liberian people.
Reacting to the divided opinions, the international community, especially the United States of America said that the decision for creating a war crimes court in Liberia should be left to the Liberian government.
When recently asked by students of the University of Liberia as to whether she favours a war crimes court in Liberia, Chief Prosecutor for UN backed Court for Sierra Leone Brenda J. Hollis pointed out that “That decision is left to the government and people of Liberia to determine.”
The establishment of such a court, political analysts say could call for the appearance of many high profile former warlords such as former Field Marshall Prince Johnson, who is now a senator, and Sekou Damate Konneh.
If the TRC recommendation was to be implemented, President Sirleaf would be barred from politics for 30 years for admitting to a US$10,000 support she gave former rebel leader and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor as “humanitarian assistance.”
TRC report maintained that President Sirleaf’s admittance showed that she participated indirectly in the crisis as her donation may have led to the destruction of lives and property.
Senator Prince Johnson, at a recent news conference in Monrovia, responded to reports that a local human rights organization was intend on forwarding the names of those bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes in Liberia to the International Criminal Court, also called for the prosecution of Madam Sirleaf,
The Independent Eye News (IEN), reported the story in its Saturday, June 16 edition under the caption, “GEN. JOHNSON CONFESSES.” Johnson stressed that Madam Johnson-Sirleaf should be prosecuted for “aiding and abiding” as her donated money was used by Mr. Taylor to intensify the conflict.
The Nimba County Sernior Senator, then Bridier General, also admitted to arresting former President Samuel K. Doe, whose gruesome interrogation and subsequent murder, was vedio taped as General Johnson ordered his Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL), fighters to cut off President Doe’s ears.
Although he denied personally killing the former Liberian leader, Senator Johnson noted that “I did what I did in defense of my people.” The TRC Report named the leaders of warring factions as those bearing the most responsibility for war crimes and human rights violations who should be brought to justice.
Those warring faction leaders cited are: Charles Taylor, NPFL; Prince Y. Johnson, INPFL; Alhaji G.V. Kromah, ULIMO-K; Dr. George Boley, LPC; Thomas Yaya Nimley, MODEL; Sekou Damante Konneh, LURD. Both Roosevelt Johnson and Francois Massaquoi who headed ULIMO-J amd Lofa Defence Force (LDF) respectively are deceased.
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