But the political will from the duty bearers to fully implement the mandate of the Liberian people who they are directly representing remains a daunting task. Speaking at a news conference in Monrovia recently in relations to the issue, the Secretary General of the Human Rights Advocacy Platform, Adama Dempster, termed the Senate’s action to propose a setting up of the Transitional Justice Commission(TJC) as an unnecessary delay intended to waste resources and undermine the quest leading to the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.
The action by the Senate, he claimed, is meant to question the credibility of the independence of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act of 2005, which formed part of the execution of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2003. “We take note of the ongoing hearing at the Liberian Senate requesting experts’ opinions on the matter. However, let it be made clear that in our quest for peace and reconciliation, there can be no peace without justice,” Mr. Dempster, a fearless human rights activist asserted. As a means of continuing its advocacy stressing the need for a war and economic crimes court to be established in Liberia, the group called the Liberian Senate to play its rightful role as “House of Elders” and not be a party to the promotion of the culture of impunity in Liberia.
Providing some historicity, the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, in response to President George Manneh Weah September 19, 2019 Letter to the Liberian Legislature, seeking its advice on the implementation of the TRC recommendations and the establishment of a war and economic court for Liberia, expressed serious concern on the issue. In 2005, the National Transitional Legislative Assembly enacted a law to establish the TRC under Article IV (4). The TRC’s mandate was “to promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation” through Investigating gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law as well as abuses that occurred, including massacres, sexual violations, murder, extra-judicial killings and economic crimes, such as the exploitation of natural or public resources to perpetuate armed conflicts, during the period January 1979 to October 14, 2003; determining whether these were isolated incidents or part of a systematic pattern; establishing the antecedents, circumstances factors and context of such violations and abuses; and determining those responsible for the commission of the violations and abuses and their motives as well as their impact on victims.
Mr. Adama highlighting further justification about his position, said the instrument also provides a forum that will address issues of impunity as well as an opportunity for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences in order to create a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation as well as investigating the antecedents of the crises which gave rise to and impacted on the violent conflict in Liberia. Meanwhile, the human rights activist is of the conviction that if justice is to be truly and fairly dispensed, the need for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia is the best way forward.
It can be recalled that on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, the leadership of the Liberian Senate submitted a three-page document to Plenary, among others, advising the President to constitute a transitional justice commission to determine why the TRC recommendations have not been timely and fully implemented; whether the Commission fully complied with its mandates, such as the face-to-face meeting between perpetrators of crimes and other offenses, and the respective victims. Plenary is the highest decision making body of the Liberian Senate. Consequently, the leadership also advises that its proposed TJC should examine the effect of the August 2003 Act of the Legislature that grants amnesty to participants, including warlords; to analyze credibility and legitimacy issues surrounding the TRC Final Report in respect of the fact four (4) of the Commissioners had serious issues with the Report and consequently, two did sign the document but instead presented a dissenting report.
It further advises the President to examine ratification/accession of Liberia to the Rome Statute in 2004 after the civil war on the establishment of a war crimes court and to separate said court if established, that has an international dimension from an economic crimes court, which already exists in Liberia. The leadership argues the cardinal purpose for which the TRC was proposed by the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was “to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as the opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences, in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.”
It points out that in accordance with section 48 of the TRC Report, the President is not obliged to comply with all of the recommendations in the Report, adding that the only requirement for the President’s non-compliance with any of the recommendations is to “show cause” satisfactory to the Legislature, which implies that both the President and the Legislature will eventually determine the best option for healing, reconciliation, and accountability. “It is clear therefore that the purpose for the establishment of the TRC was to propose measures which will ultimately reconcile the people, and not to open old wounds and divide them further,” it adds.