Monrovia, September 19, 2023) –The Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia (SEWACCOL) has expressed disappointment in President George Weah’s failure to implement commitment he made at the United Nations General Assembly in 2019 to begin to determine the venue, funding and timing to establish a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.
SEWACCOL indicated that the court would try atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil wars but the president’s failure is a disappointment in the search for justice for victims of the crimes.
“Weah supported a war crimes court prior to his election and committed to advance the court at the UN General Assembly in 2019 to help ensure the violence that brought so much pain and loss to Liberia will not happen again,” the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia said. “But he has failed to implement his promises leaving war victims in Liberia without redress.”
During Liberia’s armed conflicts from 1989-96 and 1999-2003, Liberians suffered widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law such as mass killings, rape, and other forms of sexual violence, summary executions, mutilation and torture, and use of child combatants.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which operated between 2006 and 2009, recommended creating a war crimes court – the Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia – to try those responsible for grave crimes committed. Many of the TRC’s recommendations, including for the war crimes court, have never been carried out.
“Civil society across Liberia is united in its call for a war crimes court and issued a resolution in support of a court in April 2023,” said SEWACCOL. “We are asking all presidential candidates to commit to a court so that perpetrators of Liberia’s war time crimes can finally be held to account. Seven presidential candidates have come out in support of a court during the election period, but not Weah.”
On September 13 2023, at the first presidential debate organized by Truth FM and the media community in Liberia, seven presidential candidates agreed to establish a war and economic crimes court if elected.
A Civil Society resolution signed in April 2023 calls on the current and incoming government of Liberia to immediately take all necessary steps to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report released in 2009 and request assistance from the international community including the UN, US, EU, AU and ECOWAS to establish a court.
A statement from SEWACCOL noted that there has been important progress made nationally, regionally and internationally on the path to achieving the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia. This includes the visit of the US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice to Liberia in October 2022, the report of the UN human rights committee concluding observations recommendation on the establishment of a war crimes court to address past gross human rights violations and holding alleged perpetrators accountable in July 2018; support by 52 bipartisan legislators on the signing of legislative resolution for a court; solidarity calls by national institutions in support of the establishment of a war crimes court; and engagement with US Congressional offices to support Liberia’s quest for the establishment of a war crimes court in DC.
“But the key next step remains the government of Liberia taking concrete actions to advance a court, particularly requesting advice and assistance from the United Nations and other international partners such as the United States on moving forward with creating a court that can fairly and effectively try the crimes”. The few cases involving civil wars-era crimes to date have all occurred outside Liberia before United States and European courts. Authorities have been pursuing cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows national courts to try international crimes committed abroad, and for crimes related to immigration, such as lying on immigration forms.
SEWACCOL members organization includes Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia
Liberia, Council of Churches, Liberian National Bar Association, Liberia National Transitional Council of Chiefs and Elders.
Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), Transitional Justice Working Group, Voice of the Voiceless, Liberia Massacre Survivors Association – LIMASA , Global Justice and Research Project, Accountability Lab Liberia, Coalition of Justice in Liberia – Representative in Liberia, Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Independent Human Rights Investigators, Catholic Justice and Peace, Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy, Independent Human Rights Investigators, Lutheran Church Massacre Survivors Association
and the African Platform for Human Rights and Governance.
Meanwhile, SEWACCOL comments comes as President George Weah is currently at United Nations General Assembly to make progress report about Liberia to the world. The advocacy and calls for the establishment of the war and economic crimes court heighten daily through the scars of the victims of the war.
Recently, several massacres victims memorialized the Lutheran Church massacre, in which the group rallied the government of Liberia to ensure the war crimes court establishment.