Liberian citizens called on President George Weah in a video released today by an array of local and international groups to support a war crimes court to bring justice for atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil wars. On May 15, 2019, Liberia’s Independent National Human Rights Commission will hold a conference to assess progress on the recommendations made by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 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 during Liberia’s armed conflicts from 1986-96 and 1999-2003. That recommendation has never been carried out, and no one implicated in abuses has been prosecuted in Liberian courts.
“This video is an emotional appeal from Liberians for President Weah to back a war crimes court,” said Adama Dempster, on behalf of the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia. “We hope that President Weah watches the video and acts in the interests of justice for the citizens of Liberia who are crying out for justice to be served.”
During the civil wars, 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. Liberia is obligated under international law to ensure that serious abuses are investigated and that those responsible are appropriately brought to justice.
The video includes 10 people of varied backgrounds who took part in a national conference on accountability in Monrovia in November. They explain why a special court is needed and ask for Weah’s support:
“We beg you that the war crimes court come to Liberia.”
“Without justice and accountability in this country we could see Liberia going back to its dark days.”
“You are now sitting in the right position to address the issue of accountability in our country.”
“President Weah, we are calling on you to take justice as a priority.”
The groups also prepared a question-and-answer document on accountability for past crimes in Liberia.
Momentum for a war crimes court continues to grow. Liberians held marches, most recently in November 2018, to campaign for a war crimes court, and petitioned the legislature to carry out the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.
Liberian, African, and international nongovernmental organizations have come together to campaign for justice in Liberia and presented a submission to the UN Human Rights Committee in July on the need for trials of past crimes in Liberia. The Liberian Bar Association added its support for a war crimes court in April.
The UN Human Rights Committee in July 2018 called for the Liberian government to report back within two years on its progress to ensure that those accused of human rights violations and war crimes are prosecuted.
The video was released by Liberian and international nongovernmental organizations, including Advocates for Human Rights, Center for Justice and Accountability, Centre for Civil and Political Rights, Coalition for Justice in Liberia, CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, Flomo Theatre, Global Justice and Research Project, Human Rights Watch, Liberia Massacre Survivor Association, Rights and Rice Foundation, Search for Common Ground –Liberia, Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia, and the Transitional Justice Working Group.
“President Weah has an opportunity to stand with victims and their families by establishing a war crimes court in Liberia,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “He should support establishing a court and seek to work with the United Nations and other international partners to set up a court that can hold fair, credible trials.”
This article first appeared on the Human Rights Watch website