Liberia: U.S. Congressional Caucus Gets Petition With Over 300,000 Signatures for War Crimes Court and Sanctions

Monrovia — Advocates for war and economic crimes in Liberia have petitioned The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to add more names of Liberians involved in acts of corruption to the Magnisky Sanction list.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus) is a bipartisan caucus of the United States House of Representatives. Its stated mission is “to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.”

Recently, the Commission received 300,000 signatures from Liberia in support of the U.S. House Resolutions 1055 and 907.

The signatures were obtained from Liberia by Liberia United for Justice & Accountability, Global Initiative For Justice, International Justice Group, and Movement for Justice in Liberia, among others.

Resolution 1055 which was passed by the House in December 2018 seeks to affirm strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

Resolution 907 was introduced by Representative Gregory W. Meeks on February 2, 2022 and seeks to affirm America’s commitment to support progress toward transparency, accountable institutions, and other tenets of good governance in the Republic of Liberia as it approaches the bicentennial of the arrival of the first free Black Americans to Providence Island, Liberia.

War Crimes Court for Liberia

It can be recalled that in June 2021, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission noted that President George Weah who had been equivocal with regard to the establishment of the court prior to becoming President of Liberia is now backsliding in his commitment and previous position on the establishment of the war and economic crimes court.

“For the past few decades, Liberia’s people have suffered untold human rights violations while perpetrators acted with near-complete impunity during the country’s multiple civil wars. Between 1989 and 2003, 250,000 Liberians died from the fighting, and thousands more were conscripted as child soldiers, raped, suffered loss of limb, and other traumatic experiences. Since that time, not a single war crimes trial has occurred in Liberia as part of the country’s judicial process.

“The hearing will examine the legacy of Liberia’s civil wars on its people and economy, the structure and likely policy implications of a proposed War Crimes & Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, and grassroots efforts to secure rule of law in the country and meet victims’ needs.”

On June 22, 2021 the Commission held a special hearing on the need for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.

The witnesses who testified were Ysyndi Martin-Kepyei, Executive Director of the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJUL); Jerome V. Verdier, Esq, Executive Director, International Justice Group and former Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia; Michael Mueller, Chairman of the Global Initiative for Justice and Dr. Alan W. White, former Chief of Investigations, Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In his testimonies, Dr. Alan W. White, former Chief of Investigations, Special Court for Sierra Leone said, it is clear that the current administration is not serious about establishing the court, however, there have been public figures demanding the establishment of the War Crimes and Economic Crime Court, including Alex Cummings the leader of the Coalition of the Political Parties and other organizations such as the Liberian National Bar Association, Religious Leaders and Civil Society members.

“They want to bring an end to impunity, reestablish the rule, and hold those accountable for the atrocities committed during the civil wars. The people of Liberia want to move forward and see their country develop and prosper, however until the nation heals and reconciles with its past it will not happen.

Sanctions for Corrupt Individuals

U.S. Lawmaker Gregory M. Meeks who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus is sponsoring a Resolution, currently before the House, that targets sanctions on the Liberian government.

The Resolution tends to foster relationship between Liberia and America based on its longstanding relationship and ties and improve governance in Liberia.

It calls on the U.S. government to remain committed to nurturing the enduring ties between the two countries and its people through the provision of United States support for strong civil society, reputable accountable institutions, transparency and other tenets of good governance that would help lay a solid foundation for the 2023 presidential elections.

Despite recognizing ongoing efforts to address government corruption and other critical reforms in Liberia, Representative Meeks, in the Resolution, further admonished the Liberian government to increase its efforts in the fight against corruption and prioritize human rights issues, and implement critical economic reforms necessary to accelerate sustainable economic growth and human capital development.

The Resolution, among other things, “calls on the Departments of State and the Treasury to continue to impose targeted sanctions and other measures against those responsible for undermining the rule of law as well as the faith and trust of the Liberian people through the conduct of corruption, gross violations of human rights, and other acts that threaten the peace and security of Liberia… “

The Resolution calls on the U.S. Government to continue to work with the Liberian Government to advance the objectives of the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission and other anticorruption agencies and goals underpinning Liberia’s participation in the Summit for Democracies in December 2021.

During his participation in the Summit for Democracy 2021, President George Weah called on world leaders to strengthen democracy and protect the fight against corruption and at the same time promote human rights.

The call for sanctions against corrupt officials of government and other disruptors of the country’s peace comes against the backdrop that the United States remains the largest and longest bilateral donor to Liberia, allocating more than US$3 billion in multiagency assistance since 2003 to support stabilization, economic recovery, development, and global health, including support for Liberia’s response to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, during which the United States worked with partners to donate nearly 900,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Liberia also remains a beneficiary of United States trade preferences through the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the 2007 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, both of which affirm the importance of open and diversified trade and investment between the United States and Liberia.

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