Liberia: ‘Betrayal of Trust’

LNBA describes Senate’s recommendation for Traditional Justice Commission

The Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) has described as a travesty of justice and betrayal of trust, the Senate’s reported recommendation for a traditional justice commission instead of a war crimes court here.

In a statement issued 11 October 2022 under the signature of LNBA National Secretary General Cllr. Bornor M. Varmah, the Bar stated that Liberia has not prosecuted anyone for the grave crimes committed during the country’s armed conflict.

“The LNBA described the action of the Liberian Senate … as [a] travesty of justice and betrayal of trust of the Liberian People,” Cllr. Varmah said.

“LNBA expresses dismay over the failure of the … legislature to establish a war and economic crimes court,” the statement said.

The Bar’s statement came after a brief meeting with United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack.

Also, the Bar lamented that Liberia is yet to establish a war crimes court despite a recommendation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2009.

The reported Senate recommendation proposes that the traditional justice commission is to analyze and investigate the findings of the TRC’s final report, instead of a war crimes court.

“Meanwhile, we welcome the recent visit of the United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack and fully commit to national and international efforts to end impunity in Liberia,” the LNBA said.

The Bar pointed out that the rationale provided by the Senate to recommend a Traditional Justice Commission is weak and has no foundation to address criminal accountability for war-era atrocities.

The LNBA stated that if the recommendation takes effect, it will only duplicate and grossly undermine the functional responsibilities of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR).

The LNBA leadership at the same time called on the US government to seize the opportunity to unconditionally stand with the victims of atrocities committed in Liberia’s civil wars.

It urged the US to assist Liberia in establishing a war and economic crimes court to address justice and accountability for abuses suffered during the civil wars.

“The LNBA wishes to remind all that during the armed conflicts, Librarians suffered [a] widespread violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws,” the Bar said.

It named killing, rape and other forms of sexual violence, summary executions, mutilation and torture, and use of child combatants as some of the violations.

Due to the popular and widespread support of the subject matter in Liberia, the LNBA believes there can be no justification by the Liberian government to delay criminal accountability for war atrocities.

The Bar furthered that it is shameful and embarrassing to note that judicial authorities in the USA, Belgium, France, Finland, and the UK have pursued criminal cases related to the Liberian civil war in recent years, often spurred by civil society efforts.

It said these occurred without any substantial stride by the Liberian government to address transitional justice issues emanating from Liberia’s civil conflict.

“The LNBA maintains that the Liberian people have waited too long for justice and accountability for abuses suffered during the civil war without the expressed political will by successive Liberian governments to act consistent with recommendations of the TRC final report,” the Bar noted.

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