U.S. President Biden Urged to Support the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia

Many are calling for President Biden and the U.S. State Department to put pressure on Liberia and get the government of the country to abide by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia’s recommendations

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U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have promised to put diplomacy and human rights first. There is no better place to do so than in Liberia.

In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia recommended that Liberia establish a tribunal to prosecute war criminals. Former footballer and current President George Weah, elected in 2018, seems to have little interest in establishing a court or tribunal despite claiming otherwise to the international community at the United Nations General Assembly.

President Weah’s suggestion that he will reach out to the senate to establish the court is seen as grandstanding as the senate has no jurisdiction over the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC).

Liberia’s role in the civil war in Sierra Leone, from 1991-2002, led to more than 50,000 civilians killed. The  Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone, with support from the special forces of former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the government, led at the time by President Joseph Momoh.

Many in the American media have reported that the conflict was centred around blood diamonds and how the rebels used this illegal trade to finance the war. What is less known is the RUF’s brutal crimes of raping, mutilating and murdering civilians as well as forcing young girls, predominantly children, to marry its soldiers.

Undisputed evidence indicates that an RUF captured village would leave villagers with amputated limbs. Commanders were known to ask victims if they wanted a long-sleeve or a short-sleeve, cutting off a hand if they reluctantly answered with long-sleeve and the entire forearm if they said short-sleeve.

LIberia’s government finally stopped facilitating RUF movement, as well as the blood diamond trade, ending the war in 2002. The United Nations (UN) Mission in Sierra Leone operated in the country from 1999 until 2005 with further economic and peace-building missions thereafter in an effort to bring justice to the perpetrators of war crimes.

The UN, in collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone, formed a Special Court whose operations were financially supported by forty countries and opened in early 2002, in the capital city Freetown.

This was the world’s first international tribunal to reside in the country where the crimes took place. The court’s mandate required any sentences passed to be executed in the nation itself, except where capacity and security dictated exceptions.

Over the course of eleven years the court indicted dozens of suspects including the former Liberian President Taylor. The United States Department of State, complicit to some degree by sweeping Taylor’s contributions under the rug, could not stop the court from convicting him despite being a sitting President at the time, hit with fifty years in prison.

Other African countries, too, have recognized the importance of accountability for crimes. South Africa, Morocco, and in particular Rwanda has seen reforms in their legislation with one million foot soldiers of genocide in Rwanda tried in court.

Liberia however has so far refused to bring to justice killers of 250,000 people in the two civil wars of Liberia starting with Samuel Doe’s violent coup d’état in 1980 and continuing with the invasion of the country a decade later by Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia who battled rival warlord warlord Prince Johnson for control of the capital Monrovia. Johnson won that battle and, on video, executed Doe. Yet the fighting continued until 1995 when LIberians elected President Taylor yet hopes for peace in Liberia were quickly extinguished with the President using blood diamonds to finance rebels in neighbouring countries. Before the former President could be arrested, he fled the country.

President Weah and his allies—sitting senator Prince Johnson and the hand-picked mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Koijee—are all reported to have been complicit in economic crimes.

“The WECC is foundational to restoring rule-of-law in Liberia and ending the era of impunity; it presents the opportunity to bring closure for the hurt and pain of the past and begin a new era of reconciliation and unity, [and] put behind all of our past divisions,” said Alex Cummings, a leading candidate in the opposition coalition that is contesting the 2023 elections.

Yet President Weah and his allies—sitting Senator Prince Johnson and the hand-picked mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Koijee—are reluctant to establish the WECC with reports of their complicity in economic crimes a key driver of delays and denials.

The role of the United States and the office of the U.S. President still holds a lot of weight and commentators and analysts are baffled as to the silence of President Biden on this matter. As Sierra Leone and a handful of African countries have shown, countries emerge better and more prosperous when they hold war criminals accountable.

Many are calling for President Biden and the U.S. State Department to put pressure on Liberia and get the government of the country to abide by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia’s recommendations and demand the establishment of an independent War and Economic Crimes Court based on the model of what worked in Sierra Leone.

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About Cholo Brooks 16091 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.

1 Comment on U.S. President Biden Urged to Support the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia

  1. The main players should be brought to justice. People like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was the planner, and financier of the war should face justice. The likes of Prince Johnson, General “Buck Naked”, George E. Sengbe Bolay, and all the main players of the war that killed 250,000 of our people and sent millions of our people into compulsory exile should face justice. President Biden, we beg you in the name of God, please give the order today. God will bless you and your family if you give this order for a war Crime Court for Liberia supervised by the International Community. George Weah will never do it because the one that financed his campaign, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Field Marshall Prince Johnson, have asked President not to cooperate with any country including the United States that supports the War Crime Court for Liberia. Please, I beg you to help as Liberia will never develop, if this condition is not met as our Democracy is threatened by the above named individuals, as they continue to interfere with our Democracy, determining who becomes “President” so that the War Crimes Court never becomes a reality for Liberia.
    Mr. American Ambassador, our country has been ruined by these individuals and main players of the Liberia and we need President Biden’s help. Please convey to him our request. We are appealing to him to help us this once. God will bless him and the United States. We are being held hostage by these individuals and as a result, nothing good happens in our country. These is stealing ongoing from our national coffers by these individuals, rampant corruption, huge sums of money disappear from our national treasury daily, democracy has been threatened, there is no Rule Of Law in the country. We have in effect, returned to the State of Nature. Please President Biden, give the order. When you do, there will be great jubilation in our Land.

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