As the debate heightens in Liberia on how to proceed with the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia since July 2009, a cross section of Liberians following deliberations at a three- day colloquium are recommending to national government for the establishment of a war crimes court, reparation and other mechanisms as some of the means of implementing the TRC recommendations.
The colloquium organized by Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) in collaboration with Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) with support from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Liberia Country Office brought together participants from every segment of the Liberian society. Participants includes representative of the government both the executive and the legislature, representatives from the 15 counties of Liberia including chiefs, women groups, youth organizations, members of the Civil Society Organizations, Academics and representatives of international organizations in Liberia like EU, AU, ECOWAS, Embassy of Sweden etc.
Following the three days of intense discussions and brainstorming, a colloquium statement was produced by participants which was endorsed by all Liberians present. The Colloquium statement recommends among other things that “a war crimes court be established to prosecute all persons who committed gross human rights violations during the civil war in Liberia”. To further support the war crimes court recommendation, participants also wants a War Crimes Court Bill to be drafted within five months and submitted to the National Legislature for passage into law. The colloquium participants are also calling for the drafting of a Bill to be submitted to the National Legislature for passage into law for the Protection of Victims and Witnesses for the proposed War Crime Court to be set up in Liberia.
In order to fast-track the War crimes Court Bill, the Colloquium participants are recommending that the INCHR work with civil society actors with the experience and knowledge working on human rights, transitional justice and TRC to collaborate with the Liberia National Bar Association LNBA to conclude the drafting of the proposed Bill on the establishment of war crimes court in Liberia which the LNBA has commenced.
Out of all the TRC recommendations, the issue of establishing a war crimes court has dominated discussions in recent time and many think it is now overshadowing the numerous other recommendations made by the commission. However, besides the issue of war crimes court, the colloquium participants also recommend other actions that could lead to addressing some of the many transitional justice issues plaguing Liberia. As part of the recommendations, participants are calling for reparation at individual, national and community levels. They want the Government of Liberia to start the reparation process beginning with people with disability, the elderly and people under other special difficult circumstances.
“That National Government Compensates Victims or individuals who were victimized during the civil crises considering the elderly, Disable, women and youth”, the participants are recommending.
On national level reparation, they want the Government to extend an open apology for failure to protect its citizen during the crises and also to establish National Mourning programs that will be created by enacting into law a National Mourning and Memorial program to mourn those that were killed during the war and their bodies could not be found or buried.
“National government should enact the portion of the TRC report that says that perpetrator who holds public positions should be removed from their public position after their tenure of office expires and also those in appointed positions should be removed from office and banned for 30 years from holding public positions, so as to have a smooth Reparation implementation”, the statement added.
On the reconciliation aspect of the TRC recommendations, the participants are calling for the launch of a Palava hut program, nationwide awareness on the Palava hut, addressing the issues of victims appearing under the Palava hut, promoting and supporting conduct of community cleansing ceremonies and providing psychosocial services to victims and perpetrators
In conclusion, the participants declared in the statement “Finally, the need for further dialogue and consultations across the country and with all the Liberian people was discussed and agreed. The participants thereby call for the holding of a National Conference – to be convened under the auspices of the Traditional Chiefs to promote peace, reconciliation and national healing. This Conference will not depart from the spirit and conclusions of this Colloquium but will seek to broaden the consensus on the specific actions and recommendations contained herein. The Following Government institutions were agreed to support the efforts of the Chief and Elders: Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, the Peacebuilding Office, the Office of the National Peace Ambassador, the INCHR, and the National Legislature.”
The colloquium is one of series of activities being supported by OHCHR meant to create the platform for Liberian institutions and people to discuss issues of human rights and rule of law.
During discussions at the colloquium there were some level of disagreements by individual participants on issues but the statement was unanimously endorsed by all participants after it was read and corrections made before adoption of the final copy.
The participants agreed that the statement be communicated to national Government by the Independent National Commission on Human Rights.