Today twenty international, African and Liberia-based human rights organizations sent an open letter to incoming Liberian President George Weah.
The groups call upon President Weah, “to fulfill Liberia’s obligations to investigate and prosecute wartime atrocities” and urge him “to make accountability a priority for your administration and ensure the protection of Liberian human rights defenders, particularly those working on accountability initiatives.”
Liberia endured two back to back civil wars between 1989 to 1997 and 1999 to 2003, during which some diplomatic sources estimate up to 250,000 were killed, and more than half the country was forcibly displaced. A report by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released in June 2009 found all sides responsible for serious violations of domestic and international law, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, widespread and systematic rape and sexual slavery, torture, use and recruitment of child soldiers, and mass executions of civilians Although the TRC recommended the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal in Liberia to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of serious violations of international criminal and humanitarian law, the only prosecutions to date have been outside of Liberia.
Hassan Bility, Executive Director of Monrovia based Global Justice and Research Project and one of the authors of the open letter said: “Justice must be one of the cardinal points of the President’s new agenda. There must be justice for war crimes, otherwise there will be no lasting peace in Liberia.” Mr. Bility, a former journalist and torture survivor of the civil war, helped initiate the arrests of several Liberian perpetrators in Europe and the U.S. in partnership with the Swiss based NGO, Civitas Maxima.
“Recent cases such as the conviction of Jungle Jabbah in Philadelphia and the indictments of other alleged war criminals in Europe and the U.S. have shown that prosecuting war criminals will not reignite the civil war in Liberia, as has often been feared.” said Nushin Sarkarati, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Justice and Accountability. “It is time to bring these examples of justice home, and make ending impunity in Liberia a priority.”