U.S. Congress Committee Passes Resolution to Support War Crimes Court in Liberia

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States Congress has passed a resolution to support the full implementation of the recommendations made by Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Liberia, including the establishment of an extraordinary criminal tribunal. Members of the committee unanimously voted in favor of the resolution on Wednesday.

The House Resolution 1055 was introduced by Rep. Daniel Donovan, Jr., a Republican lawmaker who represents New York’s Staten Island, which has one of the highest concentrations of Liberians in the U.S. Donovan’s resolution also seeks to affirm America’s strong ties with Liberia.

According to the U.S. Library of Congress, the simple resolution is meant to express the collective opinion of a chamber of Congress on public policy issues.

The resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which approved it unanimously.

Speaking Wednesday during the passage of the bill, the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Ed Royce, praised Donovan for his interest in affirming a U.S.-Liberia relationship and American commitment to helping Liberians promote peace, prosperity, and democracy through a reconciliation process.

“This is an issue that I have long being engaged on dating back to committee’s role requesting for the arrest of a notorious war criminal, Charles Taylor, and for his successful prosecution,” Royce said.

For his part, Donovan said his decision to introduce the resolution was prompted by the fact that protecting human rights across the globe is not only morally the right thing to do but also remains vital to American security.

“Stopping war crimes before they happen is just as important as ensuring that justice prevails afterward,” he told the committee on Wednesday.

He further disclosed that victims of war crimes could not get healing in the absence of justice, thus starting a new circle of turbulence.

“This is why I am proud to sponsor H.R. 1055 to affirm strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, including the establishment of an extraordinary tribunal for Liberia,” he said.

He said his constituents, thousands of whom are victims who fled the turbulence of war in Liberia, have expressed to him the importance of the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.

The Staten Island representative also recalled that the establishment of the war crimes court was long recommended by Liberians through the TRC, while the current president, George Weah, endorsed while serving as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2004 and before coming to the presidency.

Donovan further explained that there were many Liberians who were uncomfortable with the fact that individuals who committed serious crimes during the civil wars are now serving in government. He referenced Nimba’s Sen. Prince Johnson, who admitted to being involved in the torture and murder of former president Samuel Doe.

“With the presence of Johnson and other in the current government, we are seeing Liberia slow-creep backward toward the murderous mayhem of the civil war days,” Donovan told his colleagues.

“Liberians are rightfully clamoring for justice. Without it, I fear there will be further violence and turbulence which nobody wants to see. This is why it is so crucial to call upon Liberians and President Weah to establish a war crimes tribunal,” he said.

Featured photo by Jack Donaghy

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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