Human Rights Groups Urge Weah to Prosecute War Criminals

SAN FRANCISCO, United States – Over 20 international, African, and Liberian human rights organizations sent an open letter to President George Weah on January 22 urging him to fulfill Liberia’s obligations to investigate and prosecute wartime atrocities.

According to a dispatch from the Center for Justice and Accountability, the groups called on Weah to make accountability a priority for his administration and ensure the protection of human rights defenders, particularly those working on accountability initiatives.

“Justice must be one of the cardinal points of Weah’s new agenda. There must be justice for war crimes, otherwise there will be no lasting peace in Liberia,” the dispatch quoted Hassan Bility, executive director of Monrovia-based Global Justice and Research Project and one of the authors of the open letter, as saying.

Bility, a former journalist and torture survivor of Liberia’s decade-long civil war, helped initiate the arrests of several war criminals in Europe and the U.S. in partnership with Civitas Maxima, a Swiss-based non-governmental organizational.

“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,” Nushin Sarkarati, senior staff attorney at the Center for Justice and Accountability said.

“It is time to bring these examples of justice home, and make ending impunity in Liberia a priority,” the dispatch also quoted Sarkarati as saying.

Liberia endured two consecutive civil wars between 1989 to 1997 and 1999 to 2003, during which some sources estimate that up to 250,000 people were killed and more than half the country was displaced.

A report by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released in June 2009 found all warring factions that participated in the war 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 report has been swept under the carpet.

The only prosecutions to date have been outside of Liberia.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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