So Who Is Organizing The War Crimes Court?

By Atty Philip N. wesseh (PNW)

For some times now I have been hearing that certain Liberians, some of whom served in last administration and this present one have been targeted to face a war crimes court for their alleged role and complicity in the Liberian civil war. Already, I have gathered that the listings of those individuals who are expected to face such a court have been released. I really do not known by whom.

Frankly, I have doubted this until it appeared in the FrontPage Newspaper. Additionally, the names are also being read by Voice FM of Henry Costa. As I perused the list as published I realized that there were more names than those suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for prosecution.

According to FrontPageAfrica online, amongst the individuals whose names have surfaced include -Isaac Nyanabo, of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy or LURD and former Senator for Grand Gedeh County; Jonathan Barney, of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia and former Senator for Rivercess County; Dan Morais, of the NPFL and now Senator for Maryland County. Others are KabinehJa’neh of the LURD and now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia; Momo Rogers of the NPFL and director of the cabinet of Liberia, Augustine Fayiah of the Lofa Defense Force or LDF, now Assistant Minister for Litigation, Ministry of Justice, Liberia.

Also listed are Richelieu or Archie Williams of the NPFL and now director of the Liberia Airport Domestic Services; Sando Johnson, NPFL and now Senator for Bomi County; Oscar Cooper, NPFL and now Senator for Margibi County; Nathaniel Barnes, NPFL and Liberia’s former Ambassador to the US and now Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation; Lewis Brown, NPFL and now Minister of Information for the government; Roland Massaquoi, NPFL and now Chairman of the Agriculture College, University of Liberia.

Further on the list includes Roland Duo, NPFL; Harry Yuan, NPFL and Commissioner of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA); Alhaji G. V. Kromah, former leader, ULIMO-K; Abraham Kromah, ULIMO-K and former Chief of Staff of the former warring factions, who is now Deputy Police Director for Operations; Toga McIntosh Gayewea, NPFL and now one of the vice chairmen or president of the Economic Community of West African States, representing Liberia; Tom Woeyiwu, NPFL former spokesman and now member of the board of directors of the Forestry Development Authority. He is presently facing trial in the United States, not for war crimes, but for another crime.

Additional names on the accused war crimes list are Bob Kofi Zarr, NPFL and member of the National Traditional Council of Liberia; Lemuel Reeves, NPFL and now Commissioner of the Immigration services; Samuel Wlue, of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia or MODEL and now Director of the National Housing Authority; NyanMentein, NPFL and Director of the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation LPMC and WeadeKobbahWureh, of the Liberia Peace Council and former Chairman of the Department of Mass Communications at the University of Liberia. She was recently appointed vice president at the university.

Others are Clarence L. Simpson, of the NPFL and now one of the regime lawyers on concessionaires; AdulphusDolo, former Senator for Nimba County in the 52nd National Legislature; Brownie Samukai, of the Black Beret and now Minister of National Defense; FumbaSirleaf, of the Black Beret, now Director of the National Security Agency (NSA).

The team is also said to be documenting SokoSackor, of LURD & ULIMO-K and now a member of the Constitution Review Committee; Augustine Nagbe, of the INPFL & AFL and now Immigration service officer; Edwin M. Snowe, of the NPFL and now Representative of Electoral District #6 for Montserrado County; K.B.K Sando, of LURD and now a senior staff at the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation or NASSCORP; Jerome Korkoyah, of the NPFL and now Chairman, National Elections Commission; Harrison Karnwea, of the NPFL and now Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority FDA; Lenn Eugene Nagbe, of the NPFL, now Minister of Youth and Sports, Geraldline Doe-Sheriff, of the NPFL and now Senator of Montserrado County.

Highly placed sources told the frontPageAfrica online that these Liberians will face prosecution for their involvement in the bloodletting crisis that engulfed the country beginning 1989. An estimated 250,000 people were killed during the civil war that lasted nearly 15 unbroken years. The crisis started when Charles Taylor who later won democratic election in 1997 launched a civil war to topple the regime of President Samuel K. Doe. The crisis became complex when other rebel factions emerged making peace negotiations difficult. President Doe was later killed but that did not end the civil war as Liberia became divided amongst the various fighting groups.

As I read through the list I began to ponder as to those who were really organizing this court because when Liberians, including former warring factions met in Accra, Ghana in 2003 during that marathon and painstaking peace talk, they resoled for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which was set up and completed its work with recommendations, which are yet to be implemented.

Again, during the peace talks in Accra which I, along with other journalists attended, there were two options for punishment for those who bear the greatest brunt for crimes during the crisis. They were a war crime court and the TRC, taking the example in South Africa. However, after hours and days of brainstorming and discussion, the parties, including civil society, under the auspice and mediation of ECOWAS, resolved for the TRC.

Some said that the idea of the TRC came about because of the complexities and intricacies of the Liberian conflict, while others critically felt that idea was the result of fear by former warring factions’ heads that preferred the TRC to that of the war crime court for the fear of prosecution.

Based on that, the TRC was set with youthful lawyer, Cllr. Jerome Verdier, as its head. The objective/purpose of the Commission was to promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation; among other things by Investigating gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law as well as abuses that occurred, including massacres, sexual violations, murder, extra-judicial killings and economic crimes, such as the exploitation of natural or public resources to perpetuate armed conflicts, during the period January 1979 to October 14, 2003; determining whether these were isolated incidents or part of a systematic pattern; establishing the antecedents, circumstances factors and context of such violations and abuses; and determining those responsible for the commission of the violations and abuses and their motives as well as their impact on victims.”

The Commission, in keeping with the Act that created it, conducted hearings and after months of activities, advanced several recommendations for implementation.

While these recommendations, some of which are in line with statutes, are yet to be implemented, the issue of war crimes court is creeping up. Is this a diversionary tactics or another attempt to show how unfocused we are as a people and nation, or is this an attempt by some Liberians to throw the monkey’s wrench into calls for the implementation of the TRC findings? Perhaps, this could also be a politically motivated attempt to expose those suspected of associating with former warring factions, as the country would be going to the poll in two years.

Is it that some Liberians want to project themselves as “Mr. Clean” during all these years of civil conflict, failing to realize that one could even be hooked for “omission” and not only “commission,” which are two key words in the definition of crime? “Commission” relates to carrying on the act forbidden by law or made punishable by law, while “omission” relates to one who has a duty to act, but fails to do so; it is where negligence sometimes comes in.

Whatever the situation, I am still interested to know those who are organizing this for the prosecution of Liberians. Sometimes people are confused over the issue of the war crimes court that heard the case of former President Charles Taylor. The former President was not prosecuted because of his role in the Liberian crisis. His trial in The Hague was based on his alleged role in the Sierra Leonean crisis. Obviously, that trial had the backing and support of the international community. And so if Liberians want similar court, they must get the backing of the international community, as this is also capital-intensive.

As I said in one of my articles upon hearing about this in the grapevine, I pondered as to whether we really have the guts for the establishment of such a court because I know us. It is often said that, “easily said than done.” Some of us are advocating for this, but again, are we prepared and ready for this bombshell, in view of the people who have been listed to face prosecution by this said war crimes court?

I am raising question about this because it is necessary to know those behind it; whether they are Liberians or some members of the international community who do not want perpetrators of the civil conflicts to go with impunity. I am also wondering how will this court be set up and where?

But even with this, the very TRC that worked for more than two years also recommended prosecution and therefore, if anyone is interested in the issue of prosecution, why don’t they also press for this. They listed the names of several persons but some names did not appear in the listing for this war crimes court.

Once again, let me ask: do we really have the guts for a war crimes court? I Rest My Case.

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