By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Few days ago I wrote an article entitled: So Who Is Organizing The War Crime Court?. The article was done against the backdrop of reports that there are attempts by some members of the international community to organize a war crime court to prosecute those who bear the greatest brunt of atrocities committed during the years of conflict in this country. It is said that those involved have a team in the country collecting evidence and have at the same time identified several individuals, some of whom are in the status quo to face prosecution.
As I said before when I heard about this issue of war crimes court, I began to ponder as to those who are 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.
Just to recall, 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. The idea of the TRC came about because of the complexities and intricacies of the Liberian conflict over the years.
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.
Also listed are Richelieu or Archie Williams of the NPFL and now Director of the Liberia Airport Domestic Services; Sando Johnson of NPFL and now Senator for Bomi County; Oscar Cooper of NPFL and now Senator for Margibi County; Nathaniel Barnes of 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 of NPFL and now Minister of Information for the government; Roland Massaquoi of NPFL and now Chairman of the Agriculture College, University of Liberia.
Further on the list includes Roland Duo of NPFL; Harry Yuan of 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 of 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 of 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).
it is said that the team is 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 with Geraldine Doe-Sheriff of the NPFL and now Senator of Montserrado County.
It is also reported 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 for 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 by forces of then Gen. Prince Johnson, now Senator of Nimba County. But the death of Doe, who led the 1980 military coup, did not end the civil war as Liberia became divided amongst the various fighting groups.
Mistakenly, as the debate continues on the issue, I continue to hear some people saying that these individuals that have been listed have been indicted for war crimes. Some discussants are even referring to these individuals as people who are been indicted. This is erroneous because one cannot be indicted in the blue sky. Where is the court that indicted these people and what kinds of charges have been levied against them to be able to give their defense in accordance with the due process of law?
One thing I know is that a court cannot be in a suitcase, as some people do with running some kinds of businesses, especially those “fly by night businesses. This is why a court is defined as “The judge or judges who sit on such a governmental body” or “the building where the judge or judges convene to adjudicate disputes and administer justice.” As the definitions succinctly states, there must be a “judge or judges” and a “building.” With this, do these two exist now? Don’t ask me for the answer.
Likewise, according to the Black’s Law Dictionary, an indictment is defined as “the formal written accusation of a crime made by a grand jury and presented to a court for prosecution against the accused persons. It is also defined as “a written accusation charging that an individual named therein has committed an act or omitted to do something that is punishable by law. Purposely, it is intended ‘to inform an accused individual of the charge against him or her so that the person will be able to prepare a defense.” According to research, the word, “indictment” derived from the old French word ‘inditer,’ which signifies to indicate; to show, or point out. Its object is to indicate the offence charged against the accused.
With this, I find it so confusing that people would be talking about indictment and at the same time talking about gathering evidence. If this is so, on what basis have these listed persons been indicted? Today, none of the listed persons some of whom have repudiated any claims of war crime; have been informed of any indictment. As it is said, “what is not done legally is not done at all.”
Also, as it is said, ‘those who come with equity must come with clean hands”. Therefore, as it relates to this issue of war crimes court, the due process of law cannot be circumvented, as anything to the contrary would only be a travesty of justice or a political machination by some Liberians at home and abroad to get even or settle scores with others, because we as a nation and people resolved in Accra, Ghana in August 2003 for the TRC. The very TRC called for prosecution; why then can’t we implement this, rather than talking about war crimes court?
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 it is “easily said than done.”
Some of us, including a media group that I listened to yesterday, are advocating for this; but again; are we prepared and ready for this bombshell, in view of the complexities and intricacies of our different conflicts during the years? Besides, given our sociology, will we not begin to cry wolf and invoke sentiments and sympathy, as we solemnly do when it comes to some issues of national concern?
I recall when the 13 former officials were executed, some of us joyously danced and sang songs of praises; few years later, we regretted that. Similarly, when Doe was killed, some of us again danced; today we are regretting this. Let me not be misconstrued of being against Liberians who are advocating for war crimes court; I am just informing us of what we should expect if the game starts, as there would be no turning back. Even with the war on corruption, when people are accused, there is always proxy war to defend the person, rather than the person facing the due process of law.
To conclude, let me say that there has been no indictment in keeping with law. Hence, it is erroneous and misleading to talk about what does not exit, lest to speak about an indictment. I Rest My Case.