Friday, September 3, 2010

Liberia: Justice for Country - the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's - Recommendation for an Internationalized Domestic War Crimes Court

Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)

On December 1, 2009, Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued  its final report detailing its findings on the causes and impact of that country's social turmoil between 1979 and 2003. The TRC's report represents a major undertaking on the part of the commission to expose the abuses committed against civilians during Liberia's two devastating armed conflicts, which lasted from 1989 to 1996 and 1999 to 2003.
One of the key recommendations included in the final report is the establishment of an internationalized domestic criminal court to ensure justice for the worst crimes committed. Human Rights Watch fully supports the use of a hybrid international-national accountability mechanism to hold perpetrators of past crimes in Liberia to account. Prosecutions for serious crimes in violation of international law-including war crimes and crimes against humanity-are crucial to ensuring redress for the countless victims of Liberia's brutal armed conflicts.
Liberian citizens were subjected to horrific abuses, including summary execution and numerous large-scale massacres, widespread and systematic rape and other forms of sexual violence, mutilation and torture, and large-scale forced conscription and use of child combatants. The violence blighted the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, displaced almost half the population, and virtually destroyed the country's infrastructure. Prosecutions are vital to building respect for the rule of law, especially in a society like Liberia that has been devastated by conflict, thus making justice an important component to establishing sustainable peace.

Human Rights Watch believes it is essential for the Liberian government and the international community to take prompt steps to ensure that prosecutions for serious past crimes committed in Liberia are conducted, and that such proceedings are carried out in accordance with international standards. Toward that end, this memorandum analyzes the strengths and shortcomings of the TRC's proposal for an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia (ECCL) and makes recommendations aimed at ensuring the fairness, effectiveness, and legitimacy of any criminal proceedings. Consistent with this memorandum's focus on the ECCL proposal, it does not cover wider strengths and weaknesses of the TRC's analysis, conclusions, and recommendations that are unrelated to that proposal.

In summary, we believe that the TRC's proposal has many elements that can contribute to fair and effective trials. These include: international and Liberian judges working together to try cases with a majority of internationally-appointed judges serving on each judicial panel; a combination of international and Liberian staff working in the prosecutor's office; a commitment to witness protection; and plans to conduct outreach to local communities about trials. At the same time, the proposal has a number of significant weaknesses. These include: the recommendation that certain individuals who cooperated with the TRC not be prosecuted; failure to focus on those perpetrators most responsible for serious crimes; no requirement that the judges' bench will have sufficient criminal trial experience; the prosecutor is not appointed by international actors; international crimes and modes of individual criminal liability are not fully defined; a number of crucial fair
trial protections are not explicitly provided for; individuals may be excluded from working at the ECCL on the basis of a public perception of involvement in abuses or supporting the conflict; and the death penalty is available as a punishment for some crimes. These weaknesses must be addressed if Liberia's efforts to address serious past crimes are to be fair, effective, and consistent with international standards.

Other links: Human Rights Watch

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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