Election of Mr Weah brings new hope for victims of war-era crimes in Liberia
Mr George Weah was elected President of the Republic of Liberia on 26 December 2017. It is the first time, since the end of the second civil war in 2003, that the people were able to vote freely and without surveillance from the United Nations (UN) blue helmets.
In an open-letter, 19 Human Rights organizations ask President Weah to take advantage of this historic moment to investigate war-era crimes and put an end to the impunity enjoyed by war criminals.
The first and second civil war in Liberia took the life of hundreds of thousands of individuals and displaced many more. Grave crimes including torture, sexual slavery and infamous massacres took place during these dark periods. But perpetrators have yet to be prosecuted in the country. Today, Mr George Weah has the opportunity to pave the way for justice and accountability in Liberia.
Dear President Weah:
Your election and the peaceful transition of power in Liberia is a historic moment for your nation. During the campaign, you referenced your “clean slate” of never being involved in Liberia’s civil wars. We urge you to seize this moment and the goodwill you have generated to finally bring justice and accountability to the countless victims of Liberia’s fourteen-year armed conflict.
The undersigned human rights organizations encourage your administration to fulfill Liberia’s obligations to investigate and prosecute wartime atrocities. The establishment of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was an important start. The prosecution of former United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) commander Mohammed Jabbateh, convicted in a U.S. court for immigration crimes related to his alleged wartime atrocities, shows that justice for civil war victims is indeed possible. This year may also see the trials of former Defense Minister of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), Tom Woewiyu, in the United States; NPFL Commander Martina Johnson in Belgium; ULIMO Commander Alieu Kosiah in Switzerland; and Agnes Reeves Taylor in the United Kingdom.
You now have the opportunity to ensure justice for those who suffered some of the most serious crimes of the first and second civil wars. These crimes, which include summary executions, torture, rape, sexual slavery, and the use and recruitment of child soldiers, not to mention mass atrocities, such as the massacres at Carter Camp and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, where hundreds of innocent civilians were killed in a single night, cannot go unpunished. Despite Liberia’s legal obligations under international humanitarian law to investigate and prosecute perpetrators and the TRC’s recommendation to do so, Liberia has yet to hold a single person to account for these crimes.
We urge you to make accountability a priority for your administration and ensure the protection of Liberian human rights defenders, particularly those working on accountability initiatives. By addressing the problems of impunity in Liberia, and holding the perpetrators of civil- war-era crimes accountable, you are in a position to give the people of Liberia – the people who put you in office – the justice they deserve.
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Africa Center for International Law and Accountability
Africa Legal Aid (AFLA)
Canadian Centre for International Justice
Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law
Center for Justice and Accountability
The Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP)
Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Human Rights Watch
Justice and Peace Commission, Catholic Diocese of Gbarnga
Liberia Massacre Survivors Association
Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL)
The Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD)