Key recommendations for truth, reconciliation and end of impunity in Liberia

Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation, Liberia Watch for Human Rights (LWHR) welcome the launching of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on January 20, 2006, in accordance with Article XIII of the Liberian Comprehensive Peace Agreement. [1]

The Liberian TRC is notably mandated to conduct investigations and publish a report documenting «gross human rights violations, 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» in Liberia between January 1979 and October 14, 2003. [2]

FIDH and LWHR are calling upon the TRC to effectively investigate all allegations of crimes, notably economic crimes, cases of forced enrollment of children and sexual crimes to ensure that all victims receive individual reparation and collective restitution, sine qua none condition to promote national peace, unity, security and reconciliation.

FIDH and LWHR reiterate that the achievement of the TRC’s mandate to document gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law will depend on the ability of the Judiciary to cooperate with the TRC by notably facilitating access to information in conformity with section 27 of the TRC Act. FIDH and LWHR would also like to remind that the independence of the TRC is paramount to the achievement of its mandate and are therefore calling upon the Government to support its work by ensuring that it has proper funding and to guarantee the safety of victims and potential witnesses.

Moreover, according to Section 26 g) of the TRC’s Act, the Commission shall make recommendations to the Head of State about prosecutions in cases involving crimes against humanity, reparations as well as the need for legal and other institutional reforms. FIDH and LWHR are therefore calling upon the new Liberian President, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, to implement the TRC’s recommendations and to ensure that perpetrators of international crimes will be brought to justice.

In so far as the Liberian judicial system is paralyzed by a serious lack of infrastructure, human resources and funding, FIDH and LWHR are calling for an immediate reform of the judicial system. Furthermore, FIDH and LWHR would like to express their deepest concern about the nomination of Mr. Kabineh Janneh, a former member with rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) - by Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as a Supreme Court Justice. FIDH and LWHR are therefore urging the Legislature not to confirm this nomination. FIDH and LWHR fear that the influence of alleged human rights abusers in the Judiciary and in the political decision-making process will hamper the fair administration of justice and the adoption of criminal laws fostering accountability for crimes committed between January 1979 and October 14, 2003.

The TRC and the Liberian authorities are also reminded that, in conformity with international law, the official capacity of alleged perpetrators shall in no case exempt a person from investigations and criminal responsibility. In that regard, FIDH and LWHR are calling the TRC as well as the Judiciary to investigate the past acts of several newly elected representatives and senators who are still subjected to travel bans or frozen assets pursuant to UN Resolutions 1521 (2003) and 1532 (2004) for their involvement in the latest civil war and their ongoing ties with Charles Taylor.

Finally, FIDH and LWHR are urging Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to ask the Nigerian authorities to turn Charles Taylor over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

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