Implementing the Final Report of the TRC will Enhance Justice, and Ensure Human Rights Compliance in Africa Part I

Implementing the Final Report of the TRC will Enhance Justice, and Ensure Human Rights Compliance in Africa

By Frederick A.B. Jayweh, Counsellor-At-Law
Part I

After sitting and deliberating for nearly three (3) years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia released its classic and Final Report according to and consistent with its mandate and statutory powers as provided for and contained under Articles IV, Section 4 letters {a) to {f} and Article VII, Section 26 letters {a} to {h} of the Act creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia of May 12, 2005. Acting under its mandate and power, the TRC met and reached the foregoing determinations and findings nearly a decade ago:

1}  THAT the National Legislature of Liberia enact into law and forthwith proceed and establish in Liberia, a specialized UN-backed criminal court to prosecute all human rights and international humanitarian laws violators from 1979 to 2003;

2} THAT all warring faction leaders of Liberia be forthwith indicted and prosecuted for allegedly and intentionally committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia;

3} THAT all most notorious perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity be also indicted and prosecuted for violating international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law, the laws of war and the domestic laws of the Republic of Liberia;

4} THAT all individuals and persons charged with committing economic and other financial crimes from 1979 to 2003 in Liberia, be also indicted and prosecuted; and,

5} THAT all political leaders and financiers of warring factions in Liberia be banned from holding public office in Liberia for 30 years.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the TRC, reached the foregoing determinations and findings by principally relying on the following sources and principles of law:

Article IV
Mandate of the Commission

Section 4: The objective or purpose of the Commission shall be to promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation by:

  1. a) 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 and other financially motivated crimes from 1979 to 2003;
  2. b)  Providing a forum that will address all issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences in order to create a clear picture and structure of the past so as to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation;
  3. c)  Investigate the antecedents of the crises which give rise to and impacted the violent conflict in Liberia lasting from December 24, 1989 to 2003;
  4. d)  Conduct a critical review of Liberia’s historical past in order to address falsehoods and misconceptions about the nation’s past social-economic and socio-political development;
  5. e)  Adopt specific mechanisms and procedures to address the experiences of women, children and vulnerable groups, paying particular attention to gender-based violations as well as child soldier issues and recommend measures that will bring about national reconciliation and healing; and,
  6. f) Compile a report that will include comprehensive account of activities of the Commission and its findings. The Act Creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, Article IV, Section 4 (a) to (f), PP. 4-5

Apart from the mandate of the TRC stated above, Section 26 (b) of the Act clearly empowered the TRC where possible to identify persons, authorities, institutions and organizations involved in human rights violation of human in Liberia.  And the TRC is to make recommendation to the Head of State to hold prosecution with reference to particular cases as the TRC may deem necessary and appropriate for the development and growth rule of law, justice, and national healing in Liberia.

Acting in accordance to and consistent with its statutory mandate and power, after collecting evidence, conduction investigations and hearings for nearly three (3) years, the TRC determined and recommended that all heads of warring factions, most notorious perpetrators, and all persons charged with committing economic and other crimes in Liberia be indicted and prosecuted by a specialized UN-backed criminal court to be statutorily established in Liberia. The TRC also recommended that all political leaders and financiers of warring factions in Liberia be sanctioned from holding public office for 30 years. The foregoing determinations and findings of the TRC have caused a great stirred and uncertainty amongst Liberians residing in foreign parts and Liberia to support or denounce the recommendations of the TRC. Today, there are those who think that the TRC had no legal power or authority to indict or recommend the prosecution and sanctioning of any Liberian from holding public office for 30 years in Liberia for financing and supporting warring factions and the war in Liberia; due to their due process of law. To the contrary, Liberians that support the final report of the TRC have for nearly 10years encouraged the government of Liberia to proceed and implement the report of the TRC as provided for by the May 2005 Act.

For all intents and purpose our organization knows and its members are witnesses that from 1989 to 2003, Liberia was engulfed and actively engaged in a bitter and bloody armed conflict. The outcome of this conflict destroyed the lives and fabric of about 300,000 citizens and much property. Primarily, the war was initiated and prosecuted by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, (NPFL); the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia, (INPFL); ULIMO & ULIMO-J; ULIMO & ULIMO-K; LPC; LDF, MODEL and LURD. For nearly 15 years, these warring factions were believed and known to have committed gross violations of international human rights law, serious violations of international humanitarian law and economic crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia. For the purpose of this article, the following legal principles of domestic and international law are applied to measure and ensure strong and unwavering support for the Final Report of the TRC for the sake of justice, peace and human rights compliance in Africa.

Crimes against Humanity

An accused is guilty of committing crimes against humanity if he/she systematically directs attacks against any civilian population with the knowledge that the attack will cause:

  1. Murder;
    ii.    Extermination;
    iii.   Enslavement;
    iv.   Deportation or forcible transfer of a population;
    v.    Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of
    fundamental rule of international law;
    vi.   Torture;
    vii.  Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, etc.;
    viii. Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial,
    national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3 or other
    grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law,
    international human rights law and the laws of war; and,
    ix.  Enforce disappearance of persons;

Gross Violations of Human Rights

1) Murder:
An accused is guilty of committing gross human rights violations such as
murder if he/she knowingly and purposely caused the death of another
human being or caused the death of another human being under
circumstances that manifest extreme indifference to the value of human life, and the perpetrator kills one of more people with the sustained process of due process of law.

 2)  Extermination:
 The perpetrator kills one of more people, including by the intentional infliction of condition of life, such as deprivation of access to food, medicine, calculated to being about the destruction of a population. The conduct constituted, or took place as part of a mass killing of members of a civilian population or certain group of people.

 3)  Torture:
The perpetrator intentionally inflicts severe physical and mental pain or suffering upon one or more people. Such person or persons were in the custody or under the control of the perpetrator. Such pain and suffering did arise from, and was not inherent in or incidental to a lawful sanction. In the context of international human rights law, it is understood that no specific purpose need to be proved for this crime, as distinct from torture to constitute a war crime.