Traditional leaders key factors in ending Liberia’s culture impunity – CDD, OHCHR

In a continuous effort to end financial crime, the Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD) in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform (CSOHRAP) met with traditional leaders in Liberia.

The team who were welcomed to Bomi county by the traditional leaders said the culture of impunity must be ended as a means of addressing economic and war crimes in Liberia. 

It also called for public support for the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes court for the prosecution of major actors of the 14-year civil war in Liberia.

Following its one-year nationwide consultation themed “Effects to Address Past Human Rights Violation of Regional Levels in Liberia” the partner who decried the lack of interest by the Liberia government to prosecute major actors of the civil war said there is need for the promotion of rule of law.

Speaking at a two-day outreach on accountability and justice for past crimes, attended by traditional leaders from Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Montserrado and the host county, the head of programs for OHCHR, Sonny Onyegbula, said the office is responsible for accountability and promotion of rule of law.

Onyegbula said the OHCHR Liberia Country office through its accountability projects have provided support to ensure that the recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) are implemented.

According to him, traditional leaders are Liberia’s most important assets ensuring messages are disseminated to community members.

“We are aware of different myths and falsehood that are mischievously associated with the establishment of Economic and War Crime Courts,”

Onyegbula said.

Debunking some of the misrepresentation of facts on the initiative, the OHCHR programs head said the court when established would not send everyone who took part in the Liberian war to prison.

He said: “Similarly, child soldiers do not bear any responsibility because they were under the direction of a Commander who should account for their action; many countries have established similar courts and underwent justice processes, but it did not lead to any war, Sierra Leone is a very good example.”

In its reaction, the CDD collaborated remarks by the OHCHR that the traditional leaders are key element to ending the culture of impunity and in dealing with issues around justice and accountability.

The centre said it is committed to supporting the promotion of social mobilisation strategies among local and rural traditional leaders and authorities in sub-divisions of Liberia.

According to the centre in dealing with the past, there must room for promoting access to justice, accountability in Liberia.

Also, the CSOHRAP said the outreach is intended for the traditional leaders to discuss with right advocacy groups.

The secretary-general of CSOHRAP, Adama K. Dempster, said the groups will address issues of some violations that took place during the war and those that are still ongoing.

Dempster said the outreach will focus on the implementation of the TRC report and its recommendations to end the culture of impunity across the country to serve as deterrence for others.

He said the rights advocates see the traditional leaders as strong as the national government that can shift things in a positive direction for the betterment of Liberia.

Dempster said since the TRC ended its work ten years ago, nothing has been done to address the culture of impunity.

It may be recalled that a committee headed by Montserrado County District # 4 Representative, Rostonlyn Suococo Dennis signed a resolution last year endorsing the establishment of a war and economic crime court for Liberia.

The resolution which reportedly received over 50 signatures out of the 73 members of the House of Representatives.  However, since the endorsement last year there has been no effort to include the quest of an establishment of a war crimes court on the agenda for debate in plenary of the House of Representatives.