Over 30 human rights, Civil Society, religious, and development organizations, are poised to ensure that Liberians accused of committing war crimes and unwarranted corruption are not seated in the Legislature or appointed in government.
The group also stated that it has observed, with grave concern, the election and re-election of major warlords and individuals accused of war and economic crimes, at the level of the Legislature, following the just-ended October 10, 2023, Presidential and Legislative Elections.
It can be recalled that former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill; Solicitor General, Cyrennius Cephus, and the Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Bill Twehway, were all sanctioned by the United States Government for acts of corruption.
And it is now more than a year since the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), designated the above-mentioned officials for their involvement in ongoing public corruption in Liberia, but are yet to be prosecuted by the government.
The sanctions fall under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and other government officials were also sanctioned for the same acts, including Senators Varney Sherman and Prince Johnson of Grand Cape Mount and Nimba Counties respectively.
Despite the sanctions imposed on them, coupled with a warning from the U.S. not to do business with those sanctioned individuals, McGill and Tweahway also aligned with former and current government officials to contest on the ticket of the ruling CDC, and are now Senators-elect of Margibi and Rivercess Counties.
While Senator Varney Sherman, who contested for reelection, unfortunately lost his seat, Nimba County’s Prince Y. Johnson, whose party (MDR) is in a collaboration with former ruling Unity Party (UP), got reelected as Senator of Nimba County for a record third term which will span a total of 27 years.
But with all of these rigmaroles, the group, in a statement issued by Adama K. Dempster, lead campaigner, on behalf of the over 30 CSO-Coalition for the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia, disclosed that they have already begun discussions to come up with a systematic approach to no more business as usual.
Dempster intoned, “The UN Committee notes, with fear, that none of the alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes mentioned in the TRC’s report have been brought to justice, and that some of those individuals are, or have been, holding official/executive positions in the Government.”
The Coalition – CEWAECCL, also expressed disappointment in some Liberian voters over the election of these individuals to public offices, and stressed that it is a classic example of the continual roadblocks faced by the past Legislature, which has a propensity to undermine the quest for justice, accountability, and the advocacy for instituting a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.
The group maintained, “Coalition for the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia is an embodiment of the April 2023 National Convening of Justice Campaigners, Civil Society Organizations, War Victims, and Human Rights Community Resolution that sets out on the path to achieving accountability for past crimes in Liberia.”
The Coalition further reaffirmed its commitment to pursue justice and accountability for war victims and survivors alike, including women and youth who suffered heinous crimes perpetrated by warlords and fighting groups in Liberia.
“The April 2023 resolution is a national document that was presented to the US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice (War Crimes) in Washington DC, in May 2023, and to senior members of US Congressional Staffs in Washington DC, as well as Officials at the African Bureau, the U.S. States Department. It was also endorsed by the U.S. based Liberian Diaspora group, “the Coalition for Justice in Liberia” (CJL), which enhanced rallying support to address the quest for justice in Liberia,” Dempster stated.
CEWAECCL reminds Liberians that the election of these individuals violates the July 2018 United Nations Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations, which called on Liberia to ensure the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and noted with regret that “very few steps have been taken to implement the bulk of the recommendations issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009.”
“The UN Committee further noted that the Government of Liberia should, as a matter of priority, establish a process of accountability for past gross human rights violations and war crimes that conforms to international standards,” the release added.
Meanwhile, the group recommended that the Liberian Government ensure that all alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes are impartially prosecuted and, if found guilty, convicted and punished, in accordance with the gravity of the acts committed, regardless of their status or any domestic legislation on immunities, and remove any persons who are proven to have been involved in gross human rights violations and war crimes from official positions.