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Friday 19 December  
Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia
Thijs Bouwknegt's picture
Monrovia, Liberia
Monrovia, Liberia

Liberia truth commission to recommend war crimes tribunal

Published on : 28 May 2009 - 11:26am | By Thijs Bouwknegt
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Liberians have asked the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to push for the establishment of a special court to prosecute atrocities committed during the civil war.

 The TRC spent last week meeting with Liberians in a round of popular consultations throughout the country. The consultations were one of the commission's remaining key activities ahead of the expiration of its mandate in June.

"The population believes that individuals who bear the greatest responsibilities of atrocities committed during the war should be prosecuted," said TRC spokesman James Kpargoi. And because "the TRC works to the wishes and aspirations of the Liberian people, this is just what we will do," he added.

Liberia is recovering from years of back-to-back civil wars that ravaged the country between 1979 and 2003. The conflicts saw massacres, use of child soldiers and large-scale sexual violence. Out of a population of 3 million, an estimated 250,000 Liberians were killed, with as many as 1.5 million displaced.

The TRC was set up in 2006 to probe war crimes and rights violations. Modelled on the South African body which catalogued crimes committed during the apartheid era, the commission has documented the stories of more than 18,000 Liberians, including victims, warlords and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

But the TRC cannot judge those who testify before it. It can only recommend they be prosecuted in a final report due to be submitted to the Liberian government later this year.

Members of the commission have already said that those who have proven non-cooperative, unrepentant or who failed to respect the TRC must be tried for not showing remorse for the wrongs they have done to the Liberian people.

They said that those who bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities should be brought before a UN backed hybrid war crimes court, set up in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. The commission also recommended that minor perpetrators be tried before traditional forums while former child soldiers should be granted amnesty.

Liberia's neighbour Sierra Leone already has a special war crimes court which is currently trying Liberia's former president Charles Taylor for his alleged role in arming and controlling RUF rebels during the civil war in Sierra Leone.

However,the court only has jurisdiction over crimes committed in Sierra Leone and cannot prosecute Taylor for alleged brutalities committed in Liberia.

In January, Taylor's son, Charles Arthur Emmanuel, was sentenced to a 97-year jail term by a US federal district court for committing torture in Liberia. 



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