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Liberia’s lower house backs creation of war crimes court

LIBERIA’S lower house voted to establish a war crimes court, moving a step closer to bringing overdue justice for the victims of serious abuses committed during the West African country’s two civil wars.

The two conflicts between 1989 and 2003 saw widespread atrocities including massacres, rape, and the use of child soldiers. A Truth and Reconciliation Committee later called for a special court to be set up to try those allegedly responsible, but no concrete action was taken.

The latest resolution was proposed by newly inaugurated President Joseph Boakai and backed by 42 of 72 lawmakers. It now passes to the Senate for a second vote at an unknown date.

The progress was welcomed by activists and civil society groups that have called for more accountability for crimes committed during the conflicts in which around 250,000 people were killed.

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“We think that it is overdue,” said Dempster Brown, head of Liberia’s Independent National Human Rights Commission.

Once up and running, the court would operate in Liberia in line with international standards, with back-up from international institutions including the United Nations. It will also handle economic crimes.

So far, the only significant convictions linked to the civil wars have been cases prosecuted abroad. These include the 2022 trial in France of former Liberian rebel commander Kunti Kamara and the 2021 Swiss trial of rebel commander Alieu Kosiah, who was found guilty of rape, killing and an act of cannibalism.

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Some in Liberia oppose the creation of the court, saying that it risks reopening old wounds and could undermine an existing amnesty law that helped end the fighting.

“Any attempt to undo that legal instrument that is the basis for our peace… is a means to enthrone instability,” said Prince Johnson, a former rebel leader turned senator.

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By The African Mirror

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