Liberia: Boakai Takes the Bull By the Horn

True to his words, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr. issued Executive Order #131 here, establishing the Office of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

This is a significant departure from his two immediate predecessors, former Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Manneh Weah, who demonstrated very little interest in establishing said court, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended.

According to Executive Order #131, signed and issued on Thursday, May 2, 2024, the Office of War and Economic Crimes Court will, among other things, investigate, design, and prescribe methodology, mechanisms, and processes for the establishment of a “Special War Crimes Court for Liberia” and a “National Anti-Corruption Court” that would separately prosecute war crimes and economic crimes.

President Boakai says the decision complies with Liberia’s international obligations and the will of the Liberian people to obtain justice and bring closure to the events of the 14-year bloody civil war that left about 250,000 people killed, including women and children.

President Boakai promise the office in his inauguration speech delivered on January 22, 2024.

The President notes that the House of Representatives of the 55th Legislature Resolution#001 on April 8, 2024, advocated its approval for establishing a war and economic crimes court, which was subsequently concurred by the Liberian Senate as its expressed support for said court in Liberia.

The Office to be headed by an Executive Director, preferably an astute Liberian lawyer of impeccable character, shall conduct research and studies and, therefore, in consultation with international partners, select a model for an international tribunal for war crimes, including the jurisdiction and situs of the Special War Crimes Court for Liberia, consistent and in harmony with international models that have been used elsewhere for similar trial of war crimes.

It shall liaise with international partners in sourcing funding for the Special War Crimes Court of Liberia draft legislation for the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Court for Liberia, taking into full consideration jurisdictional configuration, which shall be distinct and separate from those ascribed to other current criminal courts in the country, and be capable of addressing all forms of corruption cases connected and growing out of the civil war as well as corruptions committed during the governance of the Republic subsequent to the Liberian Civil War up to present.

The Office shall recommend the scope and duration of the Special War Crimes Court for Liberia after due consultation with funding partners and other considerations necessary to its existence and operations, as well as recommend other means for its expeditious establishment.

However, the mandate, duration, tenure, and operations of the Office of War and Economic Crimes Court shall cease to function upon the full establishment, functioning, and coming into effect of the Special War Crimes Court for Liberia and the Anti-Corruption Court for Liberia, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Office of War and Economic Crimes Court shall report directly to Liberia’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Still, it shall be semi-autonomous, divorced of political influence, and guided strictly by legal considerations.

Commentators describe President Boakai’s move as daring. It comes from a leader approaching 80 who has no thought for a second term. This action is surely going to be hard on key supporters, such as kingmaker and warlord Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, who was very instrumental in his election.

As an unflinching supporter of this effort, STAND has been relentlessly vocal in advocating for President Boakai to issue this executive order, favoring the setting up of such an office.

In this regard, STAND commends President Boakai and the Liberia National Legislature, under the leadership of Speaker J. Fonati Koffa, for fulfilling this key and crucial premise of justice, in part by pursuing and holding accountable those bearing the greatest responsibility for the bloodletting and destruction visited upon Liberia for nearly two decades.

Now that this historic and monumental feat has been achieved, STAND urges President Boakai to take the next prudent step and write to the Secretary General of the United Nations. This important step forward will ensure the provision of all necessary technical, diplomatic, and logistical support needed to bring an end to impunity in Liberia.

Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended a little over 90 persons, including ex-warlords, rebel generals, and private individuals, for prosecution for their various roles played during the country’s brutal wars.

Senator PYJ commanded the infamous rebel group, Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), that captured and killed President Samuel Kanyon Doe on September 9. 1990, on Bushrod Island, a Monrovia suburb.

The Senator has threatened repeatedly to resist any attempt to have him arrested and brought before such a court, saying that he would return to the bushes with followers.

At the signing of Resolution 001 early in April, he instead, he recommended for the coming in of the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He argued that prosecution of war crimes in Liberia should not be based on the TRC recommendations, which he describes as bogus. He notes that Commissioners of the TRC were divided on its final report and recommendations with four against three.

Senator Johnson’s position followed the signing of a resolution by about 28 senators on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, endorsing the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.

He didn’t initially affix his signature to the document but subsequently approached the presiding Senate Pro-Tempore Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence and signed, followed by Willington Geevon Smith and Bill Theaway of River Cess County and Gbehzohngar Findley of Grand Bassa County, respectively.

But PYJ further argues that the TRC report is mere recommendations that are not binding. He notes that the Supreme Court of Liberia ruled against the recommendations because they are unconstitutional.

“If you want to bring a war crimes court, the best thing to do is to write the United Nations directly, so that the UN can send their investigation team to go all over again to the counties to find out information about those people who may have committed heinous crimes, but it should not be based on the TRC that is bogus,” he maintains.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More