Liberia: ‘Warlords’ Endorse Creation of War Crimes Court

Influential Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson and his Grand Gedeh counterpart, Thomas Yaya Nimely, who many believe orchestrated some of the worst crimes during the Liberian civil crisis, were among 28 senators who have unanimously agreed to the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) in the country.

Both men formed part of the Senate plenary that unanimously signed and endorsed a resolution for the (WECC) in concurrence with the House of Representatives.

Johnson is a man many perceive as a remorseless war crimes perpetrator who founded and commanded the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), which committed numerous crimes against humanity during the Liberian civil crisis, while Yaya Nimely was the leader of MODEL, one of the vicious warring factions that orchestrated the last civil crisis that eventually drove former President Charles G. Taylor out of Liberia.

The two alleged warlords were on Tuesday, April 9, during the 3rd Day Special Sitting, the first session of the senate of the 55th Legislature, seen signing the resolution in the senate’s chamber.

The Senate termed their Resolution, the Establishment of the Extraordinary Criminal Court and Domestic Corruption Court for War and Economics Crimes

Maryland County Senator James Biney was the only Senator who did not sign the resolution, while the other seat is still vacant, pending election of a new senator for Nimba County to replace Jeremiah Koung, who was elected Vice President in 2023.

Long-time human rights advocate and campaigner for war crimes court, Dr. Alan White, was in the chamber of the senate on Tuesday when the resolution was being signed.

Liberians who were victimized during Liberia’s civil war and the many victims of economic crimes have Speaker J. Fonati Koffa and the leadership of the House of Representatives to thank for the fact that the War and Economic Crimes Court is now on an irreversible path.

Former President Senate Pro Tempore and Grand Bassa County Senator Gbehzohngar Findley and his colleagues thanked Speaker Koffa who shepherded it and also thanked Senate Pro Tempore Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and Senators for affixing their signatures to concur.

Many doubted the Liberian Legislature would ever take such a bold step forward in the transitional Justice process — to prosecute war criminals, in spite of threats of dire political consequences.

“This is not the first legislative attempt to address historical grievances of Liberians and set the country on the right path to full recovery, justice, and healing in a way that signals we as a people care about human dignity and that never again will allow such horrors to occur on this soil,” a Senator who begged for anonymity said.

“It can be recalled that a resolution appeared on the House floor during the 54th Legislature, but the resolution was seized by the then Speaker and nothing came of it since then until the election of Speaker J. Fonati Koffa at the start of the 55th National Legislature on January 15th, 2024. So we need to thank Speaker Koffa and the House of Representatives as well as the Pro Tempore and the Senators.”

What happens next?

The House of Representatives will act on the Senate’s version of the War and Economic Crimes Court which was renamed “Extraordinary Criminal Court and Domestic Corruption Court for War and Economics Crimes.”

After that, Legal and Legislative watchers say, following the Senate’s concurrence on Tuesday, the process of collaborating with international actors to design a statute will begin.

The state will design the court and its processes and lay out how national and international organizations will work together to deliver fair process and ultimately justice to war victims while respecting the rights of accused persons.

It is expected that the government will also use this period to seek international financial support to aid the process and strengthen the national security system to guard against any attempt on the country’s stability and security.

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