-Hold hearing today; accuse Weah of backsliding…

MONROVIA – It seems what Liberian authorities including lawmakers have failed over the years to do for their country, is now being taken up by their counterparts in the United States of America, as the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has announced a hearingon the proposal to establish a War Crimes & Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

Formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is a bipartisan caucus of the United States House of Representatives. Its stated mission is “to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.”

Over the weekend, the Commission announced that it will on today Monday, 21 June, be holding a hearingon the proposal to establish a tribunal for Liberia to prosecute perpetrators of war and economic crimes, with the Commission indicating that for the past few decades, Liberians have suffered untold human rights violations while perpetrators acted with near-complete impunity during the country’s multiple civil wars.

The Commission recalls that between 1989 and 2003, 250,000 Liberians died from the bloody internecine gun battles that ensued, and thousands more were conscripted as child soldiers, raped, suffered loss of limb, and other traumatic experiences, adding that “since that time, not a single war crimes trial has occurred in Liberia as part of the country’s judicial process.”

According to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, in recent years, the momentum has increased for the establishment of a War Crimes & Economic Crimes Court for Liberia to help redress the wounds of the country’s civil war, but its creation is far from being certain despite the recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2009 and continuous pressure from grassroots groups throughout Liberia.

The Commission accuses President George Manneh Weah of back peddling on the establishment for Liberia, a court to prosecute war and economic crimes, noting that the Liberian President “has equivocated with regard to the court’s creation, backsliding from earlier support during his campaign for president.”

The hearing will examine the legacy of Liberia’s civil wars on its people and economy, the structure and likely policy implications of a proposed War Crimes & Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, and grassroots efforts to secure rule of law in the country and meet victims’ needs.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission today’s hearing will be virtual, and pursuant to H. Res. 965, members of Congress and witnesses will participate remotely via Cisco WebEx.

Members of the public and the media may view the hearing by live webcast on the Commission’s website. The hearing will also be available for viewing on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Digital Channel service.

During today’s hearing which will be hosted by two co-chairpersons of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Congressmen Christopher H. Smith and James P. McGovern; it’s expected that four witnesses including the former chairman of Liberia’s TRC, Jerome V. Verdier, who is now Executive Director of the International Justice Group; Ysyndi Martin-Kepyei, Executive Director of the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJUL); Michael Mueller, Chairman of the Global Initiative for Justice; and  Dr. Alan W. White, former Chief of Investigations, Special Court for Sierra Leone, will all give testimonies.

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