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Liberia's Truth Commission Releases Preliminary Report, Calls for Setting up a Criminal Court


Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says she wants to meet with members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to discuss what the president's spokesman called issues within the commission.

The announcement came as the TRC released Volume I of its final report.

The Commission was set up to investigate the root causes of the Liberian civil war and the subsequent human rights violations and corruption and economic crimes that might have been committed between 1979 and 2003.

In the first volume of its preliminary report, the TRC recommended the setting up of a criminal court to try individuals and armed groups that the TRC would determine were responsible for the 'egregious' domestic crimes and 'gross' human rights violations.

Massa Washington, a member of the TRC, told VOA the commission is concerned the President's intention to meet with its members was announced in the media, contrary to previous meetings.

"We have met with the president in the past on several occasions. As a matter of fact she being president of the country, we do meet with her every now and then to update her on the process. What we are concerned about is that our meetings with the president have never been a matter of public announcement before we even receive the invitation or the information that the president is available and would like to meet with us. So why is a presidential press secretary now announcing our meeting with the president, especially at a time that we are facing some challenges," she said.

In the first volume of its preliminary report, the TRC recommends the setting up of a criminal court to try individuals and armed groups that the TRC would determine were responsible for the 'egregious' domestic crimes and 'gross' human rights violations.

Washington said the purpose of the court would be to ensure justice and address impunity.

"We have decided that prosecution in a court of competent jurisdiction and other forms of public sanctions are desirable to promote justice, peace and security, foster genuine national reconciliation and combat impunity, specifically, we are recommending a prosecution mechanism. For example, we might determine that a criminal court with competent jurisdiction to adjudicate criminal responsibility for individuals, armed groups and other entities that the TRC determines were responsible for egregious domestic crimes, gross violations of human rights were appropriate," Washington said.

She dismissed criticism by some that recommending criminal prosecution for perpetrators may go against the call for national reconciliation.

"There's no way you will have reconciliation without addressing the issue of justice, without addressing what victims feel. And everywhere we went engaging the people of Liberia in the 15 counties and also in the Diaspora, people want a form of accountability. People want to be ensured that what happened here will not happen again. And the TRC Act says we should look into the issue of impunity. Impunity has played a very important role in the level and kinds of violations that were perpetrated against innocent people," she said.

The TRC's preliminary report Volume I also called for the establishment of a National Palava Hut Forum as a useful tool for peace-building and national reconciliation.

Washington said the TRC wanted to incorporate in its work the traditional method of resolving conflicts.

"We kind of realized that we have our own traditional method and means of resolving conflicts, and we wanted to make sure that we are sensitive to our own culture. We know very well also that it is not possible recommend prosecution in that standardized form of jurisprudence for everybody. So we want to incorporate our own traditional means of resolving conflicts into our work so that way we cover all of our people," Washington said.

She also said the TRC will recommend that reparations be made to individuals, groups, entities or communities.


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