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Liberians Still Debating Reconciliation Commission Recommendations

Five months after the release of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report, the International Center for Transitional Justice has published an assessment addressing transitional justice options in Liberia.

Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report in December, outlining several steps necessary towards cementing peace in Liberia.

It also suggested a number of people, many of whom are key political figures in Liberia, should be held accountable for atrocities committed during the country's 14-year conflict. But five months later, no action has been taken.

International Center for Transitional Justice program associate Paul Allen-James says the need to address past violations must now extend beyond the TRC process. "Our report looks at both strengths and weaknesses of the TRC report. We did a review of the process and then looked at possible next steps that Liberians will want to consider in addressing some of the transitional justice issues that have been raised by the TRC process," he said.

The TRC process received a mixed response in Liberia. It attracted high-profile witnesses and reached out to the diaspora in the United States, but it was marred by internal tensions on the commission.

Two of the eight commissioners publicly distanced themselves from the report's recommendations, which included a list of about 50 people accused of being the 'financiers and political leaders of the different warring factions.' Among them was President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who plans to run for re-election in 2011.

Allen-James said that Liberians have been debating the report's merits and weaknesses ever since. "What we are contributing to is the wider debate on the issues that have been raised by the TRC report. We believe that despite the weaknesses of the TRC report, these issues have been placed on the national agenda," he said.

Delays in establishing Liberia's independent Human Rights Commission have impeded the implementation of any of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations.

Allen-James said there are other options for implementing justice, including a new impartial investigation, petitions for prosecutions and the possibility of using universal jurisdiction.

"We hope from now this debate can be rekindled and then it can move forward. I know, in the coming weeks, our report is going to generate such debate and we are happy to contribute to that process," Allen-James said.

He said that in the meantime, Liberia's transition from conflict to peace and security must go on.