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Liberian Diaspora in Atlanta Debates Truth Commission's Final Report

Exactly two months after the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its final report it seems Liberians at home and in the Diaspora are still confused about many aspects of the report.

For example, some want to know who has the responsibility to implement the report's recommendations – the Liberian government or the legislature?

The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia over the weekend hosted members of the Liberian Diaspora in Atlanta to discuss the findings and implications of the TRC's final report.

The Truth Commission was established at the end of Liberia's civil war to foster national reconciliation but at the same address the question of impunity.

Among the findings of its final report, the TRC recommends the prosecution of all warring faction leaders and their associates for committing notorious war crimes.

The commission also recommends that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 51 other individuals be banned for 30 years from holding public offices for their roles in financing the war.

Walter Skinner, president of the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta said Liberians in the Diaspora have many questions about the TRC report.

"One of the questions that came out was how did the commission reach the criteria for the different lists that it has on the different penalties for which people had committed various crimes and various acts. People wanted to know when the recommendations would be implemented," he said.

Commissioner Massa Washington of the TRC said she told the gathering that the recommendations were based on three years of public hearings in Liberia and the Diaspora and in line with the TRC mandate.

"The TRC act says that the commission, having investigated the root causes and problems, we should then make recommendations for prosecution and accountability…so the central listings were mostly those we found culpable under standards for political accountability," Washington said.

The Liberian Diaspora in Atlanta also wanted to know which branch of government has the lead responsibility to implement the report.

Commissioner Washington said the executive branch headed by President Sirleaf must take the lead in making sure the report is carried out.

"The legislature is only there to accept the TRC report, and then the legislators will then serve as that primary instrument or arm of government to encourage or to work along with government to ensure that the executive branch of government implements the TRC report in every facet," she said.

Skinner said all Liberians have a duty to ensure the commission's final report is put into action

"If the executive, for example, does not do what it needs to do, the people need to stand up. And if the legislature does not do what it needs to do, the people need to come forward and say look we have these recommendations, we need to implement them," Skinner said.

Since its release, Liberians have been divided over how to implement the TRC's final report. Some have voiced support for retributive justice while others prefer restorative justice.

There have been reports the Liberian government had organized demonstrations against the report.

Commissioner Washington said the TRC believes the government at this time should have come up with a strategy or strategies for implementing the report.

She said the TRC views the naming of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights of Liberia as a first step in the right direction.

Skinner said the Liberian Diaspora in Atlanta, Georgia is planning a follow up forum after which it would send a resolution to all branches of the Liberian government asking them to act in the best interest of the country.

Tom Crick, associate director for conflict resolution said the Carter Center hosted the forum in its capacity as a member of the Atlanta Friends of the Liberian TRC.

He said the purpose of the Atlanta Friends of Liberia was to assist the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights during the statement taking process for the TRC's work in the Diaspora.