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International Mechanism Submissions

Liberia - Human Rights Committee (Follow-up) - Accountability, Transitional Justice- May 2024

In its 2018 Concluding Observations, the Human Rights Committee requested that Liberia provide information on the steps taken to implement its priority recommendations on impunity and past human rights violations during Liberia's civil wars. This report provides input for the Human Rights Committee's follow up procedure and focuses on the steps taken by Liberia and developments within the State since 27 August 2018 related to accountability for past human rights violations.

While recent progress, including President Boakai's May 2, 2024 executive order establishing an Office of the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, is promising, Liberia has not yet fully established and implemented a process of accountability or prosecuted any alleged perpetrators for past gross human rights violations and war crimes. To date not a single person has faced criminal investigation or prosecution in Liberia for serious crimes committed during the civil wars. The only steps toward justice for serious crimes have been cases prosecuted abroad. Liberia has failed to implement recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission related to impunity and past human rights violations. In addition, Liberia has not yet developed a comprehensive reparations scheme for victims of gross human rights violations and war crimes. Victims have had no access to any reparations in Liberia for civil wars-era crimes since the end of the conflicts in 2003. The reparation scheme remains an urgent need, as many of the victims continue to suffer from severe bodily harm and psychological trauma. Further, Liberia has failed to adequately engage victims, families and civil society organizations in efforts at fostering reconciliation and sustaining peace.

Making justice a reality in Liberia requires sustained attention from justice champions in and outside of Liberia. What is needed now is for President Boakai’s Administration to translate its stated commitment to a war crimes court into concrete steps for the court’s creation alongside clear, high-level messages from Liberia’s international and regional partners in support of a court. Liberia should request international and regional support to help it to determine the best legal and structural modalities for the court’s creation in a manner that will enable fair, credible functioning and partners should pledge international support and expertise based on accumulated experience. This follow-up report suggests the following recommendations for the Government of Liberia:

  • Establish the Office proposed by President Boakai to be responsible for developing and implementing a concrete plan to establish a war and economic crimes court to hold perpetrators of grave crimes committed during Liberia’s armed conflicts to account consistent with international standards and practice and ensure this plan is consistent with a victim-centered approach, including consultation with affected communities on the design of the court.
  • Establish an independent committee comprised of government officials, a member of the Independent National Commission of Human Rights, international legal experts, and civil society actors from various sectors that is mandated to advise the government on the court’s creation. The committee should help establish a roadmap on the way forward for ensuring justice for war crimes and for strengthening the rule of law.
  • Request assistance from the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS, and other international and regional partners as needed, to develop a credible war crimes court.
  • Ensure a war crimes court for Liberia includes key elements in order to achieve trials that would be fair, meaningful, and credible:
    • Composition of judicial benches that will have sufficient independence and expertise by including a majority of international judges on each trial and appeals bench; 
    • No bars on prosecution of individuals on the basis of their cooperation with the TRC; 
    • Inclusion of crimes and modes of liability in line with international standards; 
    • Fair trial protections; 
    • Witness protection and support; 
    • Involvement of victims in proceedings; and 
    • Outreach and communications that inform the victims and public.   
  • Work with the legislature to ensure the war crimes court established to hold perpetrators of grave crimes committed during Liberia’s armed conflicts to account is consistent with international standards and practice.
  • Request from international partners adequate support and funding for programs designed to improve Liberia’s judiciary and criminal justice system to ensure an effective war crimes court and victims’ access to justice and the right of the accused to a fair trial.
  • Continue to support efforts by third countries to bring universal jurisdiction cases for civil war-era crimes, including by continuing to fully cooperate with foreign authorities who request authorization to come to Liberia to investigate international crimes.
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive reparations scheme for all victims of gross human rights violations and war crimes.
  • Ensure protection for human rights defenders inside Liberia against attacks and intimidation, and bring to justice those who intimidate or attack human rights defenders.
  • Ensure respect for freedoms of assembly and speech for members of civil society engaging in peaceful demonstrations in favor of accountability and transparency, and for journalists endeavoring to fulfill their important mandate.