Liberia’s Boakai creates office of war crimes courtThu, 02 May 2024 19:04:21 GMT

Liberia’s President Joseph Boakai on Thursday signed an executive order marking a major step towards the creation of a long-awaited war crimes court, more than two decades after the end of devastating civil conflict.An estimated 250,000 people died during the West African nation’s two civil wars between 1989 and 2003, which were notorious for their brutality and use of child soldiers.Despite international and domestic demand, Liberia has yet to try anyone for crimes committed during the bloody conflicts, which resulted in massacres, mutilation, rape and cannibalism.Boakai’s executive order is the latest step in establishing the war crimes court, which will try crimes against humanity committed during the period.The order sets up the Office of War and Economic Crimes Court, tasked with creating the eventual court “in harmony with international models that have been used for similar trials of war crimes”.The office will also “liaise with international partners” to source funding for the court. Before signing the order, Boakai said it would help bring “justice and closure to the scars and memories of our tragic and violent misadventure”.”We must act, and act now,” he added.Last month, Liberia’s parliament approved a joint resolution supporting the creation of a UN-backed court “to prosecute those who bear greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity”.The resolution, which also called for the establishment of a domestic “Anti-Corruption Court” to try economic crimes, was then passed onto Boakai for approval.A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2009 recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal, but this has until now gone largely unheeded, particularly in the name of peacekeeping as a number of accused warlords remained influential in their communities.One of the most prominent of these is current senator Prince Johnson, who was shown in a video sipping beer while his men tortured then-president Samuel Doe to death in 1990.Johnson had until recently been a vocal opponent of establishing the war crimes court, but last month signed in favour of the resolution.While no trials have taken place within Liberia, a number of convictions have been secured abroad.