Liberia Enacts Legislation Establishing Long-Awaited War Crimes Court

President Joseph Boakai has recently issued an executive order to establish a long-awaited war crimes court in Liberia, aiming to provide justice for victims of the nation’s two devastating civil wars.

These conflicts were marked by widespread atrocities such as mass killings, torture, and sexual violence. The legislative process for the court received approval from both the parliament and the senate, with a majority of lawmakers, including potential prosecution targets, endorsing it. Boakai emphasized the necessity of justice and healing for fostering peace and harmony in the nation.

Victims and advocates have long demanded accountability for war crimes perpetrators. However, the government took no action despite a Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 2009 to identify individuals for prosecution. Justice became a significant issue in the preceding presidential election, aiding Boakai in defeating the incumbent President George Weah.

Liberia, initially established as a settlement for freed slaves from the United States in 1822, later declared independence. The resolution urges international donors to finance the court, with several procedural measures still pending to establish an independent and efficient judicial system.

Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. envoy for global criminal justice, expressed willingness to support the court financially, contingent on appropriate setup and clarity on operational details. Other donors have also shown interest pending a clear framework. Human Rights Watch and other civil society organizations have urged the Biden administration to encourage Liberian authorities to establish and fund the long-awaited court. Such measures are crucial for delivering justice to victims, holding perpetrators accountable, and fostering respect for the rule of law and lasting peace.