Statement By The Carter Center on the Release of the Final Report of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission
July 14, 2009
For Immediate Release
In Atlanta: Deborah Hakes, 1 404-420-5124
In Monrovia: John Hummel, +231 (0)6 452 022
Based on the Carter Center's long concern for the peace and well-being of the Liberian people and its current collaboration with the government of Liberia to conduct civic education on the rule of law, this statement aims to help explain in simple terms what will happen now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has issued its final report.
The mandate of TRC, given by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2003 and by the May 2005 TRC Act, gave the Commission the enormous challenges of moving the peace process forward by telling the truth about the past, to provide a forum to address issues of impunity, and foster national reconciliation. This is also the task of the Liberian people, consistent with the ardent and continuing desire for the "genuine lasting peace, national unity, and reconciliation" described in the CPA. To achieve this, it is critical that Liberians take their time to consider carefully the report of the TRC and do so in calm and peaceful ways.
On June 30, the TRC submitted Volume II: Consolidated and Final Report to the legislature and made the report public. This Final Report was submitted in an unedited form and says that additional annexes will be forthcoming. Since its release, Liberians have begun a vigorous discussion of its findings and recommendations.
The TRC's 370 page report reflects three years of dedicated work by the Commissioners and staff of the TRC to implement a mandate given to it by the National Transitional Legislature through the TRC Act of 2005. The document contains a wealth of information and analysis about the events of the past and makes numerous recommendations about actions needed to prevent Liberia from ever again returning to war. Its work deserves to be studied closely by this generation and generations to come.
As part of the TRC's mandate, the Commission collected 20,000 statements from Liberians from all walks of life and heard direct testimony from over 500 Liberians. It gathered its own evidence and conducted investigations into a wide variety of crimes committed during the war. The report makes a wide range of recommendations, including recommending reparations to affected communities and the need for reconciliation through a palava hut process.
The section of the report that has attracted the most attention names 98 perpetrators that the TRC finds responsible for various kinds of gross human rights violations and war crimes. It recommends that these people be investigated and prosecuted by the Liberian courts. The Commission concluded that "All warring factions are responsible for the commission of gross human rights violations in Liberia," and therefore recommended for prosecution the heads of eight warring factions during both civil wars. The report recommends 21 people be investigated and prosecuted for economic crimes along with 19 corporations, institutions, and state actors. 52 people are recommended for public sanction and being barred from holding public office again. 54 other individuals and entities are recommended for further investigation. An additional 36 people were identified as perpetrators, but the TRC recommended that they should not be prosecuted because they "cooperated with the TRC process, admitted to the crimes committed and spoke truthfully before the Commission and expressed remorse for their prior actions during the war."
The next phase of the process is for the Liberian legal system to conduct its own investigations into the actions of those people listed by the TRC's report. It is for the courts to decide whether these individuals are guilty or innocent based on their own careful evaluation of the available evidence. The TRC gathered its evidence carefully before making its recommendations, yet no one who is listed in the report has been found guilty by the Liberian legal system of the crimes reported by the TRC. The individuals concerned will have the right to defend themselves in court, consistent with the rule of the law, and these investigations will take time.
According to TRC Act, the president must report to the Legislature on the implementation of the TRC's recommendations three months after the delivery of the report, and thereafter every three months. If the TRC's recommendations are not being followed, the president must show cause to the Legislature why this is not the case.
"Dealing with the crimes of the past is always one of the greatest challenges facing a country recovering from conflict," said Carter Center Associate Director for Conflict Resolution Tom Crick. "The TRC has now made its recommendations and it is now for legislature and the courts to begin their work in the spirit of Liberia's continued and enduring commitment to peace."
The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production.
In Liberia, the Center is currently working with the government and people to strengthen formal and informal justice systems in order to provide greater access to justice for all Liberians.
The Carter Center today urged Liberians consider carefully the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in a calm and peaceful manner. Tension has increased in the country following the report's release that recommends prosecution for former leaders of warring factions and others.
The Carter Center issued this statement throughout Liberia July 14 to help ordinary Liberians understand the main elements of the TRC's report and to explain what the next steps may be now that these long-awaited findings have been made public.