Civil Society Organizations of Liberia Launch a Three-Month Campaign Against Impunity in Liberia
Press Statement issued on May 27, 2004
May 31, 2004
May 27, 2004
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate:
At one hundred and fifty seven years today since the independence of Liberia, one would draw the logical conclusion that Liberia is amongst the world’s civilized nations bearing the touch light of democracy propelled by the rule of law. But this is unfortunately to the contrary. Since our nation’s birth, its history has mostly been characterized by corruption, misrule, gross human rights violations, and all the vices that underscore the meaning of bad governance and the criminalization of the state. In the past few decades, these excessive misdeeds by previous governments and their agents of dictatorship have entrenched the culture of impunity.
We are releasing this press statement today at the very time when the High Court in Nigeria is looking into the law suit filed by two victims (with backing of the Nigerian Civil Society) of Mr. Charles Taylor’s alleged atrocities in Sierra Leone in challenge to his (Taylor) asylum status in Nigeria. Tomorrow, Friday 28 May 2004, we will also be presenting a petition to our Legislature requesting them to adopt a resolution explicitly mandating Chairman C. Gyude Bryant to request of his counterpart, President Olusegun Obansanjo of Nigeria to surrender Mr. Taylor to the Liberian government for onward transfer to Sierra Leone. Our action tomorrow coincides with the decision of the Sierra Leonean Special Court judges’ deciding Taylor’s challenge to his indictment based on head-of-state immunities.
What is to be done? This is the critical question which answer possibly lies in providing a lead way to finding a solution. The civil society organizations of Liberia have decided to take the matter head-on. Today, after several consultations and meetings amongst civil society groupings, it becomes an overwhelming decision to begin a three-month campaign against the culture of impunity. This process begins Friday, May 28, with an indoor program at the YMCA at 2:30pm with the following objectives:
1. To denounce at all times, acts of committing crimes with impunity, including human rights violations and seek means for any and all crime perpetrators to face justice;
2. For the Liberian Civil Society to remain steadfast, focused and courageous in taking ownership of the fight against impunity;
3. To encourage and remind state institutions, (eg. Police, Justice System) to be responsive to criminality and bravado gansterism, through provision of indiscriminate justice to victims;
4. And, to uphold the saying that, “All men are equal under the law and must be treated as such.”
It will certainly sound absurd to speak of impunity without reference to Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia.
Upon critical analysis of the Taylor scenario regarding charges against him by the international community of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and on the effects of his being carried to Sierra Leone or not, the Liberia Civil Society sees enormous justification to push for Taylor being taken to Sierra Leone than to do otherwise. In the first instance, allowing Mr. Taylor to go to Sierra Leone is not an automatic guilt, but an opportunity being provided him to exonerate himself of charges leveled against him. For Taylor and his co-horts, they should be happy to go to court, an opportunity they could not allow fellow citizens like Sam Dokie, Noah Flomo, David Toe, Charles Brown, George Yealleh, African Peace Keepers and countless victims of massacres and mass murder to go through when they were sent to their early graves without having a day in court.
One may ask the positive effect of taking Taylor to the war crimes court in Sierra Leone. Surely enough, this will allay the fears of the multitudes who were raped, tortured, harassed, and amputated. Relatives of those who were killed can also be added to the list. More besides, this will give hope to Liberians and others who think that Taylor is still capable of fostering another war and thus his presence in the sub-region without trial will impede the peace process in Liberia. Moreover, this will be a great and significant step which will serve to reinforce the fight against the culture of impunity and will help to lay the groundwork for future efforts to bring perpetrators to justice for crimes committed in Liberia.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, the Civil Society Organizations of Liberia, as part of their three-month campaign against impunity, see it highly befitting that Charles Taylor goes to the court in Sierra Leone. This is why the society has initiated a process to lobby the relevant state agencies whereby the Bryant government will pursue this course which in our view manifests the ultimate aspiration of the Liberian people in the fight against impunity. In our campaign we will remain insistent and persistent in awakening the conscience of government to the reality of justice. We are determined to persuade with our words. We are also determined to persuade with our peaceful actions. We will rally the support of the population and mobilize the power base of our grass rooters to make our government to say “yes” to our demands even when she wants to say “no”. While we are launching the campaign in Liberia, friends and brothers are also launching the campaign in America, Europe, Asia and parts of Africa. Thank you and stay with us in our campaign.
Remember: “Non cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good”.
J. Aloysius Toe
Chairman, Steering Committee
Liberian Civil Society Organizations Against the Culture of Impunity