Liberia: ‘War Crime Tribunal Is Needed’- David Cane

By: Jefferson F Cooper

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 18, 2006


The former head and chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, David Cane says Liberia needs a war crime tribunal to bring about truth, justice and sustainable peace for victims in that troubled West African state.

Last year, Liberians went to the polls to elect their first democratic government after 14 years of civil war that killed more than 300,000 people. However, many of those elected as senators and representatives in the current government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, among them Senators Prince Yormie Johnson, Adolphus Dolo and Representative Saah Gborlie were either warlords or commanders in the 14 years long war. Others, including Alhaji Kromah, and George Boley who are no less responsible than Charles Taylor for the death of thousands of Liberians and the destruction of the country remain free among their victims today.

Speaking October 12, 2006 on the topic, ‘Dancing with the Devil: Taking on West Africa’s warlords, Mafia and Thugs’ at the University of Minnesota, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Prof. David Cane said it is imperative that the world see to it that Liberians receive justice. Prof. Cane noted that while there is now a semblance government in Liberia, the new government comprises people who committed war crimes during the country’s 14 years civil war. “ If there is a political will”, these individual could be brought to justice just as in the case of Sierra Leone where those that bore the greater responsibility for war crime were indicted and are been prosecuted. “West Africans are forgiving people but they also want to see justice”, said Prof. Cane.

The former prosecutor said with 1.2 million Sierra Leoneans and Liberians either raped, mimed, or killed, and more than 5 million people displaced, the world must work for truth, justice, and sustainable peace in West Africa by making sure former warlords in Liberia, foreign mafia and thugs that perpetrated war crimes are held responsible and not be allowed to go with impunity.

Prof. David Cane admitted that the biggest huddle to the realization of such a project in Liberia will be money and the political will. He disclosed that it costs $26 million a year to run the Special Court for Sierra Leone, adding that without monetary support budget from the United Nations, the Court has to lobby for money for its operational expenses, including building its facilities.

He accused Libyan leader Col. Mohammed Kadafie of being the brain behind much of violence that has blighted the West Africa. He said Libya together with another West African head, Blaise Compaore of Bokina Faso, are largely responsible for the miseries and destruction that Liberia, Sierra Leone and have been subjected to with more than 90% of their infrastructures destroyed. He said what took place in Liberia and Sierra since the 1990s “is a tragedy beyond description”. Health, hydro power, and educational facilities simply do not exist now, adding that it will take two to three generations to see Sierra Leone and Liberia back to their prewar status. Even then, Prof. David Cane, said, it would seem unlikely given the high level corruption in the two countries.

Prof. Cane said the criminal use of the countries’ natural resources namely diamonds, timbers and gold by was what by Liberia’s Charles Taylor and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone were the backbone for the catastrophe that blighted West Africa for almost two decades. “Charles Taylor, for the rest of his life, will never set foot on the continent of Africa again if he is convicted”, the former prosecutor promised.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone is the world’s first hybrid international war crimes tribunal. It was jointly established in 2002 by the United Nations and the Republic of Sierra Leone. Since then, the Special Court has been trying cases that include the most serious violations on international law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone.

Prof. David Cane, an American was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and served until 2005. During his tenure, he prosecuted war criminals for their parts and actions during the 1990s civil war in Sierra Leone. Among those he indicted was Liberia’s former Charles Taylor. Indicted on 17 counts of war crimes against humanity, Taylor is now awaiting trial which begins next April.

Charles Taylor became the first sitting African head of state and second in the world to be indicted on charges of crimes against humanity. The first was Slobodan Milosovich of former Yugoslovia.

Author: Jefferson FCooper is journalist/student at the University of Minnesota. Contact:
© 2006 by The Perspective

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