Liberian president signs order to create war crimes court

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Liberian President Joseph Boakai on Thursday signed an executive order to establish a war crimes court meant to bring overdue justice to victims of serious abuses committed during the West African country’s two civil wars.

The conflicts between 1989 and 2003 saw widespread atrocities including massacres, rape, and the use of child soldiers. A Truth and Reconciliation Committee later called for a special court to be set up to try those allegedly responsible.

However, no concrete action was taken until Boakai was elected last year.

The President proposed a resolution to create a special court, which was later backed by Liberia’s lower house and senate.

On Thursday, Boakai thanked the legislators for their work and gave his own final approval.

“The conviction that brings us here today is that, for peace and harmony to have a chance to prevail, justice and healing must perfect the groundwork,” Boakai said in a special address.

The move has been welcomed by activists and civil society groups that have called for more accountability for crimes committed during the conflicts in which around 250,000 people were killed.

Once up and running, the court would operate in Liberia in line with international standards, with back-up from international institutions, including the United Nations. It will also handle economic crimes.

Some in Liberia have opposed its creation, saying it risks reopening old wounds and could undermine an existing amnesty law that helped end the fighting.