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The TRC of Liberia is constituted

Dr. Bipin Adhikari
(Source: http://trc-liberia.blogspot.com/2007/01/trc-of-liberia-is-constituted.html)
(Reproduced from - the FOCUS Magazine of the United Nations Mission in Liberia of January, 2007)

"Intended to heal the wounds of the past, and reconcile all political forces in new Liberia, the TRC of Liberia is mandated to conduct a thorough investigation and publish a report documenting gross human rights violations, violations of international humanitarian law, and importantly, economic crimes, such as the exploitation of natural resources to perpetuate armed conflict, that occurred between January 1979 and October 14, 2003.".

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), one of the important institutions envisaged by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement negotiated in Accra in June 2003 has now been constituted.

Intended to heal the wounds of the past, and reconcile all political forces in new Liberia, the TRC is mandated to conduct a thorough investigation and publish a report documenting gross human rights violations, violations of international humanitarian law, and importantly, economic crimes, such as the exploitation of natural resources to perpetuate armed conflict, that occurred between January 1979 and October 14, 2003. In addition, the TRC will also "recommend" that amnesty be granted to persons making "full disclosures of their wrongs" and "expressing remorse for their acts," with the proviso that amnesty will not apply to serious violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity. Finally, the TRC will make recommendations to the government about reparations, the need for legal and other institutional reforms, and the need to hold prosecutions in certain cases, presumably those cases involving crimes against humanity.

The Chairman of the Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Mr. Gyude Bryant, on 18 October 2005 appointed nine commissioners for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). These Commissioners were appointed after a long participatory process as laid down by the TRC Act passed by the transitional legislative assembly in mid 2005 amidst a complex and politically challenging environment. With this appointment, the controversy regarding the TRC members appointed by Chairman Bryant without the authority of an enabling law has come to an end.

Additionally, the Economic Council of West African States (ECOWAS), has already nominated two members for the TRC International Technical Advisory Committee (ITAC) members, and the third member by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). All of these technical advisors are the nationals of ECOWAS countries, and according to the TRC Act, enjoy all rights and privileges accorded to commissioners save that they do not have the right to vote.

In its new composition, the TRC is not only an inclusive body, but it also commands the faith of the common people. The newly appointed Commissioners wanted to be commissioned to their new office by the elected government based on preliminary consultations with UN agencies and some representatives of donors. In fact, it is politically desirable to have the TRC inaugurated under the new democratically elected government as it will need considerable political and financial backing for its work, and protection from any attempt to influence its findings, including recommendations on individuals who should be prosecuted. Although the date for inauguration is not yet fixed, the preparation for the inauguration is going on. The act of inauguration would set in motion the statutorily defined three month preparatory period to be followed immediately by the two years anticipated as the timeframe the TRC would need to accomplish its tasks.

One of the principal issues beforehand is the issue of funding of the monumental tasks the new body is going to perform. According to the TRC Act, Article VI (12), "Members of the TRC shall be employed by the government of Liberia and shall render services on a full basis and receive remuneration in an amount determined not to be less than that received by Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia." The government's responsibility in this regard is clear. Article VI (12) goes on to say "Members of the International Technical Advisory Committee shall receive remuneration pursuant to international standards for persons carrying out similar mandates." However, the Act stops short of specifying how and by whom members of the committee should be paid. The United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), the ECOWAS and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) are working together with the TRC members and the international donors to sort out the funding issues.

Once inaugurated, the TRC is likely to run for at least two and half years to perform all its responsibilities leading to a final report. This means that what is put in motion now will be completed at the last leg of 2008. The newly elected President of Liberia, Ms Ellen Johnson-Sirleaft, who was shorn in on 16 January, has already spoken of her full support to the TRC and its mandate.


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