WECC Office Head’s Appointment Rejected

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Seventy-six Liberian civil society organizations under the Coalition for the Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia and the human rights community have rejected the appointment of Counselor Jonathan Massaquio as Executive Director of the Office of the War and Economic Crimes Court by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai. The lead campaigner of the coalition, Adama Dempster, said the human rights community and CSOs are deeply troubled by the appointment of Counselor Massaquoi as head of the office this important office to facilitate efforts on the creation of the court that will prosecute alleged perpetrators and bring justice to victims and survivors of Liberia two civil wars. Addressing a press conference in Monrovia’s Paynesville suburb over the weekend, Mr. Dempster  noted that the coalition and the human rights community trouble comes in the wake of information gathered from several impeccable sources, including news articles indicating that Counselor  Massaquoi is serving as lawyer for Madam Agnes Reeves Taylor, wife of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, in a UK court for alleged war crimes during Liberia’s civil wars. Former President Taylor is currently serving 50 years jail term in the UK for crimes committed in Sierra Leone.  Mr. Dempster claimed that information gathered that Cllr. Massaquoi also represented Madam  Reeves Taylor in instituting  multiple lawsuits against human rights defenders, institutions and people who have been genuinely fighting for the establishment of the war crimes court for so many years. Another reason, Mr. Dempster  noted, is that Counselor  Massaquoi is also said to have represented another war crimes indictee, Sierra Leonean national Gebril Massaquoi, who was prosecuted   by Finnish authority for crimes committed during Liberia civil war, leaving behind hundreds of victims as a result of his alleged brutal civil war atrocities in Lofa County. “The coalition and the human rights community wish to raise these concerns in the interest of truth and justice on grounds that a man who represents the interest of alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes against the victims and survivors of the same atrocities cannot at the time represent them in the same jurisdiction,” Mr. Dempster indicated. The CSOs and the human rights community also said that they are taken aback by the rushed endorsement of Counselor Massaquoi appointment by US Congressman Chris Smith without conducting investigation leading to the allegations surrounding the individuals whose cases were presented at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearings on Liberia by some witnesses during June 13, 2024 hearing in Washington DC. Mr. Dempster  stated that while Liberia seeks further US government support to end the culture of impunity, the coalition believes the congressman Chris Smith neutrality will further support accountability and promotes the rule of law. The CSOs  and the human rights community expressed  concern that given the sensitive nature regarding decision to implement TRC recommendations, civil society being considered in the TRC act of 2004 as moral guarantors with responsibility to monitor and campaign for the full implementation of the report, was not consulted by the government especially  President Joseph  Boakai on such a crucial decision in the interest of victims,  survivors and the Liberia people knowing very well that during the negotiation of the Accra Peace Accord 2003 CSOS were greatly involved and influential in sustaining the peace enjoyed today. “We hope this serve as a reminder that the TRC report is not a political report or document for which decisions around it are only decided by politicians especially the establishment of the war and economic crimes court for Liberia.” The coalition and human rights community called on the international community, the United Nations and regional bodies who supported Liberia’s peace process to engage the Liberian government on these matters now to act in the right direction. The CSOS and human rights community maintained that they believed that this appointment comes with deep controversy. As such, the human rights Coalition said that the President should rescind this appointment and call for a stakeholders’ dialogue to show his openness and good intentions going forward in the interest of truth, justice and national healing. By Augustine Octavius, augustineoctavius@gmail.com/newspublictrust.com

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