War Criminals Cannot Be Pardoned Unconditionally

By George D. Yuoh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 7, 2003

Kindly allow me to be a part of the ongoing debate, by publishing my conterview to that of Mr. Jonathan J. Williams, published on your site on November 6, 2003 under the caption: In Support Of A Truth And Reconciliation Commission. Brother Williams, you are assuming that those who bear greater responsibility for the continuing genocide in our country want to repent and seek forgiveness from those they offended. Women are still being raped, and people are being hacked to death, even as you read this article today. Nimba County is a death zone; Tubmanburg has become a criminal enclave, while Buchanna and other parts of the country are being turned into slave centers by these criminal elements of our society. What have you seen that suggests to you that these misfits deserve to be pardoned unconditionally?

You made mention of Slobodan Milosevic, and that he has not yet being found guilty by the ICTY (the International Crimes Tribunal for Yugoslavia) in the Hague. True. But what you did not mention also is that Milosevic and about 40 of his co-conspirators are not cabinet ministers, managing directors and speaker of parliament in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, nor Macedonia. They have been removed from the equation, and have been neutralized, and are incapable of taunting and bringing any harm to the people of the former Yugoslavia. They are behind bars, where people who believe they can rain rockets on civilian hideouts at will and in the process intentionally murder hundreds, should be sitting. They are in custody, where death squad leaders who murdered entire family ought to be locked up. Slobodan Milosevic and his colleagues-in-crime are not arrogantly, and without any ounce of remorsefulness, demanding jobs and threatening the people with more death and destruction if their demands are not met. George Dweh is speaker of the assembly in the Bryant government. Where else in this world could that have happened, given the atrocities he personally committed? Notice that I did not say allegedly committed, because there are numerous international organization reports and eyewitnesses accounts that confirmed his crimes. Even, if he must be given the benefit of the doubt and presumed innocent until proven guilty in a competent court, he could still not make bond anywhere else in the world considering the gravity of his crimes. But there he sits, as speaker of the Liberian Parliament. Is that a sign of a remorseful person?

The logical scenario that one would have assumed these death squad murderers and their insane collaborators would have taken was to totally remove themselves from the Liberian political picture completely. Give the people time for their pains to naturally heal and for them to forget the vivid images of those horrendous killings. But look at what happened in Ghana! It was the who's who of Liberian warlords and death merchants, gathering to claim their trophy. You would have thought that as a duty and a means of reparation to Liberia, the warlords and their spineless politician accomplices would have made the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission an imperative component of the agreement for the transitional government to undertake. What have they done instead? They are holding our people hostage as a tradeoff for more jobs for them and their soulless hackers. If they were sincere, do you think we would be waiting for the UN forces to reach full strength before commencing disarmament? Why can they see what you and I are looking at? Why must they be paid before issuing orders for disarmament? Haven’t they taken enough pay? These are the people for whom you are insinuating that they be let lose with a pat on the back.

For some of us who speak for a war crimes tribunal, our intentions are not to seek revenge and undeserved retribution, rather, we are advocating for the establishment of a realistic and “credible threat” that will deter future criminal liberators from feeding death and destruction to Liberia somewhere down the road. We want it to be made known to all and sundry that Liberia is a no go zone for frivolous liberation wars, for there would be severe consequences. And the tribunal is also needed to curb future excesses of any sitting government that may dream of halting civil disobedient with the kind of gross abuses and mayhem witnessed in Liberia over the years. If Liberia is to move forward without looking back or slowing down, then the carriers of cruelty among us must be properly sifted and appropriately neutralized.

We too believe that it is not Gyude Bryant's job to insist on the establishment of the war crimes tribunal. We also believe it is not his place to grant unconditional and blanket amnesty to these unrepentant murderers. We believe in Mr. Bryant’s sincerity and commitment of wanting to heal the wounds. We can only hold him accountable for that which he has been asked to do by the Accra agreement. And we wish him well to succeed.

Brother Williams, the man who inflicted the injury on Ma Ennie, waited for some years to elapse and then he, on his own volition, went back to Ma Ennie to beg for forgiveness. That is the mark of a repentant soul. You could not do anything else than to forgive such a person. But if people believe that their actions were justified, they have to vindicate themselves. Like Ma Ennie and the man, we too are tempted to want to forgive and live in peace with our brothers and sisters who inflicted so much pain and destruction on mother Liberia. But from the way they are carrying themselves, they will never benefit from the people's generosity. Let's test justice and see what it can do for Liberia. We have tried impunity for far too long. I rest my case!