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Open Access Ending Impunity: The Case for War Crimes Trials in Liberia

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Ending Impunity: The Case for War Crimes Trials in Liberia

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This article argues that Liberia owes a duty under both international humanitarian and human rights law to investigate and prosecute the heinous crimes, including torture, rape and extra-judicial killings of innocent civilians, committed in that country by the warring parties in the course of fourteen years of brutal conflict. Assuming that Liberia owes a duty to punish the grave crimes committed on its territory, the article then evaluates the options for prosecution, starting with the possible use of Liberian courts. The authors argue that Liberian courts are unable, even if willing, to render credible justice that protects the due process rights of the accused given the collapse of legal institutions and the paucity of financial, human and material resources in post-conflict Liberia. The authors then examine the possibility of using international accountability mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court, an ad hoc international criminal tribunal as well as a hybrid court for Liberia. For various legal and political reasons, the authors conclude that all of these options are not viable. As an alternative, they suggest that because the Special Court for Sierra Leone has already started the accountability process for Liberia with the indictment of Charles Taylor in 2003, and given the close links between the Liberian and Sierra Leonean conflicts, the Special Court would be a more appropriate forum for international prosecutions of those who perpetrated gross humanitarian and human rights law violations in Liberia.


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