Moving from Impunity to Accountability in Post-War Liberia: Possibilities, Cautions, and Challenges
Liberia has become the quintessential example of an African failed state. Though Liberia’s civil war is officially over, war criminals are free and some are even helping run the transitional government under the authority of Liberia’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). This peace agreement calls for the consideration of a general amnesty for those involved in the Liberian civil war alongside the parceling of governmental functions among members of various rebel groups. The drafters of the agreement claim that this was the only viable solution for sustainable peace in Liberia. Meanwhile, Charles Taylor relaxes in Nigeria’s resort city of Calabar. To contrast Liberia, Sierra Leone took the brave step of implementing the Special Court for Sierra Leone when it realized that its peace agreement-which had similar goals and structure to Liberia’s- was a failure. Sierra Leone’s decision signals a desire to begin the transition to rule of law and the end of rule by impunity. Sierra Leone can be a model for Liberia. This Comment revisits the colonial period in Liberia to track the growth of a culture of impunity. This rule by Liberian elites, without answering to their own people, has directly caused a failure of the Liberian state. I suggest that a Special Court for Liberia, instead of less punitive transitional mechanisms, would create a hands-on approach to building the respect for a tradition of rule of law and justice in a country that lacks such a tradition. If the intervention of the transitional government of Liberia and the international community is at the level of the exercise of elite power instead of at the level of reconciliation among the masses (which is where the Comprehensive Peace Agreement focuses its energies)-through the use of punitive mechanisms such as prosecution in a hybrid court of law, Liberia can begin to end the culture of impunity and ring in a sustainable peace. In pursuing this goal of the implementation of the Special Court for Liberia, the CPA would need to be revised to reflect the concerns expressed in this Comment. Primarily, a revised CPA must reject amnesty for war crimes and crimes against humanity as was done in Sierra Leone.
Civil Rights and Discrimination | Comparative and Foreign Law | Courts | Human Rights Law | International Law | Law and Politics | Law and Society
Date of this Version
Rena L. Scott, "Moving from Impunity to Accountability in Post-War Liberia: Possibilities, Cautions, and Challenges" (April 24, 2005). bepress Legal Series. bepress Legal Series.Working Paper 606.