Liberia commission wants war crimes court

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By Alphonso Toweh

MONROVIA, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation commission has recommended that a special court be set up to prosecute those accused of war crimes committed during a 1989-1996 civil war, its chairman said on Friday.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is being tried in The Hague for war crimes because of his alleged role in the intertwined war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Taylor, who denies backing Sierra Leonean rebels, was a warlord in Liberia's civil conflict, which started when he launched a rebellion. The twin conflicts killed a quarter of a million people between them.

The commission does not have the power to enforce but can present recommendations to parliament which may then enact them. A tribunal would be likely to open old wounds as Liberians try to rebuild a nation shattered by years of war.

It could also prove a headache for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first women president who enjoys strong Western backing. The commission wants her barred from office because of her support for Taylor in the war.

"The TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) has recommended an extraordinary criminal court to prosecute alleged perpetrators during the civil war," commission chairman Jerome Verdier told Reuters.

The Commission was established in 2005 to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Johnson-Sirleaf is trying to rebuild a ruined economy, buying back $1.2 billion of outstanding government debt earlier this year, a key step towards attracting investment in key sectors like rubber and iron ore.

(Writing by Tim Cocks)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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