Liberia Moves to Create War Crimes Court, Decades After Civil Wars Ended

Liberia’s president has signed an executive order establishing a war crimes court, the culmination of a decades-long effort to bring justice to victims of the country’s two civil wars, which killed an estimated 250,000 people from 1989 to 2003.

Lawmakers in Parliament — including some who are expected to face prosecution under the court — passed a resolution calling for the move last month.

“For peace and harmony to have a chance to prevail, justice and healing must perfect the groundwork,” President Joseph Boakai said as he signed the order on Thursday, to the applause of lawmakers and ministers.

Although some of those behind the violence have faced prosecution abroad, no one has been held legally accountable within the country for the massacres, rape, torture and conscription of child soldiers that left deep scars on generations of people in Liberia, a West African nation founded 200 years ago by freed slaves from the United States.

It was unclear on Friday how many cases might come before the court and when they might begin. Many of the perpetrators, and their victims, have since died.

Mr. Boakai’s executive order also paved the way for an economics crimes court, which would cover the companies and individuals who funded the wars’ various factions, but Parliament will first have to pass legislation to establish it.

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