Truth or Reconciliation Mechanism: Accra Peace Agreement

ARTICLE XIII: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

1. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission shall be established to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences, in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.

2. In the spirit of national reconciliation, the Commission shall deal with the root causes of the crises in Liberia, including human rights violations.

3. This Commission shall, among other things, recommend measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims of human rights violations.

4. Membership of the Commission shall be drawn from a cross-section of Liberian society. The Parties request that the International Community provide the necessary financial and technical support for the operations of the Commission.

Implementation History

2003

No Implementation

No information is available on the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

2004

Intermediate Implementation

On January 7, 2004, a three-day Technical Work Session, hosted by the National Human Rights Center of Liberia (NHRCL) in collaboration with the Liberia Democracy Watch (LDW) and the NGO Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG), was held regarding the draft act establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The UN Mission in Liberia was providing technical support and advice on establishing the commission. The workshop was created with the intention of reviewing the draft act.1 In late January, Chairman Bryant appointed members of the Truth and Reconciliation commission. Some parties, however, argued that the chairman did not meet the procedural requirement of consulting with the Transitional Legislative assembly before deciding on candidates.2

The TRC was finally established on February 2, 2004. Rev. Dr. Burgess Carr was appointed chair of the eight-member commission.3 During a news briefing in the first week of May, the commissioners of the TRC said that the TRC would intend to “go from city to city, village to village and town to town to keep citizens abreast of the significance of the commission in the quest for genuine and lasting peace in Liberia.”4

In a significant development, a member of the TRC, Attorney Moffie Kanneh, resigned once he was appointed spokesperson for the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).5

In order to progress forward, on August 13, 2004 the TRC sent the TRC Draft Act to the Chairman of the Transitional Government. The TRC Draft Act proposed to investigate “perpetrators of massacres, sexual offences, murder, economic crimes, extra-judicial killings, and all incidents of gross human rights abuses and violations, whether isolated or part of a systematic pattern from January 1979 up to the establishment of the TRC."6

  • 1. "Liberia; Human Rights Groups Finish Workshop on Truth And Reconciliation Draft," Africa News, January 7, 2004.
  • 2. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2004/229), March 22, 2004.
  • 3. "Liberia; JPC Boss Chairs Elections Commission as Govt. Constitutes Five Commissions," Africa News, February 2, 2004.
  • 4. "Liberia; Truth Commission Speaks Out," Africa News, May 5, 2004.
  • 5. "Liberia; Commissioner Resigns From Truth Commission After Accepting Factional Appointment," Africa News, June 11, 2004.
  • 6. "Liberia; Truth Commission Wants Cases Heard From 1979, Presents Draft Act to Govt," Africa News, August 17, 2004.
2005

Full Implementation

On 9 February, Chairman Bryant endorsed the draft legislation specifying the authority of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.7

The TRC Draft Act was finally passed by the National Transitional Legislative Assembly on 12 May 2005.8 On 10 June 2005, the Chairman of the Transitional Government signed the law passed by the assembly and it became effective.9

No further information is available regarding the work of the TRC.

  • 7. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2005/177), March 17, 2005.
  • 8. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2005/391), June 16, 2005.
  • 9. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2005/560), September 1, 2005.
2006

Full Implementation

The president formally inaugurated the TRC on 20 February 2006. The TRC was mandated to investigate rights abuses and killings from 1979 until 2003.10 As soon as the commission was established, it began to collect information on alleged human rights violations and atrocities during the civil war years. The TRC commenced operations following the nationwide launch of its public activities programme on 22 June. As of September 2006, the TRC process was ongoing in all counties.11 The TRC started taking statements in the counties on 10 October. This however was suspended on 28 November due to a lack of funding needed to pay the salaries of the statement takers.12

  • 10. "Liberia inaugurates truth commission to investigate rights abuses, killings," Associated Press Worldstream, February 20, 2006.
  • 11. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2006/743), September 12, 2006.
  • 12. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2006/958), December 11, 2006.
2007

Full Implementation

The TRC did not make any significant progress in 2007 because of funding issues. The commission received only $2.2 million out of a project operation budget of $14 million. It was reported that the commission’s mandate was due to expire in September 2008. By August 2007, the commission had only recorded 5,000 out of an estimated 30,000 statements.13

  • 13. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2007/479), August 8, 2007.
2008

Full Implementation

The commission made significant progress during this year as it began hosting public hearings nationwide. The TRC requested that the legislature grant them an extension for 9 months, thus pushing the deadline until 30 June 2009. By August 2008, the TRC completed public hearings in all 15 counties and started thematic hearings in July.14 The UN Secretary General reported to the Security Council that the Liberian TRC had released the findings from its conflict mapping survey on 13 October, 2008. This survey identified that land and property disputes were key threats to Liberia’s fragile peace.15 The TRC’s public hearing continued and “the first volume of its report, containing an overview of the root causes of the Liberian conflict, was sent to the Legislature and the President in December 2008."16

  • 14. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2008/553), August 15, 2008.
  • 15. "Secretary General's Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2009/86), February 10, 2009.
  • 16. Ibid.
2009

Full Implementation

After the national reconciliation convention of June brought over 500 delegates from all 15 counties, the TRC concluded its mandate on 30 June and submitted an unedited consolidated report to the legislature and the president. The report outlined the root cause of the conflict and expressed the view that all factions committed violations of domestic as well as international criminal and human rights law. The report had a range of recommendations on accountability, reparations, and amnesty, as well as suggestions for legal and institutional reforms. The report also recommended the establishment of an “extraordinary criminal tribunal to prosecute those identified as having committed gross violations of human rights and economic crimes. Eight leaders of the warring factions, including the former President, Charles Taylor, as well as a list of 98 individuals identified as the ‘most notorious perpetrators’ are among those recommended for prosecution. Thirty-six persons have been identified as being responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but are not recommended for prosecution because they spoke truthfully before the Commission and expressed remorse. The Commission’s report also includes a ‘non-exhaustive’ list of 50 individuals identified as financiers or supporters of the warring factions who the Commission recommends be subject to public sanctions, including being barred from public office for a period of 30 years. That list includes the President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, among other political figures and serving members of the Government."17 On 1 December 2009, the Commission issued a final report, with 10 of its 12 appendices completed. In the final report, the commission expanded its recommendations to include the “Palava Hut” mechanism: a traditional conflict resolution mechanism, which was to be set up in every district, where the perpetrators could publicly request forgiveness.18

  • 17. "Secretary General’s Report to the UN Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2009/411), August 10, 2009.
  • 18. "Secretary General’s Report to the UN Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2010/88), February 17, 2010.
2010

Full Implementation

The TRC completed its mandate in June 2009. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf reported on the status of the implementation of the TRC’s recommendations to the legislature on March 10 and informed them that “she had requested the Ministry of Justice and the Law Reform Commission to analyze the recommendations with legal implications and explore options for implementing those without legal implications."19

  • 19. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2010/429), August 10, 2010.
2011

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2012

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.