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Saturday, July 20, 2024

ALVIN SMITH EXPOSES CORRUPTION BY CIVITAS MAXIMA AND GJRP: CALLS FOR CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ON LIBERIA’S WAR CRIMES COURT

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Alvin Smith, the Chief Investigator for the International Justice Group (IJG) based in Washington DC, addressed the Tom Lantos Human Rights Bipartisan Commission (LTHRC) on June 13, 2024, to discuss the progress and challenges in establishing accountability for war and economic crimes in Liberia. Smith thanked Co-Chairmen, Congressman Smith and Congressman McGovern, for their support in advocating for the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, which aims to seek justice for the 250,000 victims of Liberia’s two civil wars.

President Joseph Boakai of Liberia has taken significant steps toward establishing this court, a move supported by IJG. Smith highlighted his decade-long service with IJG, focusing on human rights violations in Liberia, leveraging his extensive background in criminal justice, homeland security, and conflict resolution. His experience includes work in war-torn regions like Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia, where he witnessed the aftermath of war and human rights abuses firsthand.

The IJG, under the leadership of Executive Director Jerome Verdier, has been instrumental in documenting and reporting human rights abuses and advocating for the War and Economic Crimes Court. Verdier, who was the former Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, authored the 2009 report recommending the court’s establishment. Despite progress, Smith raised concerns about certain NGOs involved in fraudulent activities that could undermine the court’s credibility.

Smith accused Alain Werner of Civitas Maxima and Hassan Bility of the Global Justice Research Project of engaging in schemes to maliciously prosecute individuals for war crimes by using coached and paid witnesses. Specific cases cited include Gibril Massaquoi, who was acquitted twice after being falsely accused, and Agnes Reeves Taylor, who was wrongfully detained for 27 months based on false testimonies. These accusations suggest a pattern of deliberate, fraudulent behavior designed to manipulate the justice system for personal and financial gain.

In his detailed account, Smith described how Darious Tweh, acting as an insider witness, exposed the fraudulent activities of Werner and Bility. Tweh revealed that they recruited, coached, and paid witnesses to provide false statements against accused individuals. This included submitting fraudulent affidavits under oath, leading to wrongful arrests and detentions. Such actions, according to Smith, not only undermine the credibility of the justice process but also cause significant harm to the accused and their families.

Smith further elaborated on the financial motivations behind these fraudulent prosecutions. He disclosed that Werner and Bility received substantial funding from donors to support their operations, which were misused for personal and financial gain. Bility, for instance, owns multiple properties in Liberia, indicating a potential misuse of funds meant for justice-related activities. This financial aspect adds another layer of complexity to the issue, highlighting the need for stringent oversight and accountability.

Given these serious allegations, Smith called for the exclusion of these NGOs from any involvement in the War and Economic Crimes Court. He emphasized that allowing such entities to participate would only perpetuate the cycle of fraud and injustice. Smith stressed the importance of maintaining the court’s integrity by ensuring that only credible and trustworthy organizations are involved in its establishment and operation.

Smith urged the US Congress to refrain from supporting these organizations and to ensure adequate funding for the War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia. He emphasized the importance of credible justice mechanisms free from the influence of corrupt entities and highlighted ongoing investigations and criminal complaints against Werner and Bility in Liberia. Smith’s call to action was clear: the US government must ensure that justice is served and that those responsible for war and economic crimes are held accountable without any interference from corrupt organizations.

Smith also underscored the broader implications of this issue for global justice and human rights. He argued that allowing fraudulent practices to go unchecked in Liberia would set a dangerous precedent, potentially undermining similar justice efforts worldwide. This is not just about Liberia, Smith insisted, but about maintaining the integrity of international justice mechanisms.

He called on international donors and human rights organizations to scrutinize their funding and support processes rigorously. Smith suggested that these entities should implement more stringent measures to ensure their resources are not misused by fraudulent actors. Transparency and accountability, he argued, are crucial for the credibility and effectiveness of justice initiatives.

Furthermore, Smith highlighted the personal toll these fraudulent prosecutions have taken on individuals and their families. The wrongful detentions, legal battles, and the social stigma attached to false accusations have caused immense suffering. He shared testimonies from victims and their families to illustrate the human cost of these injustices, reinforcing the urgency of addressing this issue.

Smith called for robust support from the US Congress to uphold justice and accountability in Liberia, ensuring that those who suffered during the civil wars receive the justice they deserve. He stressed the need for continued vigilance and oversight to prevent any attempts to undermine the court’s integrity. By doing so, the international community can support Liberia in its journey towards lasting peace and justice, honoring the memory of those who lost their lives and providing a foundation for a more just and equitable society.

Socrates Smythe Saywon
Socrates Smythe Saywon is a Liberian journalist. You can contact me at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or reach out via email at saywonsocrates@smartnewsliberia.com or saywonsocrates3@gmail.com.

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