Roadmap to Accountability: Overcoming Barriers to Justice in Liberia
In 2020, Professor Bekou, was awarded QR funding to deliver the project ‘Roadmap to Accountability: Overcoming Barriers to Justice’. The project has built on previous research into overcoming barriers to post-conflict justice in Liberia, which experienced two violent civil wars between 1989 and 2003 and was delivered with the support of the Human Rights Law Centre.
The project was delivered by Professor Bekou in partnership with the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), the leading Liberian non-governmental organisation working on mass atrocity. It has facilitated group agreement on the next stages of action and provided a significant networking opportunity in order to strengthen efforts for justice. The project has also deepened the previously existing links between Professor Bekou and GJRP, as well as other Liberian stakeholders from the legislature, Liberia National Bar Association and civil society.
Working collaboratively to deliver a project across two countries has brought new challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic. Accordingly, Professor Bekou and her research assistant, Emma Sheffield, remained within the United Kingdom, coordinating with GJRP to deliver training and wider project support remotely. The dedication of both teams to operationalising a remote project through clear and regular communication has made delivery possible.
The project sought to build on an ongoing effort by Liberians who are continuing to seek justice and accountability for crimes committed during two civil wars which occurred between 1989 and 2003. Split into two phases, the project initially included a series of discussions gathering opinions from across Liberia conducted in February 2021. A total of 150 people were reached through five focus groups in five counties. People from all walks of life discussed those barriers which have so far prevented justice. They discussed how these barriers can be overcome, and the concrete strategic actions which are necessary, in order to construct a ‘Roadmap to Accountability’. Amid calls for the establishment of a War Crimes Court and debate around issues including funding, security and political will, one participant from Montserrado County stated:
“The perpetrators are still moving and living freely a good life whilst the victims have become servants for them. If you want to catch the chicks around the hen, you need to catch the hen first”.
Another said: “In Liberia people with money and power used their money and positions in government to turn the rights of innocent people to wrong. We will celebrate if the War Crimes Court is established in Liberia to deal with the past”.
The project moved into phase two in March 2021. The teams used the phase one data to inform the conference ‘Overcoming Barriers to Justice: The Roadmap to Accountability’. The conference was organised as a collaboration between the University of Nottingham, GJRP and their partner Civitas Maxima, a Swiss-based NGO. The conference took place over the 19-20 March and was attended by 48 participants on day one and 50 participants on day two. Representatives from the legislature, political parties, the Liberia National Bar Association, traditional community leaders, women and youth leaders and civil society came together in a collaborative effort to construct a Roadmap to Accountability. The conference was reported in the national press and provided demonstrations of unity, with one traditional leader stating:
“When we talk as chiefs and elders, we don’t talk like I’m from Nimba, I’m from Bong, we talk with one voice!”
The project has facilitated group agreement on the next stages of action and provided a significant opportunity to create links between stakeholder groups – including deepening links between elder-led groups and youth leaders. The conference culminated in the signing of a Pledge of Commitment to the identified strategic actions in the agreed Roadmap, as a symbolic representation of the dedication to seeking justice and accountability.
You can also read our full project report.
Doing Justice for Liberia - Analysing NGO-held Data on Mass Atrocity
In 2018 and 2019, the ICJ Unit was awarded two rounds of funding from the ESRC GCRF NGO Data IAA fund.
The project will combine data already collected by the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), the leading Liberian NGO working on mass atrocity, with Professor Bekou’s research, to help bring justice to the victims of the Liberian conflict.
Professor Bekou and PhD Student Emma Sheffield conducted a secondary analysis of data documented by GJRP. This analysis was designed to highlight patterns in the data and uncover gaps. It was also used to inform the knowledge exchange activities for the purpose of improving GJRP’s data collection practices and data processing capabilities.
In September 2018, Professor Bekou and Emma Sheffield were hosted in Liberia by GJRP for the first knowledge exchange activities. These activities included sharing the initial findings, refining the pillars of analysis, and dialogue with GJRP on their bespoke needs. Another essential component of the visit included delivering training in relation to legal knowledge and international criminal law. The training programme provided GJRP with the opportunity to engage in dialogue with Professor Bekoun, an expert on international criminal law with significant experience of data documentation (NILD, CJAD). On return to Nottingham the project team used the feedback from GJRP and completed the data analysis.
In March 2019, GJRP hosted a second week-long visit to Liberia for knowledge exchange activities. These activities built on the first visit and included a tailor-made in-depth training programme designed to increase GJRP’s data entry, management and analysis capabilities. The training programme delivered the final findings of the secondary data analysis, and drew on them in order to make the training wholly relevant to GJRP.
The training has facilitated a more independent way of working and increased the data processing capabilities at GJRP. The patterns and snapshot picture provided by the secondary analysis also enhanced GJRP’s advocacy abilities. This includes shaping their outreach efforts towards the creation of a War Crimes Court.
In July 2019, Professor Bekou and Emma Sheffield returned to Liberia for a historic Legislative Conference on Accountability for Past Crimes in Liberia
. The Legislative Conference was organized as a collaboration between the University of Nottingham, the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia (SEWACCOL), the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) and Civitas Maxima, upon the request of several Committees of the Liberian House of Representatives.
The Cooperation and Judicial Assistance Database (CJAD) was created following a request by The Hague Working Group of the Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Developed by the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre as part of CILRAP-CMN’s International Criminal Justice Toolkits Project, CJAD aims to provide a central information hub on all aspects of cooperation legislation.
CJAD is a fully searchable database of national legislation implementing the ICC Rome Statute, which enables users to easily identify relevant provisions or sections of national legislation using approximately 250 purposely designed keywords. Through free universal access to CJAD, users are able to access, review, compare online information regarding cooperation legislation, thus facilitating the drafting of national legislation and increasing harmonisation between States’ practices.
CJAD is an important tool for enhancing consistency in national cooperation with the ICC, leading to improvements in both the number and the speed of successfully executed requests for cooperation from the ICC, thereby contributing to the fight against impunity. CJAD is fully available in English and can also be accessed in French, Spanish and Arabic. CJAD is funded by the EU and the Royal Norwegian ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The ICJ Unit is one of several outsourcing partners of the ICC Legal Tools Project. The Legal Tools provide the ICC, States, civil society and researchers with free access to more than 70,000 documents on international criminal law and justice through several databases and legal research and reference tools. The ICJ Unit has developed a dynamic, fully-searchable database of national legislation implementing the ICC Statute, for which it has sole responsibility. NILD is widely cited as a reference by professionals and academics.
Since its first global training course on ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute of the ICC in 2003, the ICJ Unit has led expert training courses on the Rome Statute and national implementation, primarily for government officials responsible for ratification and implementation. Key sessions have been provided by ICC staff, regional experts, and renowned academics in the field.
The ICJ Unit has also led training courses for government representatives, judicial officials, academics, civil society, and other criminal justice experts from Sub-Saharan Africa in 2004, the Asia Pacific in 2005, the Middle East and North Africa in 2007, and the Caribbean in 2009.
In September 2012, the Unit delivered a two-week course entitled International Criminal Law for 36 judges from the Office of the Thai Judiciary, which culminated in a two-day study visit to relevant institutions in The Hague, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The participants were received at the ICC by President Judge Sang-Hyun Song, at the ICJ by Judge Sir Christopher Greenwood and at the ICTY by Judge Carmel Agius, Vice-President of the Tribunal.
Under the leadership of Professor Bekou, the ICJ Unit offers bilateral assistance to States with regard to numerous international criminal justice issues. This has involved assistance with drafting implementing legislation, the provision of legal opinions, and capacity building - both remotely and in situ.
For example, the Unit has provided assistance to Fiji, Samoa, and Jamaica with regard to drafting national implementing legislation and capacity building workshops. Professor Bekou has extensive experience with capacity building and has undertaken missions to post-conflict situations including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.
Bridging the Gap - Ensuring the Lasting Legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone
From July 2011 to March 2012, the Unit led a project aimed at increasing the capacity of the Sierra Leonean criminal justice system to operate in accordance with international human rights standards.
Relying upon both the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, it identified best practices of these institutions in the context of Sierra Leone's transitional justice experience and developed a comprehensive integration strategy to be used by judges, prosecutors, lawyers, legal educators and non-governmental organisations. The project resulted in the creation of a Best Practice Guide
. A final report was also produced, which included an evaluation of the project's impact and the identification of the priority areas for future action.