(left to right) Journalist, Al Jerome A. Chede and community advocate, Uche Uwahemu with honorees and keynote speaker, war crimes investigator, Hassan Bility, Massa A. Washington, a former Commissioner of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Samuel Kofi, human rights attorney and former Minister for the Republic of Liberia. Photo by Carla Thomas.
For war crimes investigator, Hassan Bility of Monrovia, Liberia, torture and terror came with his mission of seeking truth and social justice. For the 50 guests that came to meet him at the New Beginning International Church in Oakland, Bility, executive director of the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) is a hero.
Hosted by the Coalition for Justice in Liberia (CJL) and the Center for Justice and Accountability, Bility keynoted “The State of Human Rights and Justice for Liberians and Africans in the Diaspora” on Friday, March, 9. Bility candidly discussed the human rights violations during Liberia’s 14-year civil war and its effects on survivors now residing in Northern California.
“When I think of all the innocent people in Liberia and those who suffered and died at the hand of war lords and many that committed atrocities enjoying their lives in the safety and comfort of the U.S. and Europe, I want justice,” he said.
In a quest for justice, Bility’s research and mission of generating awareness of the 250,000 killed during the two Liberian Civil Wars has resulted in arrests since 2012. However, Bility says many more are “living free lives in the U.S. and Europe and have yet to be held accountable.”
Not accepting the status quo and pushing for more arrests, are ways Bility commemorates those who lost their lives and those that had the courage to stand up nearly 30 years ago.
According to Bility, failing to implement laws has left the country underdeveloped and in “an agrarian and backward state.” Bility wants the world to join him in morally supporting the call for justice and accountability in Liberia and seeks the prosecution of war criminals. “Asylum should be based on a person’s record, character or behavior, not color or nationality. Every human being has the right to equal protection by the law. If you commit a crime you should pay for it.”
Samuel Kofi, a renowned human rights attorney and former Minister for the Republic of Liberia and Massa A. Washington, a former Commissioner of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) also participated in the program.
“These are the gems of social justice – people who risked their lives for others be they brutalized, terrorized, tortured or simply identified with the majority that were hopeless,” said journalist, Al Jerome A. Chede. Community advocates, Bendu Washington, Hazel Yedel and Uche Uwahemu presented Bility, Woods and Washington with proclamations on behalf of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for their courage and dedication to social justice.
“We will continue to fight for justice,” said Lovetta Tugbeh, executive director of CJL who recently collaborated with Liberia Massacre Survivors Association Inc (LIMASA), and held a memorial program, “Commemorating the Past to Seek Justice.” LIMASA is comprised of the survivors of the fourteen year Liberian Civil War which claimed the lives of more than 250,000 innocent Liberians, mainly women and children.
In the early 1820s, hundreds of freed US slaves were sent to coastal Africa by anti-slavery societies and many settled in Liberia. The nation’s capital city, Monrovia, is named after the 5th U.S. president, James Monroe.