Foreign Policy Blogs

Truth Commission Recommends 30 Year Ban From Office for President Sirleaf

The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended last week that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should be banned from government for 30 years for her previous support of former President Charles Taylor.

Taylor is currently on trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone for his role in the civil war there, where tens of thousands were killed, tortured, raped, and mutilated.

The TRC was set up in Liberia in 2005 to address the causes and find the perpetrators of Liberia’s own civil wars, which claimed the lives of nearly ten percent of the population.  Based on a ‘South African-style’ Truth Commission, where victims and perpetrators give testimony to a public body which then makes non-binding recommendations, the TRC in Liberia took nearly 20,000 statements and released its 370 page report last week.

Sirleaf made one of these statements in February, where she admitted that she had believed “Mr Taylor’s rebellion against military ruler Samuel Doe was necessary”, and that she had been “fooled” into supporting him.

The final report then listed Africa’s first elected female leader as one of 50 “political leaders or financiers of different warring factions” who should be barred from office for 30 years.

“Surprised” by the outcome, it will be interesting to see how Sirleaf, and in turn Liberia, respond to this recommendation, in particular considering her commitment at the opening of the TRC that the Liberian “government will ensure that those culpable … will face up to their crimes no matter when, where or how.”



Lisa Gambone

Lisa Gambone is a NY attorney who has provided pro bono work for Human Rights Watch, the ICTR Prosecution and Lawyers Without Borders, first while practicing at a large law firm in London, now independently. She has also spent time at the Caprivi high treason trials in Namibia and at human rights organizations in Belfast, London and New York. She has helped edit and provided research for several publications, including case books on the law of the ad hoc tribunals and a critique of the Iraqi Anfal Trial. She holds a JD specializing in International Law from Columbia University, an MA in International Economics and European Studies from Johns Hopkins SAIS, and a BA in International Relations - Security & Diplomacy from Brown University. Here, she covers war crimes and international justice.