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Liberia reconciliation efforts must focus on developing legal institutions: UN report

[JURIST] Reconciliation in Liberia hinges on the development of its national security and its legal institutions, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] emphasized [UN News Centre report] in a new progress report [text, PDF] released Monday. The UN report recognizes that the final report [materials] of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [official website] and its recommendations have proven to be deeply divisive, with "[t]he public debate focused on whether the leaders of the warring factions and others the Commission had found to be responsible for atrocities should be prosecuted." The report also asserts that "[t]he lack of public confidence in the justice system [has] continued to fuel incidents of mob violence." Gaps in the implementation of Liberia's national security strategy, which includes a bill that has not yet been presented in the legislature, "[impede] effective security and intelligence coordination and [create] a major obstacle to the establishment of the overall security architecture," according to the report. Limitations in human capacity and infrastructure pose challenges to the law sector as well as to the overall consolidation of state authority. Development in these areas will affect the length of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) [official website], which was extended to September 30, 2010.

The TRC released its final consolidated report in December 2009. Among its recommendations is a 30-year ban from holding office [JURIST report] for those who supported Liberia's 1997-2003 civil conflict, which could affect prominent leaders such as current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [BBC profile]. The report also contains a list of "Most Notorious Predators" and a list of perpetrators of economic crimes, which includes the head of the legal association for the defense of former president Charles Taylor [JURIST news archive]. Human rights organizations such as the Liberia Human Rights Campaign [advocacy website] have urged that the implementation of the TRC recommendations is "imperative." Liberia's civil war [UNMIL backgrounder; BBC backgrounder] left nearly 250,000 civilians dead and displaced more than 850,000. Taylor is currently on trial [case materials] before the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] for war crimes stemming from a "campaign to terrorize the civilian population" of Sierra Leone.

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