Opposition leader breaks silence on NPRC coup & executions: A rejoinder
Freetown, Sierra Leone Â – I read with complete amusement and dismay online the exonerations and cowardly statements of John Benjamin, Chairman of the opposition SLPP of his unquestionable role in the NPRC junta extra-judicial killing of 28 Sierra Leoneans without due process of law.Â What really drew my attention to his cheap and indefensible statement is his quest to hide the truth by calling on all NPRC members of the SLPP party not to be distracted with the human rights abuse and heinous crimes they committed against Sierra Leoneans.Â He stated, â€œHe also warned former NPRC members currently in positions of trust within SLPP hierarchy not to betray the ideals of SLPP which he warned would happen if they allowed themselves to be blackmailed by APC operatives using â€œthreats of Inquest.” (Photo: Joseph Seidu Sherman)
What Mr. John Benjamin fails to realize is that the NPRC junta committed crimes, a regime which he ushered and nurtured to overthrow a constitutionally elected government thereby allowing heinous crimes and disrespect for the sanctity of human lives.Â Mr. Benjamin should know that the culture of impunity where people are free to commit crimes without being questioned is a thing of the past.Â What members of the family of those killed want to know is the truth of the extra-judicial killings and discoveries of the bodies of the victims so that proper burial will be given them according to the customs and traditions of Sierra Leone.
Mr. John Benjamin is trying to politicize the proposed inquest by using party politics.Â However, he fails to realize that the party he purport to represent (SLPP) set the stage for inquires and due process of law when it prosecuted the RUF, AFRC, Kamajors and Charles Taylor for crimes against humanity.Â Therefore, if the APC government decides to initiate an inquest on the extra-judicial killings carried out by the NPRC junta, what â€œblackmailâ€ or â€œAPC operativesâ€ are carrying out â€œusing threats of inquest?â€
The Common Plan or Conspiracy which includes, planning wars of aggression, the persecution and murder of helpless people; Crimes against Peace; War Crimes; Crimes against Humanity.” The outcome of the Rwandan trials set an example of the consequences should anyone commit the aforementioned crimes.
There was no question that the NPRC junta and collaborators were guilty, for their plan was entirely premeditated. The NPRC takeover of a legitimate government and Mr. Benjamin collaboration to support them were plainly a threat of war. These actions are clearly Crimes against Peace. Â Other War Crimes were the heinous and brutal murders of innocent civilians, the ill-treatment of civilian population. Lastly, the Crimes against Humanity were simply the acts of the NPRC against the 28 people and the fact that the killings were for no military purpose, but only because of their political beliefs and ethnic affiliations.
Having recognized this darker side of human nature within ourselves mankind has retaliated by establishing bodies of law to act as barriers between us and destruction. Although these barriers cannot ultimately stop us in our quest for more, they do serve as a guide to morality. In a statement made by former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan, the charter of international law is described as that of “policing international crimes and punishing those who commit them”.
When Pinochet was successfully prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity it marked water shed in international criminal law being the first time the World Court had been responsible for arresting and prosecuting a head of state solely under international legislation. This precedent has allowed for the successful prosecution of many of the worlds most notorious criminals including: leading members of the Hutu government responsible for the Rwandan crisis, commanders of the Yugoslavian conflict and most notably Slobodan Milosevic. Minor as these achievements may be they provide us with hope demonstrating a willingness to make the world a more community minded.
Through the establishment of an inquest to determine the facts surrounding the killing of 28 people by the NPRC, Â we have provided ourselves a means to escape the destruction, greed and violence that is modern day society. Unfortunately hope alone is not enough to stop us in our ambitious goals. We must now act on the hope we have created for “policing international crimes and punishing those who commit them” will not occur without action.
Finally, Mr. John Benjamin, donâ€™t politicize the proposed inquest. Â The goal of an inquest is not a determination of guilt; it is a determination of facts. Sierra Leoneans and families of those murdered want an inquest held to determine the cause of death of their loved ones.Â I presumed various witnesses and evidence would be presented to the court. The members of the inquest would determine whether or not the death was wrongful, and they might make a recommendation for prosecution.
By Joseph Seidu Sherman, Washington, DC
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