U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, Advocate for War Crimes Court in Liberia, Loses Midterm Election

Defeated Congressman Dan Donovon stands with his daughter as he accepted the election results.

Advocacy for the establishment of a war crimes court in the country on November 7 suffered a major setback when Dan Donovan, an American Lawmaker lost his midterm bid yesterday.

Max Rose, an army veteran running on the Democratic ticket, won the 11th congressional district of New York by more than 50 percent, unseating Republican incumbent Representative Dan Donovan, a campaigner for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.

According to the Cable News Network (CNN), Donovan made an early concession even before any major news network could call the results of the race.

With his daughter Serena Stonick by his side, the former New York District #11 Representative, thanked his supporters for giving him the chance to serve the district for the last three years and congratulated Rose on his victory.

“I just got off the phone with Max Rose, and I asked him to do a good job for my family and yours, and he promised me that he would,” Donovan told CNN. “I congratulated him on a hard fought effort; it’s been an amazing ride for our family,” he added.

About his service to his community and people, Donovan said, “the last 22 years of my entire adult life I’ve served this community, and it’s been an honor and a privilege, something I will never forget, and I will never forget you for giving me that opportunity.”

According to the report, Donovan said he would take the next couple of days off from politics, go “somewhere warm” with his family, and come back to see what would be the next chapter of his life and the lives of his family members.

Heading into Tuesday’s midterm elections, there were 205,507 registered Democrats and 119,731 registered Republicans in New York District #11.

Seventy (70) percent of those voters came from Staten Island, home to 48 percent more Democrats than Republicans and the largest concentration of Liberians in the United States.

What Donovan’s Defeat Means for Liberia:

Congressman Donovan has been the force behind the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia; famously introducing a resolution for the establishment of a war and economic crimes tribunal which was passed by Congress.

Recently, he wrote a letter to United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Walt Mattis requesting their assistance in the process.

In response to Donovan’s efforts to get a war crimes court established in Liberia, Liberia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzohngar Findley recently said the issue of a war crimes court establishment in Liberia should be decided by a referendum, a statement which advocates have described as far-fetched.

With Donovan’s absence now and Democrats taking control of the United States House of Representatives, it remains unclear whether establishment of a War Crimes Court would occupy pole position on the agenda of the new incoming congressman.

Although Congressman Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia who Co-sponsored the bill submitted by Donovan retained his seat in Congress, passage of the proposed Act by both Houses of Congress is not, by all means, a foregone conclusion.

Additionally, it remains unclear whether Secretary Pompeo and General Mattis will act on Donovan’s letter, now that he has lost his seat in Congress.

Please see Donovan’s Letter Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis Below:

New York’s 11th Congressional District is home to the largest Liberian population in the world outside of Liberia. With a vibrant presence in the Clifton section of Staten Island, I have seen their contributions for many years. They are hardworking and family-oriented communities who have made themselves an integral part of the district.

As you know, from 1991 to 2002, civil war devastated Liberia and Sierra Leone. The violence took the lives of over 200,000 people, displaced over 1,000,000 persons, and saw horrific cases of murder, amputation, mass rape, and other human rights abuses. The heinous crimes that occurred during this time are unspeakable, yet many of the perpetrators hold positions in Liberia’s government. With the presence of Senator Prince Y. Johnson and others, we are seeing Liberia’s slow creep backwards towards the murderous mayhem of its civil war era.

Liberians are rightfully clamoring for justice. The last thing we want to see is the cycle of violence start yet again. I fear that is exactly what will happen should the perpetrators of vicious crimes be allowed to escape responsibility. To this end, I have introduced H. Res. 1055 in the House of Representatives, which calls upon Liberia to establish a war crimes tribunal. This effort has already been followed by responses from Liberian government officials. Liberian Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Findley earlier this month reportedly suggested a referendum to establish a war crimes tribunal.

Unfortunately, this vague statement from Minister Findley falls short of genuine and robust commitment to establishing a war crimes tribunal. To that end, what more can the Department of Defense and Department of State do to encourage Monrovia to establish a war crimes tribunal? And how else can I and my colleagues in Congress assist in this effort? I look forward to your expeditious responses.

In his  Resolution 1055 which was passed by the Lower House of Congress, Donovan expressed the urgent need for Prince Y. Johnson (now a Senator for Nimba County) and a host of other persons indicted by the Truth and Reconciliation’s (TRC) report to face justice.

He said with PYJ and other perpetrators occupying positions of power and influence in the country, it would be very difficult for national healing to occur.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Senator Prince Y. Johnson (PYJ) has long since condemned all efforts geared towards the establishment of a war crimes court in the country and to this date he still maintains his belief that Liberia has no need for such a tribunal.

PYJ recently said that he is not afraid of anyone or prosecution. He said he is a free man and will remain a free man, meanwhile insisting that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report is ‘fraudulent.’

He said TRC chairman, Cllr. Jerome Verdier, has numerous contradictions in the report that render it unworthy of any serious attention.

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