Fri 27th April, 2012
A professor from the University of Bedfordshire has recently returned from Liberia in Africa, where he organised and chaired a groundbreaking seminar about war crimes.
Jon Silverman, Professor of Media and Criminal Justice, chaired the seminar, which brought together journalists, lawyers, law students and civil society representatives to discuss the impact of war crimes trials on society in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“The aim of the seminar was to build a virtual community where we can share ideas to bring together the media, lawyers and civil society groups,” said Professor Silverman. “After all, independent lawyers and a free media are two of the pillars of a democratic society. But in post-conflict countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, there is something of a void when it comes to accountability. Our goal is to see that void filled.”
The seminar was part of a project funded by the British Academy and is the first of its kind to take place in this part of Africa. It comes as the former Liberian president Charles Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity - the first former head of state convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremburg trials after World War Two.
“Everyone who attended the seminar said it had been a fruitful experience. The test will be to turn the group into an active forum for sharing ideas and initiatives. Both these countries suffered years of civil war and there is much to be done in the way of rebuilding good governance,” said Professor Silverman.