Authorities at the Ministry of National Defense and the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) have reviewed the draft Court Martial regulation for the military here at a one – day workshop graced by key stakeholders from the justice and human rights sectors, among others.
The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia Maj. Gen. Prince C. Johnson, III, said the intent of the workshop is all about how the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) can be practicalized to start the summary court, the special court and the general court martial, following the passage of the Act since 2017.
“Based on that we decided to call stakeholders who are or will be involved in these proceedings after this … is signed by the Commander – in – Chief of the Armed Forces to begin that process,” Gen. Johnson said recently at the Barclay Training Center during the workshop.
He indicates that it’s a milestone to see the resumption of Court Martial proceedings here technically since 2003 when the Armed Forces of Liberia was restructured based on the Accra Peace Accord.
“To come back and see the resumption of Court Martial proceedings I think it’s a milestone. From 2010 we started this process to see how best we can have a document; 2017 that document was approved, passed, printed into handbill, 2020 we have started to see how best we can start court martial proceedings from the UCMJ,” he says.
Chief of Staff Johnson assures that the AFL will be open for discussion, particularly calling on the Independent Human Rights Commission, Ministry of |Justice, the Liberia National Bar Association, Governance Reform Commission for their support.
“The fabric of every democracy, even security sector, is the hallmark of discipline, and the only way discipline can be effective is having the rule of law that we have somewhere that people can go and be able to argue, look at it and be able to move forward,” he says.
At the close of the workshop, Gen. Johnson presented plaques and golden coins to representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Liberia National Bar Association, the Independent Human Rights Commission and Governance Reform Commission, expressing the military’s gratitude for their support.
Earlier, Deputy Defense Minister for Administration Olandrus Dickson indicated the ministry’s commitment in ensuring that all necessary legal structures, legal framework under which the AFL will operate are in place and that officers are regulated appropriately to conform to local and international human rights requirements.
For his part, Atty. Emmanuel B. Yates, Director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Defense and the AFL, presenting the draft Court Martial Regulation, notes that the AFL Judge Advocate General Department is the legal arm of the new AFL which was established in 2010 as Legal Section.
He recalls that the section commenced with few paralegal trained in military justice in the US and Europe, adding that the strength increased to 17 paralegal comprising four officers and 13 enlisted performing the task of legal officers at various command.
He adds that before now, the AFL didn’t have adequate manpower to fully operationalize the Uniform Code of Military Justice since it was passed into law in 2017.
By Winston W. Parley