For the first time in the history of Liberia, pre-trial detainees will be allowed to vote inthe October 10 representatives and presidential elections, based on a decision reached by the House of Representatives.
The House has endorsed a bill filed by Bong County Representative George Mulbah to grant pretrial detainees rights to vote in the upcoming elections. But the House’s decision to allow pre-trial detainees to vote does not include Liberians who have been indicted or convicted for infamous crimes.
In a communication dated January 12, 2017, the Bong Lawmaker pleaded with the Plenary of the Lower House to mandate the National Elections Commission or NEC to make allowance available for the opening of registration centers and subsequent voting of pre-trial detainees held at all prison facilities in Liberia.
Rep. Mulbah had insisted that article 77(b) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution and Section 5.1 of the new elections law explicitly provide the legal backing for his argument.
Upon his request, plenary requested the committees on Judiciary and Elections and Inauguration to conduct a proper legislative investigation to report in two weeks with findings and recommendations. The Joint Committee’s report necessitated a public hearing on25 January duirng which the Ministry of Justice, NEC, Carter Center, Liberia National Bar Association and the Law Reform Commission were invited.
Following the hearing, the Plenary of the Lower House voted with 18 for, one against and seven abstained. During separate presentations made at the hearing, Bar President Cllr. Moses Paegar and his team affirmed the validity of Rep. Mulbah’s suggestion that Pre-trail detainees had rights under the laws to participate in the decision – making process.
Citing Chapter 5 Section 5.1, the Bar Association said those who have been judicially declared to be incompetent or of unsound mind, or who have been barred from voting as result of conviction and imprisonment for infamous crime cannot be allowed to vote.
The Bar said such people are disenfranchised as voters once their rights have not been restored to full citizenship. Having being convinced by presentations from the invited institutions, the chairman on Judiciary Rep. Worlea Saywah Dunah said only those indicted for Infamous crimes should be stopped from participating in elections.
By Bridgett Milton -Editing by Winston W. Parley