Attaining full democracy in post-war Liberia will remain an illusion as long as the current administration continues on the paths of past regimes, to underplay calls for Claims Courts to be established in the Country.
Under the Law, the presence of the legal organs will lead ordinary Liberian citizens to muster the courage to drag to the courts violators or abusers of the public trust, most of which borders on corruption, conflict of interest and unaccountability. This inherent power of the citizens is guaranteed in the 1986 Constitution of Liberia spelling out the people’s fundamental rights that the Government is oblige to safeguard at all time. The civil and political rights set the benchmarks to measure whether or not democracy in Liberia is thriving or being battered by the government and its cohort.
The fundamental rights include: the right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to hold opinions without interference, right to knowledge and to impact knowledge, right to be informed about the government and its functionaries and the right to be equal before the law and therefore the right to equal protection under the Law.
Unfortunately, in the discharge of their public duties, some members of government violate the rights with impunity sailing on the absence or nonexistence from the court system the constitutionally-required Claims Courts which victims could turn to challenge them. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of public unawareness about the Constitutional obligation of the government to establish these critical institutions, salient to enhancing check and balance in the society; and therefore do little or nothing progressive to petition it to put the organs in place.
Of late, however, some human, civil and political rights as well as student groups of universities, colleges and polytechnics in the Country implore the Government to setup the courts. And specifically, the, Joe Karpeh Civil Rights Institute, a civil and political rights advocacy group in the Country has made central to its work call for the claims courts and to that effect, in March, 2010, petitioned the Liberia Legislature to take action by working with the Judiciary to establish the courts in compliance with Articles 26 and 34 of the Constitution of Liberia.
Ostensibly, the Legislature leave the Petition to gather dust on it shelves as no word about the fate of the plea has come out of the Capitol to date. Notwithstanding, the Institute remains unwavering determine to not only continue to buttress the formal plea with forging strategic coalitions and partnerships on this but to raise sustained public awareness by issuing press releases, organizing press conferences and participating in popular radio talk-shows in order to reach as many people as possible with the awareness with the aim of invoking public participation in the calls for the Courts.
In their bids to help amplify the calls for the claims courts, two Liberian legal practitioners entreated a judicial review conference in Monrovia, early 2010 to participate in calls for the courts. Former Justice Minister Philip Banks and Former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Pearl Brown Bull alluded that the violation and abuse of the civil and political rights of Liberians will continue unless the claims courts were put in place; and mass information disseminated so that the public will utilize them (the Claims Courts) to sue those that breech the public trust.
So far, the two are the high-profile persons that have spoken about the need for the courts; but with the relentless public awareness activities on the part of the Joe Karpeh Civil Rights Institute and its partners, more and more Liberians that feel the pinches of the corrupt, wasteful and unaccountable nuts in Government will raise their voices even louder calling for the courts to be established. Otherwise, democracy will remain fledgling in the post-war Country.
Joe Karpeh Civil Rights Institute
Email: Joekarpehcri@yahoo.com / firstname.lastname@example.org