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GeneralLiberia news

Chief Justice encourages debate on U.S. sanctions 

There has been no prosecution after several Liberian officials were placed on U.S. sanctions during former President George Manneh Weah’s regime for corruption and human rights abuses.

By Lincoln G. Peters 

Monrovia, April 8, 2024: Liberia’s Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh says she would enjoy a legal and scholarly debate restricted only to actors from all spheres of the Liberian legal society on the United States Magnitsky Act.

Under the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned several Liberian officials during former President George Manneh Weah’s regime.

They included former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, now County Senator Nathaniel McGill, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, former Liberian Solicitor General; and Mr. Bill Twehway, former National Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director.

There has been no prosecution of any sanctioned officials accused of corruption and human rights abuses.

Until a competent court of jurisdiction has duly freed someone, she argued that the law forbids suspending any rights the accused is entitled to except where due process is applied.

According to her, this act raises legal questions. Therefore, she would have loved the LNBA and other legal persons to spearhead a debate. 

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“I have always said the law is the law and not reasoning depending on from which place you are reasoning. Let us put the law in all its clear details … Due process is a fundamental right under our constitution and so, let’s start the debate,” she said.

“In recent times, our legal community had strategically or otherwise kept silent and technically put this skeleton in our legal process for whatever reason, I don’t know,” she said.

She continued, “I would enjoy a legal and scholars’ debate restricted only to actors from all spheres of the Liberian legal society on the United States Magnitsky Act.”

She explained that it’s common knowledge that foreign governments designated some former and even present officials for alleged theft and corruption.

Based on the allegations, she noted that some of the rights of these officials have been immediately curtailed. 

Justice Yuoh noted, “Why we can’t speak to how and who the foreign government chose to conduct this affair?” 

Delivering a special address at the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) Assembly 2024 over the weekend, Chief Justice Yuoh said the accused must always be accorded due process.

She argued that the right to due process is sacred and enshrined in the Constitution and statutes of all nations, whether developed, developing, or underdeveloped.

The Liberian Chief Justice explained that due process is a right, adding that the organic law in Liberia’s jurisdiction holds all accused persons innocent, irrespective of their office. 

The U.S. accused Mr. McGill of using his position to undermine the integrity and independence of Liberia’s democratic institutions and subverting government priorities for personal gain. 

It also said Cephus developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations and received bribes from individuals in exchange for arranging for their cases to be dropped. 

It added that Mr. Twehway used his position at the NPA to advance his personal wealth and political agenda corruptly. 

All three officials were designated under Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption worldwide.

All three of these individuals have contributed to Liberia’s worsening corruption. 

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