-Ja’neh’s lawyer says Judiciary will take years to recover
One of the lead lawyers who fought unsuccessfully through the court and the Legislature to prevent former Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh’s impeachment, Arthur T. Johnson says the impeach-ment is an onslaught and a complete slaughter of the judicial system that will take years for that system’s recovery.
“I told you here first, I say it was an onslaught, it was a complete slaughter of the judicial system, that impeachment proceedings. And it will take years for the Supreme Court and the entire judicial system of Liberia to recover from it,” Cllr. Johnson told local broadcaster OK FM on a live talk show Wednesday, 25 November.
Prior to taking up a task with the Government of Liberia as a special prosecutor, Cllr. Johnson led legal efforts to stop the impeachment proceedings against Ja’neh, but he did not continue with the case at the ECOWAS Court following his client’s removal by the Legislature as he had become en-gaged with the administration here.
Having left the government job several months prior to Ja’neh’s recent victory at the ECOWAS Court, Cllr. Johnson suggests that “if we fail to correct our wrong of the past,” that’s where Libe-rians have problems.
Cllr. Johnson notes that he did not represent Ja’neh at the ECOWAS Court, but he is part of those who started the crafting of the pleadings for the ECOWAS Court, recalling that by the time, he had already started helping the government of Liberia as a prosecutor.
He believes that the current government can also come on track to correct the past by respecting the rule of law “and never to repeat that mistake that was made.” “Let me give you one example. The impeachment of Justice Ja’neh it was like the government shooting itself in the leg,” he says.
Cllr. Johnson argues that President George MannehWeah’s administration should not have attacked the Supreme Court, saying they should have left the impeached Justice Ja’neh “because we knew the consequences that will follow.”
One of the cases which triggered Associate Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment trial in Liberia related to a land dispute involving him and one Madam Annie Yancy Constance.
He was accused by lawmakers led by the ruling party Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) leg-islators for abuse of power, using his influence as Associate Justice to secure a ruling in his favor at the Supreme Court to take possession of the land.
But Ja’neh’s lawyers maintained that the claim that their client allegedly manipulated the Supreme Court to rule in his favor in the property case questioned the credibility of Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor who served as the head of the Supreme Court and also signed the ruling.
Chief Justice Korkpor sat on Ja’neh’s trial at the Legislature despite protests by the impeached jus-tice’s lawyers, and the accused was finally impeached and removed by lawmakers. However Cllr. Johnson thinks the best thing the government can do now is to call Justice Ja’neh to a dialogue, suggesting that it’s left to the impeached justice to agree.
“If Justice Ja’neh says look, I am going by the opinion of the court, it’s finished,” Cllr. Johnson says, noting that similar thing happened when Sierra Leone had to beg its vice president who had been awarded millions of dollars by the ECOWAS Court following his removal by the government in that neighboring country.
Further, he recalls that the Chief Justice of Gambia was taken out of office the same way Ja’neh was removed.
In relating the current situation in the country to what he saw during imprisoned former President Charles Ghankay Taylor’s rule, Cllr. Johnson argues that the slaughtering of the Dokie family gave the reason for all of the other stakeholders to start finding their way immediately when Taylor won the election.
According to Cllr. Johnson, one of the major mistakes of Mr. Taylor that ex- President Ellen John-son – Sirleaf decided not to make was to allow Ecowas peacekeepers to leave Liberia.
He explains that in her administration, Mrs. Sirleaf knew that Liberia’s peace was fragile and so she declined to let the peacekeepers leave, unlike Mr. Taylor who in his time, made such a mistake.
In the end, Cllr. Johnson recalls that former President Taylor was only fighting to be able to pay government workers’ salaries which according to him, could sometimes take 18 to 20 months with-out being paid as Liberia had become isolated by the international community.
“International community isolated us, Liberia, we were here. We know what was happening. People were working 17, 18 months no pay,” he adds.
“So is the situation with the government now. When they won first of all, they should never have attacked the Supreme Court. They should have left Justice Ja’neh because we knew the conse-quences that will follow,” he says.
Prior to Cllr. Johnson’s comments, Bomi County Rep. Edwin Snowe become one of the first top officials to call on the Liberian government to negotiate with Ja’neh and solve the problem to avoid ECOWAS sanctions, barely a week after the ECOWAS Court awarded the impeached Associate Justice US$200,000 as reparation for moral prejudice he suffered for the violation of his rights.
Delivering judgment on Tuesday, 10 November, the ECOWAS Court also ordered the Republic of Liberia to restore, calculate and pay to Ja’neh all his withheld entitlements, including salaries, al-lowances and pension benefits as from the date of his impeachment to the date of notification of the Court’s judgment.
It further ordered his reinstatement as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court or in the alterna-tive, to grant him the right to retire from service on the date of notification of the judgment of the Court with full pension’s benefits as if he had retired at the normal retirement age for justices of the Supreme Court.
Ja’neh in filling his complaint before the ECOWAS Court had sought to be awarded general dam-ages in an amount not less than US$25,000,000.00 as compensation and an order directing the Re-public of Liberia to restore him to his position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
He also asked the court to declare that the entire impeachment trial, conviction and replacement on the Supreme Court constitute violations of his rights to fair hearing, dignity of his person and work under equitable and satisfactory conditions, among others.
But the Republic of Liberia represented by the Solicitor General Cllr. SaymaSyreniusCephus denied violating the human rights of Mr. Ja’neh and submitted that the impeachment was done through a political process which also followed the due process of law as laid down in Section 43 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia. The State urged the Court to declare that Ja’neh’s application is inadmissi-ble because the Community Court is incompetent to review, interpret and apply the national consti-tution and domestic laws of Member States. By Winston W. Parley