Following several interventions from multiple fronts, including religious and traditional leaders, and the United Nations, the House of Representative has dropped impeachment proceeding initiated against three Associate Justices of the Supreme Court by some members of the Legislature.
Speaking in Tuesday (22 August) session, the Speaker of the House of Representatives James Emmanuel Nuquay, says after many interventions by some stakeholders in the country, and for the interest of peace, he had pleaded with his colleagues to let it go.
Speaker Nuquay explains that some weeks back, some members of the Legislature wrote the House of Representatives, calling for the impeachment of three Justices, and the House, through its Judiciary committee invited the three Justices in question, adding that it was on that back ground that the Supreme Court issued a writ of Prohibition on the matter, which he says in his mind, was unconstitutional.
Also a joint resolution by the National Christian Council of Liberia, the Inter Religious Council of Liberia and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia says that they take note of the recent impeachment proceedings initiated by the Legislature against three Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and the subsequent stay order issued by the Supreme Court, fully sharing the public concerns generated by these developments and their implications for the impending elections, Liberia’s peace and stability, and therefore, they have offered their good offices to the two sides to help resolve their differences.
The resolution further states that during their discussions with the lawmakers and members of the Judiciary, the above mentioned groups have been assured by both sides that the current crisis in their relations is not driven by personal motives, but rather consequence of what each party perceives as the discharge of their constitutionally mandated responsibilities.
After various discussions with both parties, the NCCL has resolved to the implementation of the following in the interest of sustaining the peace that the present impeachment and writ of prohibition as well as other writs be reconsidered, that the two Branches of Government return to status quo and improve in their relationship for the common
good of Liberia and the Liberian people.
It is also recommending that a one-day quick impact peace retreat be held between the two branches under the auspices of the NCCL and the cost thereof be supported by both branches at the determined date and time and that a joint statement be read to the Liberian people, with a caution to everyone to be involved in
sustaining the peace here.
The impeachment attempt against the Justices followed protest by Senators Dan Marais, Peter Coleman, James Tornola, Numene Bartekwa and Rep. George Mulbah against a recent Supreme Court’s decision on the controversial Code of Conduct.
After ruling in March this year that the Code of Conduct was legal and binding for all its intent and purpose, the Court however, ruled in July and overturned the disbarment of the Vice Standard Bearer of the opposition Liberty Party, Harrison Karnwea from participating in the October elections by the National Elections Commission or NEC.
The Supreme Court recently placed a prohibition against impeachment proceedings at the lower House, but the protesting lawmakers decline, citing Articles 3, 43 and 71, respectively of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia as their reliance.
Article 43 states, “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate. When the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; when the Chief Justice or a judge of a subordinate court of record is to be tried, the President of the Senate shall preside. No person shall be impeached but by the concurrence of two-thirds of the total membership of the Senate. Judgments in such cases shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold public office in the Republic; but the party may be tried at law for the same offense. The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings, which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law.”
Additionally, Article 71 points out: “The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behavior. They may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the Legislature based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.”
But Article 73 says: “No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instances of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace. Statements made and acts done by such officials in the course of a judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification, no such statements made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding.”
Based on these arguments and counter-arguments from sides, a stalemate evolved that has a propensity to affect the ongoing electoral process in the country, thus, the intervention of local and international stakeholders.
By Bridgett Milton-Editing by Jonathan Browne