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-replies ECOWAS Court

The leadership of the Liberian Senate has responded to the presiding judge for the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice on its recent ruling in favor Liberia’s impeached Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, maintaining the Liberian Senate violated no law or rights of the former associate justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.

A statement issued in Monrovia Tuesday, November 17th under the authorities of Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie states unequivocally that the Senate would have reacted by now to the verdict of the ECOWAS Court in the JA’NEH Impeachment Case.

However, it says unfortunately, due to the activities of the pending December 8, 2020 Senatorial Elections, the Senate Leadership is unable to meet with the required quorum to review the matter and act accordingly, noting that in due course, the leaderships of the Senate and the House will meet to issue an advisory to the Executive on the verdict from the ECOWAS Court.

The statement continues the Liberian Senate has received information that the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has handed down a verdict in the case: Kabineh Muhammad Ja’neh Vs. the Republic of Liberia, and the media here has been requesting its [Liberian Senate] official reaction.

The Senate indicates that because of alleged misinformation being peddled from one media outlet to the next by political detractors and ill-informed persons in the public sphere on the trial processes of the former Associate Justice, it is important to set the records straight.

The ECOWAS Court of Justice last week ordered the Republic of Liberia to pay Jan’neh the sum US$200, 000 as reparation for moral prejudice suffered for the violation of his rights.

Delivering judgment on Tuesday, 10 November, the Court also ordered the Republic of Liberia to restore, calculate and pay to Ja’neh all his withheld entitlements, including salaries, allowances 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 alternative, 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.

In filling his complaint before the ECOWAS Court, Ja’neh had sought to be awarded general damages in an amount not less than US$25,000,000.00 as compensation and an order directing the Republic 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. Sayma Syrenius Cephus 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 inadmissible because the Community Court is incompetent to review, interpret and apply the national constitution and domestic laws of Member States.

The Senate further insists the trial of former Associate Justice Ja’neh was conducted in a very fair and transparent manner as prescribed by the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, the relevant laws of the land and the Standing Rules of the Liberian Senate.

According to the Senate, Ja’neh was fully accorded Due Process as required by these laws and other legal instruments and his fundamental rights were respected during the entire process of his trial at the Senate.
The senate recalls during the trial proceedings last year, on allegations that there were no rules of procedure in place at the House of Representatives (the House) prior to its impeachment of the former Associate Justice, did not honor the prohibition of the Supreme Court not to proceed with the impeachment, and there was no quorum on the Sitting Day the House impeached Cllr. Ja’neh, and so forth; the Senate wishes to clarify that under the Constitution of Liberia, it is not clothed with the Authority to question how the House passes on legislation and other instruments or make judgment on those matters.

The Constitution of Liberia, the Standing Rules of the House of Representatives, the Standing Rules of the Senate and precedence have clearly laid down the rules of engagement between both Chambers of the legislature.

On the issue of Amendment to Senate Rule 63 which deals with Impeachment Trials, prior to the receipt of the Bill/Articles of Impeachment from the House of Representatives, the Senate visited its Rule 63, which is the rule of procedure for impeachment mentioned in Article 43 of the Constitution. This rule of procedure for impeachment was validated and approved by the 52nd Legislature on March 30, 2009 and is indicated in the present Senate Standing Rules.

During its review of the rule of procedure on impeachment as indicated in Rule 63, the Senate noticed that Section 24 of the rules indicates that a mere two-thirds of members of the Senate present can acquit or convict. This contravenes the Constitution of Liberia which calls for a vote of two-thirds of the entire membership of the Senate to acquit or convict an impeached public official. Therefore, section 24 of the Senate Rules was revised to make Senate Rule 63 coherent with the Constitution of Liberia, it says.

The statement, quoting Article 29 of the Constitution says: “The legislative power of the Republic shall be vested in the Legislature of Liberia which shall consist of two separate houses: A Senate and a House of Representatives both of which must pass on all legislation.”

It continues the process of passing on all legislation, resolutions and other instruments and of officially transmitting those instruments, is prescribed in the rules of the Senate and the House.

Article 43 of the 1986 Constitution says: “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…”
Once the House of Representatives impeaches a public official, the Senate is under constitutional obligation to try said impeachment, without question, unless the senate is prohibited by the Supreme Court of Liberia.

In the instance case, there was never a prohibition on the Senate from the Supreme Court of Liberia after the Senate had received the bill of impeachment for Justice Ja’neh from the House of Representatives.

It explains the trial took place in the Chambers of the Senate with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. The Revised Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia, Chapter 2.2 states: “In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to be represented by legal counsel at every stage of the proceedings from the time of arrest or where no arrest has been made, from the initial appearance and submission of the accused to the jurisdiction of the court”.

Cllr Ja’neh was present throughout the trial with his attorneys. He was adequately represented by his legal counsels from the initial stage of trial till the time of judgment. Attorneys representing the House of Representatives along with its Managers on Impeachment were also present throughout the trial. The Senate sat as “jurors” at the trial. According to the Liberian Constitution, the accused shall have fair, speedy, public and impartial trial. All of these elements stated herein were met during the trial.

Furthermore, Attorneys from both sides presented their arguments, witnesses were adduced, testified and cross-examined, there were closing arguments and motions were made and ruled on by the Chief Justice. The elements of any criminal trial were present. There was no harassment of the accused and impeached Justice, no harassment of his lawyers and there was no harassment of witnesses.

Speaking about the voting process on March 28, 2019, at about noon, after lawyers for the House of Representatives and former Justice Ja’neh rested their arguments, the chief justice made a statement and charged the Senate, as jurors, to go into their room of deliberation, and come up with a verdict.

The Senate then retired to its Chambers in the Annex and held a discussion on the voting guidelines. The minutes and all other documents pertaining to the trial were made available by the Secretary of the Senate. Senators were given the opportunity to peruse the documents before making a decision.

On March 28, 2019, 26 Senators took part in the voting. At 5:00p.m. On the same day with no other Senator showing up, the voting for the day came to an end. The Jury Foreman and Secretary tabulated the results, filled up the verdict summary sheet, signed and dated it.

The finale result indicates a total 23 Senators voted to remove Justice KabinehJa’neh from office having been impeached earlier by the House of Representatives. He was found guilty on the Road Fund Charge, while there were not enough constitutionally required votes to convict him on the theft of documents, obstructing the impeachment process and the Constance Land charges.

Counselor Ja’neh was found guilty of “Misconduct” and “Gross Breach of Duty”, which are two (2) of the grounds provided by Article 43 of the Constitution. From the very beginning, the Road Fund Charge was very strong against Counselor Ja’neh.

Majority of the Senators believe he abused and misused his discretion by the issuance of the Writ of Prohibition against the payment of the total amount of approximately US$27 million, which SRIMEX Corporation and CONNEX Corporation had collected as withholding agents for the Liberian Government to be eventually used to construct new roads and rehabilitate old road pursuant to the Millennium Challenge Compact between the Liberian Government and the United States Government.

That money was not the property of these two private companies; it was not part of their income or profits. As collecting agents, they had collected US$0.35 (thirty-five cents US) for each gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel sold at the pump to the public, retained and used US$0.10 (ten cents US) per gallon as their commission; and instead of turning over the balance US$0.25 (twenty-five cents US) per gallon to the Road Fund Account, they kept everything and applied it for their own use, to the deprivation of the Liberian Government and people.

This caused the Liberian Government to renege on its obligations to the United States Government under the Millennium Challenge Compact. And when the Liberian Government demanded that they pay over the amount collected, Counselor Ja’neh issued the Writ of Prohibition so that they would not have to pay on the spurious and untenable ground that the regulation/law pursuant to which they collected the surcharge was unconstitutional.

“Let it be noted with affirmation and emphatic clarity that the Liberian Senate did not violate any of the provisions of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia and any laws of Liberia nor did it breach any of its standing rules in the impeachment trial of former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia. The entire impeachment trial process was transparent, legally and constitutionally-sound and totally void of inducements, coercion, political collaboration, vengeance, and politicking” the statement concludes.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne

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