Monday, June 27, 2011

Ivorian Refugees Spent 50 Days

Ivorian Refugees Spent 50 Days
…In Prison Corridors Without Trial
The 89 Ivorian refugees recently arrested by the joint security forces at the border in Pedebo, Maryland County, in connection with mercenary activities in April 2011, made their first appearance in court in May, after 50 days in pretrial detention at the Maryland County central prison.
According to Article 11 (c) of the Liberian Constitution, all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.
The seven Liberians who were arrested along with the 89 Ivorian nationals on April 1, 2011 were 12 days later and the case was dismissed by the Associate Magistrate for lack of convincing evidence to link the defendants to the crime.
The appearance of the defendants - all Ivorians - in court on May 20, 2011 was prompted upon a writ of ‘habeas corpus’ filed by the Public Defender of Maryland County Abraham Sillah against the state for keeping the 89 suspects under prolonged detention without trial.
The lawyer argued that prolonged detention of the defendants without due process was in violation of their human rights and the Constitution of Liberia.
Article 21 (f) of the Liberian Constitution states: “Every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and presented before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty-eight hours. Should the court determine the existence of a prima facie case against the accused, it shall issue a formal writ of arrest setting out the charge or charges and shall provide for speedy trial. There shall be no preventive detention.”
The lawyer also argued that since the arrest of the defendants on April 1, 2011 to May 20, 2011, the defendants have been made to sleep in the corridors of the prison compound and are being fed with dry farina on a daily basis.
He said the arrest and detention of the 89 suspects was also in violation of the Liberian Constitution which provides for the right to legal council at every stage of investigation.
Article 21c state that: “Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed in detail of the charges, of the right to remain silent and of the fact that any statement made could be used against them in a court of law.
Such person shall be entitled to council at every stage of the investigation and shall have the right not to be interrogated except in the presence of council. Any admission or other statements made by the accused in the absence of such council shall be deemed inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.”
Maryland County Attorney Aloysius Allison confirmed that the defendants were rather being kept in the compound of the Harper Central Prison and not the corridors as claimed.
Although Atty. Allison denied reports that the suspects are sleeping in the corridors of prison, however, he could not state where exactly the defendants were sleeping in the compound.
Atty. Allison said the Government of Liberia was not violating the rights of the defendants but rather the government was ensuring that they remain in protective care during their stay in the country.
Our reporter who visited the Harper Central Prison said the suspects were seen laying around the compound on pieces of mats spread on the ground.
He said some of the suspects were also seen eating farina mixed with sugar in buckets while others were seated on pieces of mats conversing with each other.
Liberia has rectified several international conventions including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was adopted in 1948. Writes, Sam Zota, Jr. first published May 25, 2011 (The News Newspaper)


JPC Questions Magistrate Dismissal

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) has questioned recent decision believed to have come from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to dismiss a magistrate in Maryland County.
JPC Regional Coordinator for the Diocese of Cape Palmas, Southeastern Region, Thomas Mawolo said the President’s decision followed the recent release of seven Liberian mercenaries who were arrested along with 89 Ivorians by the joint state security of Maryland on suspension of being Liberian mercenaries who were fighting in the Ivorian crisis.
Mr. Mawolo said while it is true that magistrates and other public officials work at the will and pleasure of the President, it was equally important that allegations of misconduct by these officials, especially in the various counties, be thoroughly investigated by independent body before decisions are taken.
He said out of the 96 suspected mercenaries arrested on April 1, seven Liberians were sent to court where they spent 12 days in detention without trial. The case was dismissed by the magistrate for lack of proper evidence.
The JPC Coordinator said the magistrate released the seven Liberians on grounds that the prosecution could not convincingly prove its allegation against the defendants.
Associate Magistrate Jocquette Dioh was reportedly ordered dismissed early this month through a communication from President Sirleaf for releasing the Liberians.
Copies of the President’s communication were allegedly served the offices of the Superintendent, County Attorney and other institutions in the county.
When contacted, the offices of Maryland Superintendent and County Attorney acknowledged the dismissal of the Associate Magistrate, but denied knowledge of the President’s dismissal letter of the magistrate.
A letter marked, EJS/MOS/310/2011, dated May 5, 2011, bearing the signature believed to be that of President Sirleaf, indicated that the dismissal of Associate Magistrate Dioh was based on recommendation from the Minister of Justice for the magistrate’s unauthorized release of seven Liberians.
“…Your dismissal is based upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice following your unauthorized action to release seven Liberians who had been charged with mercenarism after their return to Liberia from participation in the conflict in La Cote d’Ivoire,” the second paragraph of the letter stated, although the defendants were not convicted of the crime in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Even though the Superintendent’s office denied knowledge of the letter, but the concluding paragraph of the letter instructed the dismissed magistrate to turn over all properties of the Government of Liberia in his possession to Superintendent J. Gbleh-bo Brown. Writes, Sam Zota, Jr.