Liberia: Swift, Proper Communications Needed to Avoid Misunderstanding Between Judiciary and Executive
THE PRINT MEDIA in Liberia had some of their pages occupied on Tuesday, January 21, with one story, which had to do with the alleged refusal of the Liberia National Police Inspector General to honor an order from the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia.
AS A RESULT of this alleged refusal on the part of the Inspector General, Colonel Patrick Sudue, a lower court, which is enforcing a ruling from the upper court, had issued a Writ of Arrest on him. He had earlier been invited to tell the court why he shouldn’t be held for the crime, Contempt of Court.
THE INSPECTOR GENERAL was mandated by the lower court through the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case Republic of Liberia verses Armstrong Tony Campbell, to turn over the keys of seven vehicles belonging to the defendants. The Supreme Court had ruled in a Theft of Property, Smuggling and Criminal Conspiracy and Facilitation Case involving the Republic of Liberia and Armstrong Tony Campbell, Sheak K. Brown and Kadakai Sherman.
THE COURT THEN issued an arrest order for the police boss few days later when it seems he wasn’t responding to the court’s order.
“YOU ARE HEREBY commanded to arrest the living body of Patrick Sudue, Inspector General, Liberia National Police (LNP), Republic of Liberia, Defendant charged with the crime of Contempt of Court and forthwith bring him before this honorable court to show cause, if any, why he should not be held in Contempt of Court for failure and refusal to comply with the Supreme Court’s mandate issued on the 31st day of December 2019 and being enforced in the case: Republic of Liberia Verses Armstrong Tony Campbell,” excerpt of the Writ of Arrest.
BUT ACCORDING to the Sheriffs’ returns, Inspector Sudue refused to accept the writ, got angry and started to insult them.
THE COURT HAD EARLIER SENT, on Thursday, January 9, the Writ of Summons to IG Sudue and it seems the police boss didn’t respond to the court’s summons immediately. So on Monday, Jan. 20, court bailiffs J. Felton Davies and J. Janjay Veatoe of Criminal Court ‘C’ had gone to carry out a Writ of Arrest to have same served on the Inspector General. “Upon entering the office of the Director Sudue, we were received by his assistant.”
EXCERPT OF THE RETURNS: “When we got to Director Sudue and told him that we had a Writ of Arrest for him and that he should kindly walk over to the court (Criminal Court C) with us, he got emotional and insulted us, asking us to get out of his office. More to that, Director Sudue said he is a presidential appointee and was not coming with us to the court. He even said that we should order his arrest and he was not coming. So, we gave him a copy of the writ and left his office while he rained insults on us.”
THAT WAS WHAT THE COURT’S officers reported back to Judge Nancy F. Sammy, Presiding Assigned Circuit Judge of Criminal Court ‘C’.
FIRST, LET’S DEFINE what Contempt of Court means. Contempt of Court, often referred to simply as “contempt”, is the offense of being disobedient to or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers in the form of behavior that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court.
HOWEVER, THE INSPECTOR General on Tuesday, January 21, refuted allegations that he disrespected the Criminal Court ‘C’ and/or insulted its ministerial officers, who had attempted to effect an arrest order from the court.
COL. SUDUE TOLD reporters yesterday that he respects the courts and will not do anything to impede their functions.
“I WILL LIKE TO SAY that the Executive and the Judiciary cannot go at loggerhead, and I will never, in no way, disrespect the court – the court and the police work hand-in-hand.”
FIRSTLY, LET’S take a step back and get to know how the case came about. The case grew out of an allegation by the US Government that seven luxury vehicles were stolen in the United States and smuggled into Liberia. When the cars arrived at the Freeport of Monrovia in 2016, they were confiscated and have since then remain in the custody of the police.
FAST FORWARD, the Supreme Court rule against the government, ordering that the vehicles be turned over to the three defendants — Armstrong tony Campbell, Sheak K. Brown, and Kandakai Sherman — in the case.
SUDUE DISCLOSED that the keys of the vehicles were in the possession of his predecessor, Gregory Coleman, while the case was being tried at the Criminal Court ‘C’.
THE KEYS WERE later turned over to the United States Embassy through its regional Security Office represented by Mr. Sam Fazzah. Col. Sudue, who was then an underman at LNP, was unaware about the transfer of the keys to US Embassy in Monrovia.
HOWEVER, JUDGE Sammy wrote on January 7, 2020 to the Police IG, requesting him to turn over the keys of the seven vehicles to the sheriff of the court. This request wasn’t immediately adhere to. Now, the police boss claimed because he was “too overwhelmed” with the aftermath of the Council of Patriots’ January 6 protest, he didn’t respond to the court’s request until January 9.
HE SAID WHILE he made efforts to ascertain the whereabouts of the keys, he was shocked to see a Writ of Summons for Contempt of Court. He said, however, he had earlier met the Judge, who told him that she was making a foreign trip.
“WHEN SHE TRAVELLED, I made contact and found out who had the keys [at the US Embassy] and then I presented the name and the number of the person, and we placed a call, but the guy from the embassy said ‘’We have the keys but we want official documents from the government,’” Col. Sudue narrated.
WE DON’T know how long the Judge stayed on her foreign trip. But it seems when she returned and didn’t meet what she had requested from the police boss before she left, it made her angry and thought that he was being disrespectful to the court.
“I THINK WHAT the judge felt that the keys for the vehicle are in my possession and that I am intentionally refusing to turn them over, which is not true,” he added while denying using invectives against the court officers, who came to effect who had gone to serve the Writ of Arrest.
APPARENTLY, UNBEKNOWNST to the court, the Police chief had written his boss, Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean to “use your good office to contact the US Embassy Ministry of Foreign Affairs as it relates to the keys of the vehicle and to find the remedy at law.”
IG SUDUE DID the right thing to ask Justice Minister Dean to seek the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ intervention in the matter as it involves a foreign embassy near Monrovia.
HOWEVER, MR. IG, we want to urge the Liberia National Police to be swift and timely in dealing with the courts so as to avoid misunderstandings that can be very easily handled and not bring both branches of government at loggerheads.
ALSO, IN ALL FAIRNESS, we know and the IG himself knows that the sheriffs couldn’t have effected an arrest on him; he should have just accepted the writ and put his absence on “national security matter” than later go quietly to meet with the judge and all of this noise and embarrassment would not have made its way to the media.