Civil Society Groups Want Senator Varney Sherman Stripped from Influential Judiciary Committee’s Chairmanship

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At a joint press conference on Tuesday, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia and the Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition called on the Plenary of the Liberian Senate, the highest decision making body of that august body to act now in order to avoid bringing the Upper House to public disrepute.

Monrovia – Liberia’s largest civil society platform, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia and the Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition have petitioned the Liberian Senate to remove Senator H. Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

Cllr. Sherman, one of Liberia’s renowned lawyer and politician continues to make the headlines for all the negative reasons since he was placed on economic sanction last December by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) over his alleged involvement in a series of bribery and corruption related cases.

There have been a plethora of calls from a spectrum of the pubic for Senator Sherman to be completely extricated from the Liberian Senate’s influential Judiciary Committee, with some even calling for his resignation.

At a joint press conference on Tuesday, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia and the Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition called on the Plenary of the Liberian Senate, the highest decision making body of that august body to act now in order to avoid bringing the Upper House to public disrepute.

“The Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition and the National Civil Society Council of Liberia believe that the US Department of Treasury’s Sanction on the Liberian Senator has a strong moral and integrity implications and as such, the presence of Senator Sherman as Chairman of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee does not only undermine the credibility and integrity of the Senate Judiciary Committee but also has greatest propensity to bring the entire Liberian Senate to public disrepute,” the CSOs said in a statement read by Madam Loretta Pope-Kai, Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia.

On December 9, 2020, marking International Anti-Corruption Day, the United Sates Department of Treasury placed Senator Sherman on economic sanction for his alleged role in a thread of bribery and corruption related cases.

The Department of Treasury, in a statement said Sherman, a prominent lawyer, Liberian Senator, and Chair of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee, was hired by a British mining company in an effort to obtain one of Liberia’s last remaining mining assets, the Wologizi iron ore concession.  Sherman advised the company that, in order to obtain the contract, they first had to get Liberia’s concessions law changed by bribing senior officials.

In what would later emerged as the infamous Sable Mining case. Sherman, in 2016, was indicted by the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led government, along with several other government officials for their involvement in the US$950,000 bribery scheme. 

Then in 2019, the presiding judge acquitted all individuals accused of being involved in the bribery scheme.  The Treasury Department stated that Sherman offered bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial and had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in July 2019.  

In addition, the Treasury Department claimed Senator Sherman has routinely paid judges to decide cases in his favor, and he has allegedly facilitated payments to Liberian politicians to support impeachment of a judge who has ruled against him.  Sherman’s acts of bribery demonstrate a larger pattern of behavior to exercise influence over the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice, the Department noted.

The CSOs said they have presented their request to the Plenary of the Liberian Senate through a written communication dated February 3, 2020 and called for Sherman to be axed from the committee.

The groups contended that US Department of Treasury’s Sanction on the Liberian Senator has a strong moral and integrity implications and as such, the presence of Senator Sherman as Chairman of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee does not only undermine the credibility and integrity of the Senate Judiciary Committee but also has greatest propensity to bring the entire Liberian Senate to public disrepute.

They furthered that the Liberian Senate’s inaction to distance its administration and leadership role assigned to Senator Sherman will further interpret its encouragement of corruption and or disregard to adhere to the US strategic policy direction to defeat corruption, hereby engendering bilateral partnership and technical cooperation enjoy by the Liberian Legislature, the Government of Liberia to the People and Government of the United States of America. They noted the situation might also affect other strategic institutions and nations align with the US Foreign Policy, pleading, “We call for conscious action.”

According to them, Senator Sherman lacks the moral rectitude to preside over judicial matters at the Liberian Senate and therefore, he should step aside to seek judicial redress with the US Government and save the Liberian Senate. 

The Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition and the National Civil Society Council of Liberia said they followed the recent debate held at the Chamber of the Liberian Senate on the issue. The group pointed out that the argument by some Senators that the matter is personal and should not be an issue of the Liberian Senate, was not only weak and lazy, but a calculated attempt to undermine the entire Legislature and the country at large. 

They further argued that the Senate strategic relationship share with US Congress and broader bilateral and multi-lateral institutions supported by the US Government – serving as prime partners to Liberia sustainable reconstruction endeavor is highly value over an accused and sanctioned Senator. 

They called on the Plenary of the Liberian Senate to take appropriate and timely action that promotes good governance to save the Liberian Senate by voting for the removal of Sherman as Chairman of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee as soon as possible, or they will use “people power approaches” as guaranteed by the Constitution to seek his removal.

“We are prepared to implore people power approaches as guarantee by Article 1 and Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution in ensuring that Senator Cllr. Harry Varney Gboto-Nambi Sherman is removed as Chairman of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition and the National Civil Society Council of Liberia will continue to advocate and promote transparency, accountability and integrity in the governance framework of the Republic of Liberia,” vowed. In the statement signed by James Koryor, national coordinator of the Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition, James S. Swen, National Secretary-General, National Civil Society Council of Liberia, and Mrs. Pope-Kai.                                                                                                                                                                

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