Liberia: J’aneh’s Symbolic Last Laugh: ECOWAS court’s Ruling in Favor of Illegally Removed Associate Justice

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WHEN BOTH HOUSES of Liberia’s National Legislature took the controversial decision to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh in March 2019, they had no idea that decision would come back to haunt them.

MEMBERS OF THE 54th National Legislature found the Associate Supreme Court Justice guilty of granting a Writ of Prohibition petitioned by petroleum dealers in the country to stop the government from collecting levy/taxes of US$0.25 (road fund) imposed on the pump price of petroleum products. Twenty-two Senators voted to remove him, four voted against his removal, while three abstained from the process.

A BILL IMPEACHMENT drawn up by an Ad-hoc committee ordered Justice Ja’neh among other things, to be suspended from his job but giving all benefits and salaries pending the duration of the proceedings.

LAST WEEK, The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West Africa States(ECOWAS) Court ordered the Republic of Liberia to pay Justice Ja’neh, the sum US$200, 000 two hundred thousand dollars) as reparation for moral prejudice suffered for the violation of his rights.

THE COURT also ordered the Liberian government, to restore, calculate and pay to the Applicant all his withheld entitlements, including salaries, allowances and pensions benefits as from the date of his impeachment to the date of notification of this judgment.

CREATED PURSUANT to the provisions of Articles 6 and 15 of the Revised Treaty ECOWAS,  the court’s mandate is to ensure the observance of law and of the principles of equity and in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Revised Treat and all other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by Community.

FOLLOWING LAST WEEK’S ruling, the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, Edward Moako Asante, threatened that the regional body would consider the imposition of sanctions on the Government of Liberia (GOL) if it fails to adhere to the latest ruling from the court on the illegal impeachment of the former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Kabineh M. Ja’neh.

ACCORDING TO JUSTICE ASANTE, the two-pronged judgment or ruling from the court has mandated the reinstatement of Mr. Janeh, and as such, the Liberian government is under obligation to do so.

MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL legislature and the Executive branch of government may have won the impeachment battle but Justice Ja’neh is having not just the last laugh but now enjoying a symbolic victory over a corrupt and unjust legal system that may just be irreparable.

SPEAKING TO THE VOICE OF AMERICA last week, Justice Asante noted that though the court has ordered the reinstatement of Mr. Janeh, the Liberian government appointed another person in his position as soon as he was removed, adding that in the sense of the court, “they should pay him all his salaries and allowances as he was in duty up to the time that he retires at 70, as they do, and then to proceed to also pay him his pension”.

JUSTICE ASANTE averred that since the court’s ruling, the Liberian government has failed to appoint a focal person, through whom the judgments from the court can be enforced. “They (GOL) have also shown a certain posture that they do not actually respond to the court’s judgment. But then, we’ll keep fighting and we will keep publicizing as you have done. Now, it’s on VOA; it’s going all over the place that the Liberian government, they are doing this, removing judges and all that. And we are going to tell the president of the ECOWAS Commission whose duty is it to make sure that States comply with the judgments of the court; and we are also giving them six months within which to do that; otherwise, legally ECOWAS is working and working well; they could even apply sanctions against Liberia for noncompliance with the judgment of the court. So, these are the avenues we are looking at”.    

THE DECISION from the ECOWAS court is a major blow to the administration of President George Manneh Weah and validates concerns many expressed that the decision to impeach the Associate Justice was politically motivated.

THE DECISION ALSO DEALS a major blow to members of both houses of the national legislature and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, who failed to provide oversight and objectivity regarding the way in which Justice Ja’neh was illegally removed from his position.

THIS WAS CLEARLY evident last week when Senator Armah Jallah(NPP, Gparbolu), former Pro Temp of the Senate, in a quarter back play, acknowledged that the Senate was wrong to impeach Justice Ja’neh.

SPEAKING TO FRONTPAGEAFRICA after the ECOWAS Court decision, Senator Jallah, who was Pro Temp of the 53 told informed FrontPageAfrica that it is high time that the Senate begins to realize and correct its “mistakes” and move on “instead of us making appear like we are saints and people are pursuing us innocently.” Sen. Jallah: “We have to be reliable, we must be consistent and recognize the rights of others and respect the rule of law. Like Ja’neh impeachment is still hunting us. We acted wrongly. We Must ask for forgiveness.”

SENATOR JALLAH WENT on the say that the Senate must ensure that the government rises to the occasion by ensuring the people become direct beneficiaries of government policies and the National Budget.

HE ADDED: “We must re adjust the government, the budget and make space for resources to be allocated for critical national causes. As it is, the country money is being used on about 5-10 percent of the population in government, while the vast majority continue to suffer. We must ensure this should not continue. That is our calling. Let us take care of it and heed and create hope for vast majority of our people now destitute.”

THE ADMISSION from the former Pro Temp clearly points to what many felt at the time of Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment that the political hijacking of the high court was out of bounds.

DAYS AFTER the verdict now heard around the world, the Weah-led government finds itself engulfed in a major public relations dilemma as scrutiny over the decision to impeach Justice Ja’neh exposes the government’s ploy to control and dominate the high court be removing one of the only objective and independent mind on the bench.

THE QUEST TO reign control over a kangaroo Supreme Court has brought the government to its knees and the country facing yet another international embarrassment amid threats of sanctions from the ECOWAS Court.

THE WEAH administration must do all it can to follow through its end of the bargain regarding the ECOWAS ruling or risk falling further down the road of obscurity and international condemnation.

TOO MANY MISSTEPS and too many mistakes are forcing the government to lose focus simply because of its desire to dominate and control the three branches of government.

MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL legislature and the Executive branch of government may have won the impeachment battle but Justice Ja’neh is having not just the last laugh but now enjoying a symbolic victory over a corrupt and unjust legal system that may just be irreparable.

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