Liberia: Court Halts Senate’s Action to Imprison NEC Commissioners; Invites Both Parties to a Conference
Monrovia – Members of the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) avoided going to Prison on Tuesday, February 23rd, as was planned by the Senate’s plenary on Thursday, February 18, and all thanks to the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Members of the NEC Board of Commissioners were to go to prison on Tuesday on a mandate from the Senate for violating Article 83 ‘C’ of the Liberian Constitution that gives the NEC a window to operate in handling elections cases.
To the rescue of the NEC, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 23, issued a Writ of Prohibition halting any further actions by the Senate to proceed with the imprisonment of members of the Board of Commissioners and invited both parties to a conference.
“By directive of her Honor Sie-A-Nyene Youh, Associate Justice presiding in chambers, you are hereby cited to a conference with her honor on Wednesday, February 24, with her honor in connection with the case mentioned. Meanwhile you are hereby ordered to stay all further proceedings and actions in the matter to include the incarceration pending the outcome of the conference,” the Supreme Court writ stated.
Because of the Supreme Court’s intervention, the Commissioners were let off the hook and allowed to go home pending the results from the conference. Part of the NEC complaints to the Court that prompted the action was they accused the Senate of misusing its power and using fear factor to intimidate them.
Last week Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, pleaded with his colleagues for the Senate to invite the NEC Board of Commissioners, to show reasons why they should not be held in contempt for violating the Constitution that gives them a window or a timeframe to hold elections and announce results as well as adjudicate cases if there are any.
In fact, as per the Constitution, the NEC is beyond the 30-day constitutional period given to it by the Constitution to conduct their affairs and even the Supreme Court has only February 19, 2021 to adjudicate cases of election dispute.
After that day, any election case heard by the NEC and the Supreme Court could be deemed unconstitutional according to the senators.
In their response, the NEC Commissioners admitted to being behind time in keeping with constitutional time required to hear and adjudicate cases brought to them after elections but said the Commission had been focused on giving due process to people who complaint to them about elections irregularities.
“All we have been doing at the NEC is to ensure that due process is given to complainants and that we acknowledge that giving due process to complainants is taking some time because complainants filed their complaints with their respective counties’ hearing officers, who heard before transferring those cases to Montserrado County. Some had to be transferred because of potential violence.
Article 83 C of the Liberian Constitution states, “The returns of the elections shall be declared by the Elections Commission not later than fifteen days after the casting of ballots. Any party or candidate who complains about the manner in which the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission. Such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections. The Elections Commission shall, within thirty days of receipt of the complaint, conduct an impartial investigation and render a decision which may involve a dismissal of the complaint or a nullification of the election of a candidate. Any political party or independent candidate affected by such decision shall not later than seven days appeal against it to the Supreme Court. The Elections Commission shall within seven days of receipt of the notice of appeal, forward all the records in the case to the Supreme Court, which not later than seven days thereafter, shall hear and make its determination. If the Supreme Court nullifies or sustains the nullification of the election of any candidate, for whatever reasons, the Elections Commission shall within sixty days of the decision of the Court conduct new elections to fill the vacancy. If the court sustains the election of a candidate, the Elections Commission shall act to effectuate the mandate of the Court.”