Liberia: Ousted Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh Takes “Unfair” Impeachment Case to ECOWAS Court
MONROVIA – Ousted Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Kabineh M. Ja’neh has told the Voice of America (VOA) that the Legislature and the Judiciary were apparently cohorts to ensure that every step law regarding the rightful process for impeachment was flouted “to achieve what they wanted”.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court has taken up the case with the ECOWAS Court of Justice for “a declaration to the effect that the entire process was unfair and violates the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the rights that are guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So that’s where we are at the moment”.
He filed the case with the Community Court on August 23, 2019.
Responding to speculations of Senators being bribed to pass a guilty verdict against him, Ja’neh said while he, as a legal minded person, could not join the speculations, it should grab the attention of anybody that the Chief Justice who presided over the impeachment proceeding at the Senate also participated in the case for which the impeachment was drawn against him, yet he refused to rescues himself from the impeachment hearing at the Senate.
According to him, the Chief Justice Francis Korkpor is a signatory the judgement that on the case alleging that he, Ja’neh, had illegally taken the property of an old lady – an allegation which formed one of the basis of the impeachment proceeding.
Ja’neh: “We asked some senators, who had been involved in this process at some point in time to recuse themselves; they also refused. So, all they wanted to do was to ensure that at the end there was this trial impeachment trial, and that I be removed from the court.
“In my judgement, it is believable that there were other motivations, but I do not wish to speculate on those because I do not have in my possession any empirical evidence to support that.”
He said, under Article 43 of Liberia’s Constitution, the Legislature is required to set a rule of procedure for impeachment. Ja’neh informed the VOA that said procedure is intended to guide the impeachment process. However, the Judiciary and the Legislature, according to him, elected to ignore that constitutional mandate and proceeded with what they called “amended rules 63” to govern the impeachment process.
“So, we are saying that not only the constitution was flouted, but the whole arrangement where they had the senators sitting to hear the testimonies from the lower house, all of this constituted to ensure that I did not get any fair hearing. And this is a violation of my rights, and that is why we have decided to proceed the way we are now proceeding,” Ja’neh said.
Ja’neh further added: “The whole thing was intended just to produce one result, and that is to say, he will be removed irrespective of procedures required under the law and in keeping with Article 43, which says that you must prescribe rules, procedures. So in the absence of that, how do you conduct a fair trial? And that’s our point.”
His run to the Community Court, according to him, is to challenge the unfair hearing he was given in the entire impeachment process and to show that he was unjustly impeached.
“Our argument before the court is that how can there be a fair hearing in the absence of rules? What we had in Monrovia, Mr. Butty, was an attempt to make it look like a hearing when there were no rules. We raised the issue, and the presiding officer working closely with the senators decided they have rules and they will proceed. So, throughout the process, there were no guidelines to help us put in place adequate defense of the accusations that were made against us,” he said.
Ja’neh’s writ to stop government from collecting US$0.25 tax imposed on the pump price of petroleum products was one of the major issues brought up against him for impeachment. In the interview with the VOA, he explained that he acted judicially and issued the writ in accordance with the law when the matter was taken before the Supreme Court.
“I acted in keeping with law and issued a writ. What is the crime in that cannot be brought to a senate for trial for judicial actions taken? Judges are protected by law and the constitution of Liberia is very clear on that. How can that be a subject for impeachment? Yet, the Chief Justice who himself signed the judgement to withdraw this matter participating in signing the judgement he himself became the presiding officer over that matter. Now, you tell me. What is fair in that? So, the ECOWAS Court focus is the procedure, not constitutional issue,” he averred.
The ousted Justice of the Supreme Court is looking forward to the ECOWAS Court ordering his restoration to the Bench by setting aside the action taken to impeach him.
“If the process was faulted, the laws were not followed; the procedures were flouted, then technically speaking there has been no impeachment and in that instance, or with that conclusion, the person that had been removed is still deemed to be occupying his position,” he said.
According to him, his quest at the Community Court is to request the Court to say that” restore the person if he was illegally removed, and the moment the court makes that determination, that’s our prayer, order the government of Liberia to set aside the action it took and restore the person who had been removed illegally, and let’s see whether people will follow the law because as it is right now.”