Liberia: Be Warned, Stop Courting Military Intervention!

President George Weah.

The Daily Observer enjoins issues with Her Honor Nancy Sammy, assigned Judge of Criminal Court B, who has lashed out at some of her colleagues whose unwholesome and corrupt behavior is “spilling over all judges”. 

But more to that, she has warned that very little has and is being done to improve access to justice for millions of Liberians living in rural areas. 

She cited her assigned county, Lofa, where she serves as resident judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit in Voinjama as an example of how most rural residents are denied adequate access to justice.

Lofa County, according to her, in addition to the 10th Judicial Court, has a total eight (8) Ministerial Courts but with only two Public Defenders serving a population of 276,863 spread over 6 Districts.

Both Public Defenders are stationed in Voinjama District whose headquarters is Voinjama and both lack logistics to facilitate movement from one district to the other.

Judge Sammy also lamented the fact that Justice or the dispensation of Justice in Liberia is centered around the capital, Monrovia, which she claims often obscures the fact that millions outside Monrovia suffer from a chronic lack of adequate access to Justice.

And we at the Daily Observer agree with Judge Sammy that Justice is not only Monrovia-centered but top centered. All the Justices of the Supreme Court for example are provided with state security, armed bodyguards. 

On the other hand, Trial Judges are denied such privileges even though they constitute the first line of exposure to threats of harm to their persons for their perceived role in sending people to jail.

Under Liberia's penal code, an individual accused of a crime can be detained for a maximum of 30 days without appearing before a court.  But much too often, people spend prolonged periods in detention far exceeding the 30 day period. 

According to the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, Pre-trial detainees make up the majority of the population in Liberian prisons and detention centers. 

A survey conducted in December of 2016 shows that out of a nationwide total of 2,354 inmates in Liberia’s prisons and detention centers, 1,297 (about 55%) had not received a trial or been convicted of a crime.

Aside from lack of adequate access to justice for most Liberians, the other issue highlighted by Judge Sammy was corruption, whose corrosive influence and effects have permeated the Liberian judiciary.

Several national and international human rights reports have underscored the deep seated corruption in the judiciary.

Chief Justice Korkpor, from time to time, has not only admitted to this but has also accused judges of corruption. In the eyes of the public, especially some lawyers and judges (names withheld), this is sheer hypocrisy .

In the Holy Bible, Matthew 7:5 it says, “You hypocrite! First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye”. 

And this Biblical quotation aptly applies to the Chief Justice who has been dogged by accusations of complicity in shielding a judge from justice and accountability.

According to a March 22, 2022 story written by Daily Observer court reporter Abednego Davies, in 2020, Chief Justice Korkpor, directed the Judicial Inquiry Committee (JIC) to conduct an investigation into a complaint by Amos Brosius accusing Judge Eva Mappy Morgan of illegally withdrawing an amount of US$3.3 million from his Ducor Petroleum account at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI).

But it is important to note that the complaint against the Judge was filed in 2015 and it was not until 2021 that the JIC concluded its probe finding Judge Mappy of ethical breaches and recommended her suspension and forfeiture of salary and benefits for a period of one calendar year, but fell short of calling for restitution.

Up to present nothing has happened (no head no tail) and Brosius has been virtually left to his fate, with the Chief Justice to be retired soon.

But such despicable acts have in no small measure served to deepen the culture of impunity, heighten disrespect for the rule of law and eventually lead to a breakdown of law and order.

An example of this is the rising tension in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, where an Elections Magistrate, Alfred Dunner, has gone missing and is now feared dead. But the authorities are, according to informed sources, treating the matter with disinterest.

According to sources, a member of the Legislature is said to be linked to the apparent murder of the NEC official, but this has not been confirmed by the Police although four arrests have been confirmed.

However Reverend Bill Dunner, brother of the missing NEC official, has attributed his disappearance to prominent citizens and politicians in Grand Gedeh.

According to him, in the face of immense pressure from top officials and politicians, his brother had blatantly refused to manipulate the results of the recently held by-elections in Grand Gedeh.

This newspaper has consistently warned authorities of the dangers of allowing the rule of law to degenerate into lawlessness.

And this is exactly what seems to be unfolding in view of reports and public expressions of concern about alleged  ongoing military training of CDC militants.

This is a very dangerous development and it must stop or be made to stop. Why? It is because such activity, if left unchecked, will be sure to elicit responses from those parties who may feel threatened by such activity with elections just months away.

And such is a sure recipe for military intervention with a proclaimed intent to halt the slide into general lawlessness and the breakdown of the rule of law.

President Weah and Co should, ought to realize that by their actions, they are sowing the seeds of their very downfall and, if they have any sense of history at all, they would take heed of our admonitions. Given all that is transpiring, there are rising fears that such military intervention may be provoked even sooner — and what a tragedy that will be.