Liberia: Justice Gbeisaye Denies Swiss National's Petition in US$15M Case

Alain Werner, a Swiss human rights advocate writ of certiorari  was denied by Associate Justice Yamie Gbeisaye, paving way for his prosecution in Liberia. 




…. Gbeisaye's decision to decline the writ now paves the way for the case to proceed to be heard in full under the Liberian justice system, provided that Werner's lawyer does not reject Justice's decision and ask the full bench for review.

Associate Justice Yamie Gbeisaye has declined to issue a writ of certiorari prayed for by Alain Werner's lawyer, a Swiss human rights advocate who was contesting a decision made by the Civil Law Court to try him in Liberia.

The decision by Gbeisaye, current Chamber Justice of the Supreme Court, was communicated in a brief rejection order to the  Civil Law Court to resume jurisdiction and proceed with the US$15 million lawsuit against Werner and his organization, Civitas Maxima.

"By directive of His Honor Yamie Quiqui Gbeisaye, Associate Justice Presiding in Chambers, you are hereby mandated to resume jurisdiction and proceed in keeping with the law, as the justice has declined to issue the writ for the petitioner," the justice rejection order read. 

Gbeisaye's decision to decline the writ now paves the way for the case to proceed to be heard in full under the Liberian justice system, provided that Werner's lawyer does not reject Justice's decision and ask the full bench for review.

Previously, Scheaplor Dunbar, the assigned judge of the Civil Law Court, dismissed Werner's argument that Liberian courts lack jurisdiction over him as a human rights advocate and his organization.

 Dunbar was named as the second respondent in the new case, but did not appear during the argument of his ruling before Justice Gbeisaye. 

In Dunbar's earlier ruling, he stated that "having voluntarily submitted themselves to this court by appearing and filing an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, they are legally stopped from arguing that this court lacks jurisdiction over their persons."

The suit against Werner and his Civitas Maxima was filed by Cllr. Johanthan T. Massaquoi, the lawyer for Agnes Reeves Taylor, the ex-wife of jailed Liberian President Charles Taylor. 

This came after the United Kingdom's Central Criminal Court dismissed seven counts of torture and one count of conspiracy to commit torture in relation to her involvement with the rebel faction, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), during the first Liberian civil war that took place from 1989 to 1996.

Taylor believes that her arrest in June 2017 and subsequent release in 2019 were a result of witnesses sponsored by Civitas Maxima and Hassan Bility, founder of the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP).

The case was dismissed when the UK Crown Prosecution Service failed to prove that the NPFL had the necessary authority over the relevant territory at the time that the crimes of torture and conspiracy were committed, as claimed by Werner and Bility.

And now her lawyer Massaquoi is suing Werner and his Liberian partner, Hassan Bility, in a class action of damage for malicious prosecution and wrong — alleging negligent investigation and malicious prosecution, seeking US$5 million as punitive damages and US$10 million as general damages.

Cllr. Massaquoi's suit claims that Werner and his collaborators' actions inflicted emotional distress and defamed her hard-earned character, leading to emotional distress.  

Taylor is hoping to use the Liberian Court process to hold Bility, and Werner to account for their alleged false statement which led to her prosecution in the UK, though the case was later dismissed.

However, Werner's lawyer argued that Taylor’s claim should be against the UK’s Criminal enforcement authorities and not against him and his organization. 

The Swiss national lawyer said his client was not the one that arrested and incarcerated Taylor, which the lower court is made to believe otherwise.

“The complaint is false and misleading and has absolutely no bearing on Werner and his organization, and as such, the lower court has no jurisdiction to determine the validity of the actions of a foreign government, in this case, the UK,” Werner's lawyer said.

The lawyer also argued Civitas Maxima did not initiate a criminal prosecution against Taylor; as such, it cannot be held in an action for malicious prosecution, nor can it be held for slander.

But Taylor had constantly argued that Werner and Bility “can in no way, form, or manner disclaim liability or shift liability to the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit or the UK Magisterial Court who were only privileged to have knowledge of and thereby reacted based on the foreign evidence.”

In 1999, Taylor was appointed by her husband to serve as Permanent Representative of Liberia to the International Maritime Organization, which headquarters in London, from 1999 to 2005.

In 2007 she claimed asylum in the UK, while she was still on the UN travel ban list, which was updated to include her location as being in the United Kingdom. She was removed from the travel ban list in 2012.

She settled in the UK, where she worked as a lecturer at the London School of Commerce and Coventry University. In 2017, she was charged with seven counts of torture allegedly committed in Gbarnga, in northern Liberia, and in Gborplay, in north-eastern Liberia.

The torture charges were brought under section 134(1) of the UK Criminal Justice Act 1988. She was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit torture between 23 December 1989 and 1 January 1991, under section 1(1) of the UK Criminal Law Act 1977.

Her residence in the UK allowed the UK authorities to arrest and charge her, based on universal jurisdiction laws, with the crimes she allegedly committed in Liberia.