Liberia: US$15M Damages Trial of Swiss Rights Resumes on April 7
— As Cllr. Johnathan Massaquoi expresses confidence in winning the case on behalf of his client, Agnes Reeves Taylor, ex-wife of jailed former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
The US$15 million damages trial of Swiss human rights advocate Alain Werner and his Geneva-based Civitas Maxima is expected to resume on April 7.
The case had been delayed due to a legal dispute over whether the Liberian judiciary had jurisdiction to hear the case. This came after Werner's lawyers had filed a writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court, to review the Civil Law Court's judgment, which had paved the way for the trial to proceed.
The request was however denied, paving the way for the resumption of the case, which Cllr. Johnathan Massaquoi is confident of winning on behalf of his client, Agnes Reeves Taylor, the ex-wife of jailed Liberian President Charles Taylor.
The case in Liberia grew after the United Kingdom's Central Criminal Court dismissed seven counts of torture and one count of conspiracy to commit torture about Taylor’s 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.
Madam 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), which partners with Civitas Maxima.
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.
Massaquoi is seeking US$5 million as punitive damages and US$10 million as general damages, in the suit for alleged negligent investigation and malicious prosecution, on the basis that Werner and Bility provided false testimonies against his client, Taylor.
According to Massaquoi, he is in possession of several documentary pieces of evidence to find Werner and Bility guilty and to make them compensate Taylor for what he termed as “false testimonies” that were presented to the UK Court.
One of the pieces of evidence expected to find the basis of Missisquoi’s argument is the two witnesses' statements signed by Werner and Bility that led the UK Crown Prosecution Service to arrest, detain and prosecute Taylor.
Werner and Bility’s signed witnesses’ statements says that “This statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I make it knowing that, if it is tendered in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have wilfully stated anything in it which I know to be false, or do not believe to be true.”
“Their statements are untrue, this is why the UK Criminal Court dismissed the allegations against Madam Reeves-Taylor, and I am going to use this as one of my many pieces of documentary evidence against them,” Massaquoi said.
Massaquoi also claimed that he had evidence to show that Bility recruited Liberians, whose testimonies were part of the evidence they provided for Taylor’s prosecution.
“Billy did the recruitment and Werner provided funding for the witnesses to travel to Ghana, where their testimonies were collated by the UK Crown Prosecution Service. I have this evidence,” Massaquoi claimed. “The UK Crown Prosecution Service did not come to Liberia because of the security situation, and this was how they recommended for the testimonies to be in Ghana.”
However, Werner's lawyer had in the past argued that Taylor’s claim should be against the UK’s Criminal enforcement authorities and not against his client or Civitas.
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 action for malicious prosecution, nor can it be held for slander.
But Taylor's lawyer 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 know of and thereby reacted based on the foreign evidence.”