Legal proceedings as to whether or not to extradite the remaining seven Ivoirians accused of involvement in the 2011 post-electoral violence in their homeland started yesterday in the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice, with the prosecution’s first witness taking the stand.
Liberia’s security agents had earlier alleged that the seven men, who have been in custody since April 2011, attempted crossing the border into Liberia with their weapons.
In 2011 the City Court ruled in favor of extraditing 41 of the 48 Ivoirians – who were said to be in favor of Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Cote d’Ivoire – back home to face multiple charges, which left the current seven men behind bars at the Monrovia Central Prison. Meanwhile, defense lawyers are requesting the court not to extradite the accused.
After the court’s decision, former Solicitor General at the time, Wilkins Wright, said the decision was in accordance with international legal protocols.
“Liberia has an international duty to extradite persons wanted for criminal offenses and not to allow its territory to be used to shield persons accused of crimes committed in other countries,” Wright said in support of the judge’s decision.
But the defense team had earlier argued that there was no proof that those the Liberian government is referring to as Ivorian mercenaries are actually Ivoirians.
“The government needs to understand the geo-political realities of tribes in the two countries sharing border in deciding which side that person actually comes from,” said the defense team.
They also argued that the decision was a total violation of the rights of the accused to due process.
In his testimony yesterday, Dweh Harries, who was then special assistant to Solicitor General Wright, told the court that it was the government of La Cote d’Ivoire that made the request to extradite the accused.
Harris claimed that the request was written in French; that he did not know how it was translated into English, which was a major contention raised by the defense team. He said the defense team had wanted him to explain the content of the request.
The defense wanted to know if the original request was for the Liberian government to extradite the accused.
However, Harris insisted on his earlier ignorance about the translation of the document from French to English.
“What I can say is that the request came to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later the ministry sent it to the office of the Solicitor-General; which I received and delivered to the court. I did not read its content,” Harris alleged in his testimony in court yesterday.
It may be recalled that the U.N. estimated that at least 3,000 people were killed in the six months of violence that followed the 2010 elections for which Gbagbo was arrested with the help of U.N. and French forces in April 2011. He is now facing charges of war crimes at The Hague.
The case continues with government producing more witnesses to defend their argument to extradite the accused men.