The Supreme Court of Liberia will shortly decide whether or not to extradite eight Ivoirians back to their homeland to be tried for their alleged involvement in war crimes, including the killing of seven UN peacekeepers.
The Ivorian government in 2012 asked the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Justice to extradite eight of its citizens, alleging that “they have been charged with multiple offenses ranging from rape and mercenarism as well as murder and theft of property.”
Shockingly, the Ivorian government’s request was rejected by Magistrate Nelson Chineh, when he presided over the matter, at the Monrovia City Court, at the Temple of Justice in early 2012.
Magistrate Chineh’s denial prompted the Liberian government to seek legal redress at the High Court level.
At yesterday’s hearing, the Supreme Court only managed to listen to legal arguments between state lawyers and the defense team, but did not deliver its final determination (ruling).
The High Court also did not mention when they would deliver their ruling in the matter.
“We are going to reserve ruling on the matter, and it will be delivered pending the issuance of a notice of assignment,” the Full Beach of the Supreme Court declared yesterday.
If the High Court accepts Magistrate Chineh's ruling, that will end the legal battle between state prosecutors and defense lawyers for extradition and set the stage for trial of the eight Ivorians to take place here.
But, if the Supreme Court reverses Chineh’s decision it means that the state will be able to extradite the eight men to their country, where they will be tried. This means their right to a fair and impartial trial will now be the concern of their Liberian lawyers.
During the argument, Solicitor General Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo told the court to deny the request seeking for the accused Ivorians to be released from further detention, where they have been since their arrest in 2012, in the absence of being prosecuted on multiple criminal offenses, including murder.
Cllr. Blamo further argued that, if it is done in that way it would raise serious questions against the country’s legal system.
In counter argument, the lead defense lawyer, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, appealed with the High Court to deny the state’s request. “Since they did not appeal against the denial for the extradition of our clients, then they should be released from continued detention.”
Initially, during the first hearing at the lower court, Magistrate Chineh publicly declared, “I’m rejecting the state's eight-count petition on several legal grounds in keeping with law to set the stage for trial of the defendants at Criminal Court 'A' Temple Justice.”
On 19 December 2012, the government, through the Ministry of Justice, filed the petition seeking the extradition of the eight Ivoirians accused of launching a deadly attack which resulting into the killing of seven UN peacekeepers from Niger plus one Ivoirian solider.
But Magistrate Chineh went ahead to cite article 6(a) of the extradition treaty between Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire saying, "extradition shall not be granted if the competent authority of the requested state has proceedings against the person sought for in respect of the offense or offenses for which extradition is requested."
Defending his ruling, the Magistrate said, government had drawn-up an indictment and had secured the issuance of a writ of arrest from the First Judicial Circuit Criminal Assizes of Montserrado County, which charged the eight Ivoirians with the same offenses for which they are sought to be extradited.