Eight Ivorians believed to have been loyal to ousted Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who have legally challenged their extradition from Liberia, are expected to be turned over to the Ivorian government as soon as the Monrovia City Court yesterday approved their deportation (extradition).
The Ivorians were accused of crossing into Liberia after committing war crimes during Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010-2011 post-election crises, accusations which they have repeatedly denied during their five-year hearing.
The defendants were arrested in August, 2012, by the joint security assigned between the border of Liberia and the La Côte d’Ivoire for their alleged involvement in cross border attacks against two villages, Para and the Peken Military Barracks in Toulépleu, on the Ivorian side of the border.
The extradition appeal request hearing for the eight persons was denied in absentia yesterday.
The court’s ruling handed down by Magistrate Kennedy Peabody, approved their extradition to La Côte d’Ivoire, where they face charges that include rape, arson, murder and theft of property. If convicted, they could serve up to life in prison, or may likely face execution.
Gbagbo’s refusal to relinquish power to Alassane Ouattara, who defeated him in a general election in November, 2010, sparked months of conflict and civil war that left an estimated 3,000 people dead.
Lawyer for the eight persons, Amara Sheriff had repeatedly argued that the defendants were Ivorian refugees, who for reasons bordering on political repression and suppression, left their country to seek refuge in Liberia.
“They have been living peacefully in the country, while some of them were serving as teachers, but were arrested by police, who detained them without trial,” Cllr. Sheriff claimed during the argument.
At the time, Sheriff argued that the extradition request was political, because Amnesty reports detailed the repressive nature of the regime of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.
“Although, there is a treaty of extradition between Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire, it was not signed by the executive, and has never been ratified by the Legislature; that was not an enforceable law in Liberia,” the defense lawyer argued.
But in his judgment, Peabody declared that there existed an extradition treaty executed between Liberia and La Côte d’Ivoire that dates as far back as August 24, 1972, and duly ratified on January 18, the following year.
“It was the opinion of the Court that the government met the legal requirements as contained in the request for extradition and that the defendants failed to prove that the extradition requested by their government was political,” the Magistrate declared.
Further, Peabody ruled that there was no proof that the crime for which they are charged was a political offense,” rather same is conformity with the relevant treaty and the statute of our country.”
The decision to extradite the defendants was on yesterday forwarded to the Minister of Foreign Affairs through the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to have them deported as requested by their native country.
The case started in 2013, when the Liberian government argued that it received a warrant of arrest with a transmittal letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in clearly written English informing the Ministry of Justice that they are wanted by the Ivorian Government for various alleged crimes as contained in the indictment.
And that relying upon the Extradition agreement, the Ivorian government thru its authority requested its Liberian counterpart to arrest and turn over the defendants, who, according to the attached international warrant of arrest, were accused of committing criminal offenses in their country.