In an effort to curb fraud, graft and other forms of corruption, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf yesterday, disclosed that her administration has submitted a “bill” before the 53rd National Legislature for the establishment of an Economic Crime and Corruption Court in Liberia.
The bill, which she said would establish “Criminal Court F,” if enacted by the Legislature, would help in the fight against corruption and provide a way for the prosecution of people accused of financial malpractices.
Currently there are five Criminal Courts, A, B, C, D and E.
She made the assertion when she delivered her 10th Annual Address before the 53rd National Legislature in fulfilment of Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution.
The Article provides that, “the President shall, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, present the administration’s legislative program for the ensuring session, and shall once a year report to the Legislature on the state of the Republic. In presenting the economic condition of the Republic, the report shall cover expenditure as well as, income.”’
She emphasized that the court is critical to the social, political and economic development of the country, and that corruption, which she described as “a vampire” was impeding the image of her administration.
She admitted that her administration lacks the system to fight against corruption and prosecute those accused.
“I asked that you support us in fighting the devil and uphold the principles of transparency and integrity, we all being yielding off,” President Sirleaf pleaded.
Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog that has been highlighting corruption over the years, ranked Liberia the 83rd most corrupt nation in the world in its 2013 corruption perception index.
Reflecting on her government’s ratification of a protocol establishing the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, Madam Sirleaf said, “I want to appreciate all of you for the ratification of a protocol establishing the ECOWAS’ Court of Justice, which our country is serving as one of its seven judges.”
Citizens of ECOWAS member states can file complaints against human rights violations of state-actors at the regional Court of Justice. ECOWAS member states have decided to give the court, which exists formally since 1991 and became functional in 2001, a specific mandate in that respect.
The court, which is seated in Abuja, Nigeria, rules according to the provisions of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The decisions are legally binding to the ECOWAS member states.
The Court has competence to rule on human rights violations through an individual complaint procedure since 2005. Particularly noteworthy is that local remedies do not need to have been exhausted, before cases are brought to the ECOWAS Court of Justice. So every victim of a human rights violation can directly appeal to the court even while the case is subject to a national proceeding. Cases may be brought before the Court by an application addressed to the Court Registry.
Immediately after the President’s address, a judicial expert, told the Daily Observer that with the reported wave of corruption in the country, establishing the court should be recommended, but warned of the danger of such power being misused by corrupt characters to achieve political objectives and defeat the very purpose for which the court is established.