‘Gov’t Violated Human Rights’ of Woman Accused of Human Trafficking

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Judge Roosevelt Willie, president of the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia

-Judge Roosevelt Willie declares

Jude Roosevelt Willie of Criminal Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice on Friday described as human rights violation a decision by the Ministry of Justice that halted indefinitely the prosecution of defendant Hawa Bangura, a Sierra Leonean who had appeared before the court and pleaded not guilty to the crime of human trafficking.

Defendant Bangura was indicted in 2017, by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the crime of human trafficking as a result of a complaint two other Sierra Leoneans filed before the court, accusing her of attempting to sell the children in Liberia.

From the onset of the case, MoJ had complained to the court that without their knowledge, the ministries of Labor, Gender Development and Social Protection as well as the Liberia National Police (LNP) had released their two key witnesses. According to the MoJ, the Labor and Gender Ministires as well as the Liberia National Police had attributed reasons for their action to what they described as the 2017 election euphoria.

It was based on that accusation Judge Willie later held Labor, Gender and LNP in contempt of court.

Currently, Defendant Bangura is detained at the Monrovia Central Prison after the ministry denied her access to a bail as provided for under the law on grounds that she could likely escape from the country.

But at Friday’s deliberation in a contempt hearing, Willie said, “defendant Bangura is still in jail and that is a violation of her rights, and while this court would exercise justice with mercy, it would not allow those public entities to go with impunity,” he added, “their action is not in good faith.”

After that, the criminal court judge fined the ministries of Labor and Gender US$100 each, and the Inspector General of Police Patrick Sudue, the same amount.

“The ministries that are involved including their heads and all others that are holding superior authority are fined US$100 each to be paid into the Judiciary’s account within 72 hours, by Tuesday, July 3.” the criminal court judge declared.

With defendant Bangura’s rights being denied, Judge Willie said, Article 21 (f) of the Constitution of Liberia and some international conventions that Liberia has ratified provide speedy trial for people accused of engaging in human trafficking.

He made specific reference to Article 21 (f) of the 1986 Constitution and Article 14 and 19 of the international convention on civil and political, although he did not elaborate.

“These legal instruments call for speedy trail for each and everyone  accused of  a crime, and defendant Bangura was accused and has been in detention for almost a year without getting her day in court,” Judge Willie emphasized.

The criminal court judge recalled that human trafficking is a global issue of concern and every country is expected to enact laws that would ban the practice of human trafficking against which Liberia on July 5, 2000, enacted laws to ban.

“So as to adhere to the fight against human trafficking, then, it is expected that those accused of human trafficking must be tried speedily and results therefrom be known domestically and internationally,” Judge Willie maintained.

Initially, Judge Willie explained that when defendant Bangura pleaded not guilty to her alleged human trafficking crime, the court ordered the MOJ to produce evidence beyond all reasonable doubts to prove the guilt of Bangura.

But Bangura’s lawyer then rejected that the contention and argued that it was intended to keep her in perpetual detention.

“The state’s request was made in bad faith and also her continued detention was a violation of her rights under the constitution and international protocol to which Liberia has registered and signed,” the defense lawyer then claimed.

Author

  • Anthony Kokoi is a young Liberian sports writer who has an ever-growing passion for the development of the game of football (soccer) and other sports. For the past few years, he has been passionately engaged in reporting the developments of the game in the country. He is an associate member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL). He is a promoter of young talents. He also writes match reports and makes an analysis of Liberian Football.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is my first time reading this case and I do not know the specifics, but given the way LNP and other security agencies processes cases (what they consider to be evidence, corruption, tainted evidence,etc..) , numerous media accounts of case backlogs in the court system in Liberia, etc.., I am inclined to reason that it is highly likely the defendant’s legal right might have been violated. There are far too many people in the jail or prison system in this country whose rights have been violated.

    On the subject of tainted evidence , I recently saw a “drug burst” (think it originated from facebook) video by the DEA in Kakata or somewhere in Liberia (don’t remember) where a female DEA agent directly handled (knives–> say something like ” I way na lee day one here”) evidence with her bare hands if my memory serves me right (I stand to be corrected here by anyone who saw the same video). How can this be presented to the court as evidence with the agent’s prints all on it ? The defendant could claim they it was a setup!
    We need a professional security apparatus and more has to be done by GOL to train agents. During the United Nations mission in Liberia, many security agencies from countries notorious for human rights violations, were also involved in training of some members/agencies of the Liberian security forces. The government has to train our agents in a manner consistent with the law and rules of evidence when necessary.
    Ultimately , I am not taking a position as to whether the “criminal defendant” is guilty or not. I am just saying that based on flaws in our legal system, one cannot rule out that her legal rights were violated.

  2. This is my first time reading about this case and I do not know the specifics, but given the way LNP and other security agencies process cases (what they consider to be evidence, corruption, tainted evidence,etc..) , numerous media accounts of case backlogs in the court system in Liberia, etc.., I am inclined to reason that it is highly likely the defendant’s legal rights might have been violated. There are far too many people in the jail or prison system in this country whose rights have been violated.

    On the subject of tainted evidence , I recently saw a “drug burst” (think video originated from facebook) video by the DEA in Kakata or somewhere in Liberia (don’t remember) where a female DEA agent directly handled (knives–> she said something like ” I way na lee day one here”) evidence with her bare hands, if my memory serves me right (I stand to be corrected here by anyone who saw the same video). How can this be presented to the court as evidence with the agent’s prints all on it ? The defendant could claim they it was a setup!
    We need a professional security apparatus and more has to be done by GOL to train agents. During the United Nations mission in Liberia, many security agencies from countries notorious for human rights violations, were also involved in training of some members/agencies of the Liberian security forces. The government has to train our agents in a manner consistent with the law and rules of evidence when necessary.
    Ultimately , I am not taking a position as to whether the “criminal defendant” is guilty or not. I am just saying that based on flaws in our legal system, one cannot rule out that her legal rights were violated.

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