In the mist of all the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court of Liberia, Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh’s admission to Liberia’s poor system of justice has engendered even more controversy with some claiming that his words ring hollow and appear self-contradictory.
Justice Ja’neh made the statement at the opening session of Young Political Leaders School on May 7, 2018 in Sinkor, Monrovia. He spoke on the theme, “Adherence to the rule of law: A foundation to a sustainable democracy in Liberia”.
Ja’neh told participants of YPLS that for the past two decades the national system of administration of Liberia has not been able to satisfactorily address the shameful national malaise whereby an accused person is subjected to perennial long pretrial detention.
He admitted that there are a good number of cases where pretrial detainees have languished in prison for years awaiting to be accorded their ‘days in court’ which, according to him, most of these persons awaiting trial for weeks, months are on account of unbailable offenses like armed robbery, sexual offenses and murder.
Ja’neh informed his audience that not only an accused’s right to bail before trial contributes to sound administration of justice, it also reconciles the right of the accused under the principle of presumption of innocent, the foundation of Liberia’s criminal justice system, to be free from harassment and confinement before trial and conviction.
He said tagging certain offenses as “un-bailable offenses”, same being the emerging pattern in Liberia, tends to subject an accused to legislated imposed punishment long before trial and conviction. This, according to him, has the tendency to breed despair and disappointment especially amongst the largely affected poor and marginalized population towards the rule of law.
“Only by adhering to the rule of law will justice, peace, security and economic growth and prosperity of a nation be assured and preserved,” Ja’neh said.
Ja’neh emphasized that a governance system which is based on the ‘rule of law’, a legal system which ensures that all is regulated by the law of the land and are treated alike, is the foundation for attaching international private and bilateral investment in any country.
He informed participants that there is a broad consensus amongst development experts that governance based on the rule of law, which promotes political and social stability, legal certainty, strengthening poverty rights and enhancing settlement of civil disputes through legal reforms, will enhance sustainable economic development and sustainable peace and security.
Ja’neh said the phrase “rule of law” in simple terms means that the law is the “ruler” of the community and all persons, institutions operation in that society.
However Justice Ja’neh’s comments appears to ring hollow and self contradictory says an official of the United States based African Center for Law and Human Rights (name withheld). According to the official, Justice Ja’neh’s takeover of the property of 90 year old Madame Constance, under the guise of the rule of law is most reprehensible and unbecoming of a lawyer let alone a Justice of the Supreme Court.
According to the official, Justice Ja’neh’s claim that he bought the property from the son (now deceased) of Madame Annie Constance was done without the knowledge or consent of the 90 year old widow or that of her other children, even if Justice Ja’neh claims that the property was sold to him on the authority of a Letter of Administration held by the late John Nyema Constance Jr.
Moreover, according to the official, Justice Ja’neh as a seasoned lawyer should have known that legally, the late John Constance Jr. could not have obtained a letter of Administration from the Probate Court or disposed of the property of his late father without the permission or knowledge of his mother and widow of his father and or that of his siblings, none of who were party to the alleged transaction of sale.
Further according to the official, the property in question has always been the homestead of Madame Constance, that of her late husband and their children and that neither of the children with or without a Letter of Administration could have legally sold the family’s homestead while the surviving spouse of the late John Nyema Constance Sr., was still alive as is the case now of 90 year-old Madame Constance.
Madame Constance, who has vowed to resist any attempt by Justice Ja’neh to takeover her property, has appealed to people of good conscience everywhere to come to her aid to assist her prevent what she called the illegal takeover of her property by a “big man”.
But when contacted by the Daily Observer for comment, Justice Ja’neh questioned why the Daily Observer did not see it fit to contact him before publishing the Monday, May 7th story about the Supreme Court’s decision awarding the property to him. But he was told that the story was written based on Court documents of the case which virtually spoke for themselves. He then told the Daily Observer to write whatever they wished but he is going to write a letter to the Press Union complaining about the Daily Observer‘s treatment of the story.
In a related development, the United States of America Ambassador to Liberia, Christine Elder, has urged Young Political Leadership School participants to seek common ground and think of how they can reach consensus on sensitive or controversial issues that will evoke strong feedings coming from different positions. She was addressing the same forum at which Justice Ja’neh had made the opening remarks admitting to the poor system of justice in the country.
Amb. Elder said over the past years, YPS graduates have played key roles in ensuring that the historic elections and transition of power as peaceful and credible. She said the work of the YPLS campaign schools to prepare youth for leadership roles is vitally important.
YPLS was established in April 4, 2016 to build the capacity of young people who will lead the process of consolidating and strengthening Liberia’s democratic enhancement as well as becoming transformation leaders of their generation. Since its establishment, YPLS has trained 330 young leaders from diverse backgrounds, who are playing leadership roles in the society.