Collaborating opposition political parties have registered their disdain over the impeachment proceedings championed by lawmakers of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and described it as a “wrong attempt” to intimidate and silence members of an independent branch of government (the judiciary).
The opposition collaborating parties are the Unity Party (UP), Alternative National Congress (ANC), and the Liberty Party (LP).
The parties’ pronouncement was contained in a statement delivered at a press conference in Monrovia on September 13, 2018, and was read by ANC political leader Alexander B. Cummings.
Cummings said, “we believe that these efforts led by members of the ruling party to impeach Justice Kabineh Ja’neh are wrong as the matter of constitutional law and misguided as a matter of public policy.”
“They represent an unbridled attempt to intimidate and silence members of an independent branch of government (the judiciary) and thus violate basic principles of separation of powers which under-gird our constitutional order,” he said.
Cummings said the ruling party’s action to impeach Ja’neh has served as an unnecessary shock to the body politic, created an air of political instability and fostered national disunity and discord, something that he said does not augur well for the young democracy or for instilling investors’ confidence in the struggling economy of the country.
He said the constitution provides for impeachment of public officials as an important tool for promoting accountability and good governance, adding that power must be used wisely and responsibly.
“Accordingly, our constitution sets a rather exacting standard for impeaching and removing Supreme Court Associate Justices from office. It expressly provides in Article 71 that Supreme Court Justices may be impeached and removed from office only for “proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes,” Cummings said.
He said the article of impeachment asserts, among others things, that Justice Ja’neh erred by granting a writ of certiorari in favor of the party to a dispute that came before him while he served as the Supreme Court’s Justice-in-Chambers.
Cummings said “Whether or not one agrees with the decision of Justice Ja’neh to grant a writ of certiorari in that matter, his decision to do so simply cannot provide a basis for his impeachment because Article 73 of our constitution expressly forbids impeaching and removing Supreme Court Justice because of their “judicial Opinion” or judicial acts.”
“If judges or justices could be removed from office because of their opinions, then their ruling and decision would not be based on their honest understanding or interpretation of the law; rather, afraid of being removed from office because of their opinions, they will issue opinions that please members of the legislature, even if they know these decisions are not based on an accurate interpretation of the law,” he noted.
Answering to questions concerning the War Crimes Court, Cummings said the opposition collaborating parties are interested in ending the culture of impunity and support justice for all that was victimized by the 14 years of civil conflict.
Cummings also stressed that Liberia’s suspension from the EITI is worrisome for a struggling economy that the country is now faced with.
He noted that Liberia’s suspension from the EITI board shows to the international world that the country is not transparent to attract global investors.
It may be recalled that in early August a petition to impeach Justice Ja’neh was filed before the House by Representatives Acarous Gray (Mont. County, District 8) and Thomas Fallah (Mont. County District 5). Both alleged that Justice Ja’neh “committed a serious official misconduct by engaging in a wanton and unsavory exercise of his judicial discretion far exceeding the bounds of elementary judicial interpretation of issues simply to satisfy his personal ego.”
The House on August 27, 2018, voted to impeach Ja’neh, but the Senate would have to concur with the decision before it takes effect which they have not done.
Out of 49 lawmakers, one voted against, while nine members of Nimba Legislative Caucus walked out of the Chambers.