High Court to Hear Executive Order No.65 Lawsuit Today

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Hearing in a lawsuit filed against the enforcement of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf‘s Executive Order #65 is expected to take place today, in the Supreme Court’s courtroom, at the Temple of Justice.

The lawsuit was filed by one of the senatorial candidates for Montserrado County, Robert Sirleaf.

It is the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of justice in the country that will now interpret whether or not the Executive Order is constitutional. Clarity on this issue may likely emerge over the next few days, according to a judicial expert.

 In their lawsuit, the lawyers representing Mr. Sirleaf, who is one of President Sirleaf’s sons, seeks the court’s endorsement to dismiss his mother’s Order, describing it as “discriminatory, punitive and wrong.”

President Sirleaf‘s Executive Order #65, among other things, stated that “all concerted mass movements of people on the streets of Monrovia, during the ensuing special elections, including in particular rallies, demonstrations and parades are prohibited and for 30 days, after the announcement of election results.”

The government maintains that the order is intended to strengthen its efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), to protect the security of the state, to maintain law and order, and to promote peace and stability in the country.

However, Robert’s lawyers contend that the order is intended to undermine the ongoing democratic process that would enable Liberians to cast their ballots for an individual that would represent their interest in the National Legislature, particularly, the Liberian Senate.

They also argued that the executive order singled out only people of Montserrado County, particularly those in Monrovia, while the issue of the transmission of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is actually occurring throughout the country. “Such an order should not and cannot provide a basis to walk over the fundamental rights of the people guaranteed by the 1986 Constitution of the country,” say Robert’s lawyers.

Our reporter tried to obtain from the Supreme Court a copy of the lawsuit, but was unsuccessful, which explains the absence of the name(s) of Robert Sirleaf’s lawyer(s) in this report.  But the full details of the lawsuit will be known when our reporter covers the case at the Supreme Court today.

Robert’s lawyer further contended that the order is clearly penalizing, because it punishes people of Monrovia, whom, according to them, were continuing to observe and follow the preventive measure put into place by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and its partners both local and international.

But, the government in its executive order #65 admitted that the “existing law requiring persons desiring to march or demonstrate to obtain prior permits from the Ministry of Justice have proven ineffective to address rallies, parades and concerted mass movements on the streets of Monrovia and its environs.”

They also said, “the increasing number of incidents of concerted mass movements of people on the streets of Monrovia and its environs, including in particular rallies, demonstrations, and parades, have led to persistent and frequent violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Laws of Liberia, obstruction of the free flow of traffic and the movement of peaceful citizens, the disruption of economic activities, and concomitant panic in the city with total disregard for their consequences.”

But, during the hearing of the stay order placed on the holding of the special senatorial elections, most of the lawyers including the justices of the Supreme Court made specific reference to the November 28 launch of Ambassador George Oppong Weah, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Montserrado County senatorial candidate’s campaign.

The Legislature recently denied the President’s request for emergency powers to limit the very rights of Liberians that she now seeks to limit by Executive Order #65. The President is therefore effectively seeking through the Order an end-run around the Legislature’s denial of her request for emergency powers. For this reason alone, Executive Order #65 fails as a matter of constitutional law.

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