A senatorial aspirant contesting the ensuing October elections is calling on President to grant the 13 men convicted of mercenary activities in neighboring Ivory Coast executive clemency.
The Liberian government last month sentenced 13 people to life imprisonment for cross-border raids into Ivory Coast that killed seven Nigerien U.N. peacekeepers during raids on the Ivorian villages of Tai and Para in June 2012.
The men were also convicted for their involvement in a series of attacks in neighboring Ivory Coast between 2011-2012, in which they burned houses, murdered civilians and raped women.
Speaking on a local radio station Monday July 21, 2012, in Monrovia, aspirant Ali Sylla, who is to represent the ruling Unity Party in the up-coming October Senatorial elections for Montserrado County, said that in order to promote reconciliation and unity in the country, there was need for those men to be granted presidential pardon.
Under the Constitution, the President of Liberia has the power to pardon a convicted or pre-trial detainee, a provision President Sirleaf has on many occasions made use of.
Article 59 of the Liberian Constitution states: “The President may remit any public forfeiture and penalties, suspend fines and sentences, grant reprieves and pardons, and restore civil rights after conviction for all public offenses, except impeachment.”
Mr. Sylla, who is a Social Advocate and a political Commentator, noted that his call is intended to preach reconciliation among Liberians, especially as a stalwart of the ruling party. While others say his request is laudable and may serve as a boost for national reconciliation, others say it is also turning a blind eye to the implications that the crimes committed by the convicts might have on the Liberian state or the international scene, especially the Ivory Coast.
Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court D, rendering the verdict on June 17, 2014 said: “I confirm and affirm the guilty verdict of the jurors. The verdict of the jurors met the law,” confirming an initial guilty judgment.
Dressed in bright orange jumpsuits, the men shouted after the verdict was handed down inside the heavily guarded courtroom.
Some supporters of the convicts said the trial was a political witch hunt against the Krahn group – the ethnicity of former President Samuel Doe who was assassinated in 1990 during a 14-year civil war.
In 2011, the government of Ivory Coast complained of numerous border incursions into their territory by militia with links to Liberian rebel factions. An attack by gunmen at Ivory Coast's southwestern border with Liberia in May killed 13 people.
A U.N. report in May, 2014 expressed concern about Liberia's “weak capacity” to monitor its borders, while Human Rights Watch has criticized Monrovia for failing to hold its nationals to account.
Many Liberians indicated that the pressure from the international partners might have been a prime reason for which the Liberian government decided to act decisively.
President Sirleaf has granted executive clemencies to several Liberians, most of whom were in pre-trail detention. Prominent amongst these were former Speaker George Koukou, who along with Charles Julu and Andrew Dorbor, was charged with the crime of sedition. The three men were granted executive clemencies in 2008.
In the same year, President Sirleaf also granted clemency to fourteen persons from River Gee County recently convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for administrating sassywood that resulted in a number of deaths. She also granted unconditional clemency to two convicts in Grand Gedeh County who ordered and instructed the beating of a female citizen of their community accused of engaging in witchcraft, resulting in the death of the accused person. 'Sassywood' is a traditional form of trial by ordeal.
The Liberian leader, on December 21, 2012, granted executive clemency to 33 detainees held at the Monrovia Central Prison as part of her Christmas gesture of sharing with the Liberian people.
Those pardoned by President Sirleaf, during her visit to the Central Prison on Friday, December 21, included 8 females and 25 males who had been detained for various offenses, ranging from theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property to disorderly conduct.
UP Senatorial hopeful Sylla wants those 13 dconvicted mercenaries to be part of the presidential “mercy receivers.”