Retired Soldier Slams Sirleaf Gov’t for “Abandoning UCMJ”

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About ten years following the ascendency(rise)of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Commander-In-Chief (-I-C) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), her government has come under criticism for not fulfilling her promise to introduce the court martial proceedings to prosecute accused enlisted personnel.
Retired AFL Colonel Sam Solomon, who served as trial counsel (prosecutor) on previous court-martial boards of the army, described the Sirleaf led government’s action to try military personnel in civilian court as “disrespectful to the accused and absolutely wrong under the law.”
“This is very much regrettable, because every constituted government should have a court martial board for its army, purposely to probe allegations against soldiers who have committed offenses in line with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ),” Atty. Solomon told journalists yesterday at the Temple of Justice. He previously served as City Solicitor at the Monrovia City Court.
UCMJ is the congressional code of military criminal law applicable to all military members worldwide.
Retired Col. Solomon was part of the board that tried and convicted several former military generals including Minister of National Defense, Major/General Gray D. Allison for treason and other offenses.
According to Atty. Solomon, the UCMJ defines the military justice system and lists criminal offenses under military law.
“While the military court martial is the most severe sanction under military law, its conviction is the same as a criminal court conviction and can (depending on the offense) result into long term jail sentences with hard labor or a punitive discharge such as dishonorable discharge, as well as fines and reduction in rank,” explained Atty. Solomon.
He said the court has jurisdiction over all personnel charged with any UCMJ offense.
Article 21 (e) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia states that, “No person charged, arrested, restricted, detained or otherwise held in confinement shall be subject to torture or inhumane treatment; nor shall any person except military personnel, be kept or confined in any military facility; nor shall any person be seized and kept among convicted prisoners or treated as a convict, unless such person first shall have been convicted of a crime in a court of competent jurisdiction. The Legislature shall make it a criminal offense and provide for appropriate penalties against any police or security officer, prosecutor, administrator or any other public or security officer, prosecutor, administrator or any other public official acting in contravention of this provision; and any person so damaged by the conduct of any such public official shall have a civil remedy, therefore, exclusive of any criminal penalties imposed.”
In early April, the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice charged AFL officer Winn K. Gansee of murder and sent him to the Monrovia Central Prison to await trial. The soldier was allegedly arrested for beating a motorcyclist, Nelson Cuput, with a piece of plank. Cuput reportedly died from his wounds.
In August 2014, President Sirleaf ordered four soldiers and their commanding officer to be punished for their actions during a protest over Ebola quarantine in the densely populated West Point Community in Monrovia.
During that incident, 16 year old Shakie Kamara was shot and later died of his wounds while others were injured.
Following the incident, President Sirleaf constituted a disciplinary board which found Lieutenant Aloysius Quaye guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer and dereliction in the performance of duty. For that, the board recommended punishment including demotion in rank and 30 days in correctional custody.
Two soldiers under Quaye’s command were found guilty of assault and arbitrary use of force while another two were convicted of making false statements for which they were remanded to serve 30 days behind bars.
But according to Atty. Solomon, it is only the court martial board that is convened to try officers of the AFL for criminal violations under the UCMJ.
“The military court is to handle matters under the UCMJ. That is to say, soldiers that commit crimes need to appear before it for prosecution. They have to appear before the court martial board in full military uniform until that case is resolved. But that is not the case anymore,” the retired Colonel maintained.
“We have qualified military experts to serve on the board, but probably the Ministry of National Defense chose not to advise the President on the process,” he insinuated.
Atty. Solomon said for him to hear that enlisted members of the AFL were confined and dishonorably discharged from the army and taken to a civilian court to be prosecuted by a civilian judge, was an “abuse” to the military and the dignity of the individual soldiers…
“The President needs to understand that we are military people, and therefore, matters arising from the soldiers should be taken care of by military people, and we should be heaved before those who are part of the military to be judged, but not before a civilian judge because this is an insult to the organization,” Atty. Solomon declared.
“Why should they take all the power of military personnel and disgrace him before a civilian court, rather than giving him the opportunity to be treated with dignity under the UCMJ,” he wondered.

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