Even though some members of the Liberian Senate have acknowledged the wrongdoing affecting former Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, for which the ECOWAS Court of Justice has ruled that the Government of Liberia reinstate him, retroactively pay all his salaries and benefits, and pay him US$200,000 in reparations for the mental stress imposed on him, the Liberian Senate, which voted to uphold Ja’neh’s impeachment and kick him off the Supreme Court Bench, has said that “The trial of the former Associate Justice was conducted in a very fair and transparent manner as prescribed by the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, the relevant laws of our country and the Standing Rules of the Liberian Senate.”
According to the Senate, Ja’neh was fully accorded due process as required by the above-mentioned laws and other legal instruments, and his fundamental rights were respected during the entire process of his trial at the Senate.
The Senate is now on recess and expected to resume session early 2021. Moreover, the constitutional tenure of nine years for 15 of its members elected in 2011 will be terminated in January next year, to bring on board new a new cadre of Senators after the December 8 mid-term election. Fourteen of the fifteen Senators are seeking reelection and vigorously campaigning in their respective counties.
As a result of the election at hand, the Senate said it is unable to react to the verdict by the ECOWAS Court in the way it should.
“The Liberian Senate wishes to state unequivocally that it would have reacted by now to the verdict of the ECOWAS Court in the JA’NEH Impeachment Case. Unfortunately, due to the activities of the pending 2020 Senatorial Elections scheduled shortly, the Leadership of the Senate is unable to meet with the required quorum to review the matter and act accordingly. In due course, the Leadership of the Senate and House will meet and issue an advisory to the Executive Branch on the verdict of the ECOWAS Court,” the Senate said in a statement issued Tuesday, November 17.
According to the Senate’s release, there are allegations that there were no rules of procedure in place at the House of Representatives prior to its impeachment of the former Associate Justice, that the House did not honor the prohibition of the Supreme Court not to proceed with the impeachment, and there was no quorum on the sitting the day on which the House impeached Ja’neh.
In reaction, the Senate defended that under the Liberian Constitution, it is not clothed with the authority to question how the House passes on legislation and other instruments or make judgment on those matters.
In its argument, the Senate recalled that Article 43 of the 1986 Constitution sets separate functions for both houses that no one house interferes with the activities of the other. “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate.”
The Senate also noted: “On the issue of Amendment to Senate Rule 63 which deals with Impeachment Trials, prior to the receipt of the Bill/Articles of Impeachment from the House of Representatives, the Senate visited its Rule 63, which is the rule of procedure for impeachment mentioned in Article 43 of the Constitution. This rule of procedure for impeachment was validated and approved by the 52nd Legislature on March 30, 2009 and is indicated in the present Senate Standing Rules.”
During the impeachment proceedings, Senators Oscar Cooper of Margibi County and Conmany Wesseh of River Gee were among the few who spoke vehemently against the impeachment that it was wrong. However, they could not impress their conviction upon their colleagues whose minds were already set to see the Associate Justice removed.
On March 28, 2019 twenty-six Senators took part in the voting, according to the release from the Senate, and out of this number, twenty-three (23) Senators voted to remove Justice Ja’neh, a decision that government’s lawyers have repeatedly said it was not legal but political.
The Senate said after careful examinations of the House’s decision to impeach Ja’neh, they realized that he was found guilty of “Misconduct and Gross Breach of Duty.”
Meanwhile, following the ECOWAS Court of Justice’s verdict in favor of Justice Ja’neh last week, two other Senators, Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba and Armah Z. Jallah of Gbarpolu, who participated in the process and voted to remove Justice Ja’neh, have in separate statements admitted to wrongdoing and called on the government to adhere to the regional court’s ruling.