A Statement Issued By the Liberian Bar Association
November 23, 2020
In keeping with its commitment to promoting adherence to the rule of law, the Liberian National Bar Association hereby makes its position known to the Liberian people on the following burning national issues:
1. The National Referendum
On the national referendum, it is the position of the Liberian National Bar Association that same be postponed. The reason for the position taken by the bar is that the government is not proceeding with the referendum, in keeping with the Constitution of Liberia. Article 91 of the Constitution provides, amongst other things, that, voting in a referendum be conducted by the Elections Commission not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature. And Article 92 of the Constitution provides, “Proposed constitutional amendments shall be accompanied by statements setting forth the reasons therefor and shall be published in the Official Gazette and made known to the people through the information services of the Republic.” It is the observation of the bar that although the date on the Official Gazette shows that it was published in October 2019, it was not made known to the people through the information services of the Republic until a few months ago.
The framers of the Constitution intended for the people to be informed of any proposed amendment to their Constitution one year prior to the day of voting on the proposed amendment in order to be adequately informed before voting yes or no on a proposed amendment. Because the government failed to provide information to the people about the proposed amendment, within the time provided by the Constitution, the bar observes that the majority of the people are confused about the reasons provided for each of the proposed amendments. Even members of the LNBA do not have a clear understanding of the reasons for each of the proposed amendments. Yet, Liberian lawyers are expected by the rest of the Liberian people to advise them on the importance and relevance of each of the proposed amendments.
The LNBA observes that the attention of the Liberian people is nearly exclusively focused on the mid-term Senatorial election to be held on December 8, 2020. Under the current atmosphere of fierce competition amongst candidates of the ruling party and the opposition collaborating political parties to hold a referendum for the sole purpose of amending certain provisions of the Constitution of Liberia will be doing injustice to a sacred process that requires vigorous public education campaign and debate on each proposition. The LNBA, therefore, respectfully calls for a postponement of the referendum to October 2021 to allow for full-scale public participation; consistent with the law.
2. Mysterious deaths
The LNBA has observed with consternation continuous media reports of frequent suspicious deaths across the country, apparently under circumstances unrelated to the covid-19 pandemic. It goes without saying that frequent unexplained deaths in a country tend to create fear among the people and may curtail making Liberia an attractive destination for tourism, international conferences, and investment; thereby creating a negative impact on the economy and bringing about untold hardship among the people. The LNBA, therefore, calls on the Government to exert every effort to fully investigate these unexplained deaths in order for the families of the victims to find closure, to allay the fear of the public, and to promote trust and confidence in the people about the Government of Liberia’s commitment to protecting their lives, which is the foremost duty of every government. The LNBA calls on citizens and residents who have sensitive information on these unexplained deaths to provide them to the Liberia National Police or through the LNBA for action. For the greater good of our country and people, the LNBA assures any such person of its collective legal protection and support.
As a necessary first step in achieving this objective, the LNBA is immensely encouraged and pleased to applaud Dr. Daniel E. Cassell, who recently announced an offer of five million United States Dollars for anyone providing information on persons responsible for the commission of these unexplained deaths across the country.
3. Aggrieved Judicial Employees
On the current situation involving aggrieved judicial workers and contingent upon a strong-worded communication received from its leadership, the Executive Council of the LNBA has mandated the Executive Committee to explore every avenue to assist in resolving the current impasse so as to restore a normal atmosphere within the workplace and corridor of the courts. The Bar notes that the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under the Constitution of Liberia, and the international bill of rights and that in the exercise of these rights there is a duty to respect the rights of others. All functionaries of the three branches of government have a sacred duty to uphold these rights; except during the declaration of the state of emergency. All workers, including judicial workers, have a duty to show respect to their bosses under all circumstances in order to ensure cordiality at the workplace. The exercise of rights and administrative actions must be controlled by law.
4. The decision of the ECOWAS COMMUNITY COURT OF JUSTICE on Associate Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment
The LNBA applauds the decision of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice and says that said decision is consistent with its well-publicized position on Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment. The LNBA calls on the Government of Liberia to promptly comply with the said judgment, as Liberia is a country of law and not of men. Additionally, Liberia as a founding member of ECOWAS cannot and should not conduct itself in any manner that undermines ECOWAS in any manner, shape, and form.
Against the backdrop that the Liberian Government has not shown nor demonstrated sufficient political will to fight corruption, the menace that has undermined the development of Liberia for nearly two centuries, we again call on the United States of America and the European Union to deny access to entry into their countries, officials and employees of the three branches of the Liberian Government that are unremorsefully engaged in corruption. The LNBA is once more pleased to applaud the Government of the United States for denying visas to the former Director of Passport, Mr. Wonplue.
6. Electoral Violence
The Liberian National Bar Association calls on all Political Parties and Independent Candidates to scrupulously observe and respect the rights of their opponents in all of the processes leading to the up-coming mid-term Senatorial campaign and election so as to avoid violence in any form, shape, or manner. The LNBA also calls on the police and other law enforcement officers to exercise restraint whenever they are called upon to curtail violence and restore peace during the electoral process. Law Enforcement Officers must understand that the use of excessive force against armless civilians is not justified under international human rights law, let alone the Constitution of Liberia and the Penal Law.
7. Convention 2020
The LNBA wishes to inform its members and the general public that it will be hosting its annual convention in Gbarnga Bong County from November 26 to 29th, 2020. The Convention will be held under the theme: Ethics as a foundation for adherence to the rule of law. The keynote speaker for LNBA Convention 2020 is Femi Falana (SAN), a frontline human rights lawyer in Nigeria. It is mandatory that all lawyers attend as the forum will provide an opportunity for lawyers to attain their ten points of continuing education (CLE) for 2020. All members of the bar are urged to take note that lawyers who do not obtain their required CLE credits, will not be considered to be in good standing and shall not be eligible for a license to practice law in 2021 after the second Monday in March 2021. On the second Tuesday of March 2021, the LNBA will provide the list of all licensed lawyers to all courts and employers within the Republic of Liberia. The LNBA will also publish the names of licensed lawyers in leading newspapers and on radio stations throughout the country.
ISSUED BY THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF LNBA
Tiawan S. Gongloe
Liberian National Bar Association