Swiss Rights Activist Trial to Begin in Liberia
“Having voluntarily submitted themselves to this court by appearing and filing an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, they are legally stopped from arguing that this court lacks jurisdiction over their persons,” Dunbar maintained.
The trial of Alain Werner, a Swiss human rights advocate will now go ahead as Judge Scheaplor R. Dunbar denied his lawyer's request to have the case dismissed on grounds that the Liberian judiciary lacks jurisdiction.
Werner's lawyers argued that the $US$15 million damages suit against their client was improperly filed because the UK Magistrate Court was the one prosecuting Agnes Reeves Taylor for war crimes, even though his organization's report on the Liberia war led to her arrest, charge, and prosecution.
Taylor, according to Werner's lawyer, was arrested by the UK Metropolitan Police War Crime Unit and Crown Prosecution Service, “so the action should be dismissed on grounds that this court lacks jurisdiction over the matter and persons.”
But, Werner's lawyer's argument, according to Dunbar of Civil Law Court ‘A’, has no merit once they have freely subjected themselves to this court by appearing and filing an answer.
“Having voluntarily submitted themselves to this court by appearing and filing an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, they are legally stopped from arguing that this court lacks jurisdiction over their persons,” Dunbar said.
“Werner and other named defendants were sued by Mrs. Taylor and the lawsuit was served by publication and by mailing in Switzerland consistent with the Civil Procedure Law,” the Judge said.
According to Dunbar, after Werner had received a copy of the lawsuit, his lawyer subsequently filed an answer on his behalf, which signifies that they were prepared to proceed with the case in Liberia.
“Having voluntarily submitted themselves to this court by appearing and filling an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, they are legally stopped from arguing that this court lacks jurisdiction over their persons,” Dunbar maintained.
Werner is being sued for ‘criminally and maliciously aiding the prosecution team of the London Metropolitan Police to file alleged war crime charges against Taylor, an ex-wife of former Liberian President, Charles Taylor.
Her prosecution in the UK stemmed from claims by Werner Civitas Maxima and Hassan Bility Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) that she committed alleged war crimes while a member of the rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) — a claim that prompted the prosecution by the Metropolitan Police.
Taylor was arrested on June 2, 2017, in London by the Metropolitan Police and charged with torture on the grounds of her suspected involvement with the NFPL rebel group, which was led by her ex-husband during the First Liberian Civil War, from 1989 to 1996.
However, the case was dismissed by the London Central Criminal Court on grounds that the evidence presented by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to prove that the NPFL had the requisite authority over the relevant territory at the time the crimes in question were committed.
And now she is suing Werner and his partner Liberian Hassan Bility, in a class action lawsuit — an action of damage for malicious prosecution and wrong — alleging negligent investigation and malicious prosecution, seeking US$5 million as punitive damages and US$10 million as general damages.
The suit claims that Werner and his collaborators' actions inflicted emotional distress and defamed her hard-earned character, leading to emotional distress.
Taylor is hoping to use the Liberian Court process to hold Bility, and Werner to account for their alleged false statement which led to her prosecution in the UK, though the case was later dismissed.
In her suit, she argued that Werner and Bility can in no way, form, or manner disclaim liability or shift liability to the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit or the UK Magisterial Court who were only privileged to have knowledge of and thereby reacted based on the foreign evidence.”
Werner’s organization — Civitas Maxima — provides access to justice for victims of war crimes, while the GJRP is focused on the documentation of wartime atrocities in Liberia and assists victims in their pursuit of justice.
Civitas Maxima and GJRP collaboration has led to the arrests of alleged Liberian war criminals throughout Europe and the US, including the prosecution of former Liberian rebel commanders Alieu Kosiah in Switzerland, Martina Johnson in Belgium and former ULIMO rebel commander Mohammed Jabbateh in the US.
Meanwhile, the Judge in his denial judgment, maintained that the court does not agree with Werner’s lawyer's argument of lack of jurisdiction, it has jurisdiction over the action Taylor suit.
“The defendants have alleged that this court lacks subject jurisdiction in an action of damages for malicious prosecution and wrong given the Act creating the Civil Law Court obviously gives it jurisdiction over the action of damages and that if the defendants have an affirmative defense in such an action, that should be properly raised and argued during the disposition of law issues,” Dunbar noted. “This court maintains that it has jurisdiction over the action filed by the plaintiff.”