26 February 2013

Liberia: Mercenaries Extradition Denied

The Magisterial City Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia has denied the Liberian Government's petition to extradite eight Ivorian Mercenaries on the request of the Republic of La Cote d'Ivoire on multiple criminal offenses for prosecution in their homeland.

Magistrate Nelson B. Chinneh ruled on Monday that extradition cannot lie (be granted) in the face of ongoing proceedings against defendants Komandee Mohegnan Vakery, Nemlin RerikAnbtiube, DjikezonGuei Martin Nioule Frank Oilvier and Nioule Junior here in the First Judicial Circuit Criminal Court "A" for the same criminal offenses for which they are being sought to be extradited.

The defendants will be prosecuted at the Criminal Court "A" where they have already been indicted by the Liberian Government.

The eight Ivoirians along with other collaborators were arrested and charged with mercenarism, murder, arson, theft of property, criminal conspiracy, rape and illegal possession of firearm by the Liberian Government over claims that the defendants crossed over from Liberia to Ivory Coast on June 7, 2012 and subsequently launched a deadly attack on June 8, 2012 that resulted to the killing of seven United Nations Peacekeepers from the Republic of Niger, including one Ivorian soldier.

Relying on a bilateral treaty executed between Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire on August 24, 1972, the Ivoirian Government formally requested for the extradition of the Ivorian nationals to have them face criminal prosecution in connection with the June 8, 2012 incident in Ivory Coast.

Though Magistrate Chinneh observed that the Liberian Government, acting upon the extradition request by Ivory Coast, met all of the statutory requirements enshrined within the bilateral treaty, he, however, ruled that Article 6(a) of the treaty provides that "extradition shall not be granted if the competent authority of the requested state is proceeding against the person sought for in respect of the offense for which extradition is sought."

Having further acknowledged that all of the offenses levied against the defendants were all extraditable offenses and not political as earlier claimed by their lawyers, Magistrate Chinneh, however, said they cannot be extradited on grounds that the Liberian Government has already formed an indictment, and secured the insurance of a writ of arrest from Criminal Court "A' charging the defendants with the same offenses for which they are being accused of at home.

Opposed to the prosecution's argument that the Ivorian Mercenaries should be extradited on grounds that the trial has not begun here, Magistrate Chinneh also ruled that "the fact that the trial has not begun did not mean that the Liberian Government was not proceeding against the defendants."

Considering the Black Law Dictionary's Ninth Edition, Magistrate Chinneh said the proceeding was the regular and ordinary procession of law suit, including all acts and events between the time of the commencement and the entry of judgment; while defining the trial as the formal judicial examination of evidence and determination of legal claim in an advisory proceeding.

He, therefore, said "the trial is one of the events in a proceeding where evidence are produced and examined."

Lawyers representing the Liberian Government included former Solicitor General Michael Wilkins Wrights, Cllrs. Augustine C. Fayiah, Montserrado County Attorney J. DarkuMulbah, Alfred Bandiye and Isaac B. Williams, while the defense included Cllrs. Tianwon Gongloe, Amara Sheriff, Arthur T. Johnson, Swahilllo A. Sesay and T. Dempster Brown.

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