26 February 2013

Liberia: Extradition Denied for Eight Ivorians

Photo: Glenna Gordon/UNHCR
An Ivorian refugee gets a lift on a motorbike taxi to the southeastern Liberian town of Zwedru (file photo).

The Monrovia City Court under the gavel of presiding Judge Nelson Chineh Monday rejected a petition by the Liberian government to extradite eight Ivorians for trial involving alleged war crimes including the killing of seven UN peacekeepers in their country.

The judge rejected the state's 8- count petition on several legal grounds in keeping with law to set the stage for trial of the defendants at Criminal Court 'A' Temple Justice.

On 19 December 2012 the government through the Ministry of Justice filed the petition seeking the extradition of the eight Ivorians accused of launching a deadly attack which resulting into the killing of seven UN peacekeepers of Niger origin plus one Ivorian solider.

But Judge Chineh said article 6(a) of the extradition treaty between Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire states: "extradition shall not be granted if

the competent authority of the requested state has proceedings against the person sought for in respect of the offense or offenses for which extradition is requested".

He said presently the government has formed an indictment and secured the issuance of a writ of arrest from the First Judicial Circuit Criminal Assizes of Monsterrado County charging the eight Ivorains with the same offenses for which they are sought to be extradited.

But state prosecutors argued that the filing of an indictment without proceeding in order to have the accused men arraigned does not commence a trial.

They maintained that in order for trial to commence the case must be called and defendants made to plead to the writ, adding that article 6 (a) submission raised by defense lawyers is not applicable here.

But the court thinks the state was in error, citing the ninth edition of Blackstone on proceedings and trials which say "is the regular and orderly progression of a lawsuit, including all acts and events between the time of commencement and the entry of judgement while trial is a formal judicial examination of evidence and determination of legal claim in an adversary proceeding. Trial is one of the events in proceedings where evidence are produced and examined."

Additionally, Section 4.7 of the criminal procedure law says "Prosecution shall commence with anyone of the following: forming an indictment and issuing of a writ of arrest."

Judge Chineh's ruling on Monday has ended the legal battle between state prosecutors and defense lawyers for extradition and set the stage for trial of the eight Ivorians here.

The Ivorian Government in 2012 informed the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Justice to extradite eight of its citizens who were charged with multiple offenses ranging from rape and mercenarism as well as murder and theft of property.

It named them as Nioule Junior and Ourogbo Edward along with Kromade Mohegman Vakery, Nemin Rerik Anbtiube, Djiezon Guei Martin, Nioule Frank Olivier and Toure Badison Julien.

Montserrado Attorney Cllr. Darku Mulbah and former Solicitor General M. Winkins Wright, in their final argument, relied on several law citations included the 24 August 1972 extradition treaty between Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire that provides legal basis for the extradition of the suspects.

In his argument, Cllr. Wright said their case was clear based on the facts that they presented to the court against these Ivorian fighters as they were responsible for the killing of seven UN peacekeepers in that country and as such their application should be granted in keeping with law.

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