28 March 2013

Liberia: Taylor's Lawyer Appeals to Ellen

Photo: RNW
Former Liberian president Charles Taylor in court.

Former President Charles G. Taylor's lawyer in Liberia, Counselor J. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, has written President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, requesting her intervention to speedily address his client's demands for retirement benefits, following apparent unfruitful out- of- court settlement with the Justice Ministry here.

Cllr. Cephus' letter addressed to the Liberian Chief Executive reads: "This letter is an SOS call - the last gasp for hope that is being made on behalf of your fellow citizens and friends- two of the most venerated public officials of our great country."

Cllr. Cephus had earlier sought redress from the Supreme Court of Liberia to compel the Sirleaf Administration to pay Ex-President Taylor and former Interim Vice President John D. Gray retirement benefits.

At a conference in the Chamber Justice with Associate Justice Phillip A. Z. Banks, Cephus said state lawyers acknowledged the legitimacy of Taylor and Gray's retirement benefits, but pleaded that the matter be withdrawn for amicable resolution at the Justice Ministry.

But Cllr. Cephus has complained to President Sirleaf that there is no affirmative action coming from the Justice and Finance Ministries, despite series of communications.

"As it appears now, it would seem that there is some queer or perhaps a deliberate attempt by certain officials either to sport with the rights of my clients by downplaying these legitimate constitutional entitlements or create the false and misleading impressions that their actions are sanctioned by Your Excellency's Office, something which is difficult for me to believe or accept," said the tough-spoken defense lawyer, who earlier worked for Taylor's media empire, the defunct Liberia Communications Network.

According to him, the Deputy Finance Minister for Debt Management and Expenditure Angella Cassell- Bush, claimed that former President Taylor is a "civil servant", therefore, he should channel his plight through the Civil Service Agency (CSA), something he termed as laughable and shameful on the part of the minister.

In a letter dated February 20, 2013 and authorized by Deputy Minister Bush, she however reminded Cllr. Cephus of the Justice Ministry's letter dated January 29, 2013, "rightfully" referring him to the Civil Service Agency, which is the arm of government responsible to handle all matters pertaining to retirement.

But Minister Bush said the CSA was unable to assist the lawyer on grounds that former President Taylor's wife Victoria B. Addison Taylor, had sought judicial remedy.

In another letter dated March 14, 2013 under the signature of Deputy Justice Minister Benedict F. Sannoh, the Justice Ministry acknowledged receipt of Cllr. Cephus' letter and had embarked upon consultations with relevant agencies of government regarding the matter, except that the ministry could not relay government's decision to the counselor by March 15, 2013, as he demanded.

Meanwhile, Cllr. Cephus said the months of January and February have come and gone, and "we are at the doorsteps of the month of April, 2013" but still there is no affirmative action taken by the government lawyers.

Ex-President Taylor resigned and departed Liberia in 2003, when international pressure and various rebel factions' combat compelled him to surrender and subsequently flee to Nigeria amidst an indictment for war crimes by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague where he has been convicted and imprisoned for aiding and abetting RUF rebels in Sierra Leone during his presidency in Liberia.

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