8 May 2013

Liberia: Mercenaries Face Extradition Hearing

The Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia has granted the Liberian Government's motion to hear an extradition proceeding of eight Ivorian nationals accused of committing numerous crimes in their homeland.

City Court Magistrate Nelson B. Chinneh, ruled Tuesday in favor of state lawyers, and scheduled the extradition hearing for Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10am.

But immediately following Magistrate Chinne's ruling yesterday, one of the defense lawyers, Attorney Arthur Johnson, told the Ivoirians in the dock that they would take the matter before the high court [Supreme Court] before Friday's extradition hearing.

On 18 April 2013, the magisterial court issued a writ of arrest against the defendants already being held at the Monrovia Central Prison, based on a petition filed by the Government of Liberia, seeking the defendants' extradition to La Cote d'Ivoire.

Defendants Frank Oliver, Nellie Edward, Nellie Junior, Kamanda, and four others were arrested by Liberian securities on multiple criminal charges along with their Liberian counterparts for allegedly siding with ousted Ivorian President Laurent Gbargbo to destabilize neighboring Cote d'Ivoire.

The defendants have since faced charges of rape, murder and mercenarism, among others, with reports that they were part of an attack in which seven Niger Contingents of the United Nations (UN) Peace Keepers in Ivory Coast were killed.

They were also accused of fleeing to Liberia after committing the alleged crimes in Ivory Coast; but the defendants have refused such charges levied against them, insisting that they were refugees in Liberia.

On May 2, 2013, the defendants' lawyers, including Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, Atty. Arthur T. Johnson and Swahilo Sesay, among others, filed a motion before the City Court, seeking the dismissal of prosecution's petition for extradition.

The defense counsels argued that the matter was earlier in February this year decided by the court, therefore, the court was barred from returning with the same matter. They further contended that all of the charges brought against the accused by the Ivorian government back home were all political crimes.

But in resistance, the Liberian Government, representing its Ivorian Counterpart in the extradition case insisted that the doctrine of Res Judicata (the Latin term for a matter already judged) which is the sole reliance of the defendants would not lie because "extradition proceeding was never decided on its merit" to reach final judgment as claimed by the defendants.

In his ruling Tuesday 7 May, Magistrate Nelson B. Chinneh said res judicata would not lie, saying in order for such doctrine to lie, the court must have earlier reached final judgment on the matter.

Considering the treaty signed between the Liberian and Ivorian Governments, the defendants in the February 2013 pretrial proceedings cited Article 6 (a) of said treaty as well as Section 11.2 and Section 16.7 of the Civil Procedure Laws and Criminal Procedure Laws of Liberia, respectively as reliance for its arguments.

The defendants, citing Section 11.2 Sub-paragraph 1 (d) of the Civil Procedure Laws of Liberia asked the City Court in the February pretrial proceedings to refuse jurisdiction over the matter since it was already before the Criminal Court "A".

However, Magistrate Chinneh said given that the pre-trial proceedings bordered on the right of the Ivorian nationals and that their liberty was at stake, the court duly allowed such pretrial motion in the middle of the trial in February.

He said the Liberian -Ivorian Treaty's provision which formed the basis of the respondents' (defendants') application became visible or known to the [other] party as well as the court only after it was pleaded by the petitioner (defendant) in February this year.

"So it became clear to this court that in the interest of fair play and transparent justice, to allow the respondents raise the issue of law as they did," said Magistrate Chinneh.

Notwithstanding, the City Court has held that the extradition hearing will commence this Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10am.

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