17 May 2013

Liberia: Court Halts Extradition Proceedings

The Criminal Court "B" at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia has halted the extradition proceedings of eight Ivoirians and summoned City Court Magistrate Nelson B. Chinneh to show "cause" why the defendants' petition should not be held, more than a week after the Magistrate granted government's motion to hear the extradition proceedings.

Instructing the acting Clerk of Court Stephen N. Toe on May 15, Assigned Criminal Court "B" Judge A. Blamo Dixon said, "You are hereby commanded to summon the living body of Nelson B. Chinneh, the Stipendiary Magistrate, Monrovia City Court and the Republic of Liberia, respondents, to appear before this Criminal assizes "B"... on the 22nd day of May, A.D. 2013 and stay all further proceedings."

Defendants Komande Moheghah Vekery, Nemlin Rerik Anbtiube, Djikezon Guel Martin, Nioule Frank Olivier, Junior, Nioule, Ourrogbo Edward, and others, were jointly accused by the Ivorian Government of committing numerous crimes in their homeland.

The Ivorian Government through its Liberian Counterpart has been seeking the extradition of the defendants after they were arrested by Liberian securities on multiple criminal charges for allegedly siding with ousted Ivorian President Laurent Gbargbo to destabilize 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 soldiers of the Niger contingent serving with the United Nations (UN) Peace Keepers in Ivory Coast were killed.

However, the defendants had requested the magisterial court during pre-trial proceedings in February this year to refuse jurisdiction over the matter since it was already before the Criminal Court "A", citing Section 11.2 Sub-paragraph 1 (d) of the Civil Procedure Laws of Liberia as reliance.

Besides, the defendants contended that during the February pre-trial proceedings, the Criminal Court "A" decided on the matter, arguing that the magisterial court was barred from returning with the same matter.

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) being the sole reliance of the defendants should not lie because "extradition proceeding was never decided on its merit" at Court "A" to reach final judgment as was claimed by the defendants.

In agreement with the state's argument, Magistrate Chineeh denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the extradition proceedings, and ruled in favor of the government.

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. The City Court finally ruled it would commence the extradition hearing on Friday, May 10, 2013.

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