11 July 2014

Liberia: Gov't Blunders Over Detention of Nimba Rioters

The Presiding Judge of the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice, Emery S. Paye, has described the detention of more than 40 persons for over 48 hours without been sent to court for prosecution as a complete violation of their constitutional rights.

The over 40 persons, mostly youth, were recently detained at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police(LNP) in Monrovia after they were arrested in connection with the vandalism in Zolowe and Yekepa, Nimba County, which led to the destruction of properties of Arcelor Mittal and disruption of normalcy in that part of the country.

The rioters claimed that the company is not living up to its social responsibility enshrined in the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) signed with the Liberian government.

There have been widespread of condemnations regarding the vandalism at Arcelor Mittal, with many terming the act as uncivilized and intolerable.

They called on the Government of Liberia (GOL) to leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice all those involved in the act so as to serve as a deterrence for others who may want to engage in such an unwarranted act.

But some political pundits say why they do not support the alleged act of the rioters, it was illegal for the government through the Ministry of Justice to have detained them for more than 48 hours without sending them to court in keeping with the due process of law.

They described the action of the government as a blunder and encouraged the government via the Ministry of Justice to always dispense justice in line with the constitution-the organic law of the country.

Accordingly, Judge Paye spoke Tuesday, July 9 when he delivered his ruling in the case involving the Nimba rioters and the government.

He maintained that it was illegal for the government to have detained the rioters for more than 48 hours. He later restored the rights of the rioters after a writ of Habeas Corpus was filed on their behalf.

Lawyers representing the rioters filed the writ of Habeas Corpus for the release of their clients.

Before his ruling, the Civil Law Court judge afforded both parties the opportunity to argue their points.

The defendants, in a six-count argument, by and through their Legal Counsels Tiala Law Associates, INC prayed the court for the immediate release and resurrection of their freedom of liberty for sufficient legal and factual reasons.

They recalled that on Thursday, July 3, Friday, July 4, and Sunday, July 6, 2014 respectively the defendants were arrested by the Liberia National Police (LNP) in their various homes in Nimba County and taken to the Unification Town Detail Cell and subsequently to Sanniquellie City, Nimba County and onward to Monrovia.

They contended that their clients were detained beyond 48hours without any charge, which according to them, violates their Constitutional and Statutory rights.

The Counsels for the defendants claimed that, while in detention, their clients were deprived of water, food and all necessities of life and denied access to their family members and love ones.

In count four of their argument, the defense counsels said that the petitioners were also been compelled to write statements against themselves without a warning that they have right to a lawyer, right to keep silence and that anything they say or write may be used against them in a court of law.

They further argued that some of the defendants are sick, but had been denied access to medication, contrary to law, international best practice and gross violation of human right.

But the respondents reacting to the petitioners' arguments, argued that the petitioners are not law abiding citizens as they intend to portray themselves, saying that no law abiding citizen would result to the use of fire arms, fire and other deadly weapons against others and their properties for the redress of whatever differences that may exist.

In count two of the respondents argument, they said that the petitioners' arrest was based on the fact that they attacked armless citizens and officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) with single barrel guns, machetes and other deadly weapons setting ablaze the properties of ArcelorMittal, including several mining equipment, locomotive train and made away with several valuable items fled to their hideouts, including their homes.

The respondents, in count six of their argument, added that supporters, family members, and friends of the petitioners repeatedly interrupted police investigation, attacked police depots where petitioners were taken.

Meanwhile, immediately after the Judge's ruling, a writ of arrest was issued to the petitioners from the Magisterial Court of Sanniquellie City, Nimba County asking them to answer to charges of armed robbery, kidnapping, theft of property, rioting among others based upon the complaint filed by the Republic of Liberia.

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