14 February 2017

Liberia: House Endorses Report to Allow Pre-Trial Detainees Vote in 2017

Monrovia — Members of the House of Representatives have unanimously voted to endorse a report from its Judiciary and Elections Committee that would allow pre-trial detainees to vote in the ensuing 2017 Elections.

The House's Plenary made the decision on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in its 11th Day Sitting.

According to the findings of the committee which was read by Rep. Worlea-Saywah Dunah, Chairman of the Judiciary committee, "all pre-trial detainees have a vested constitutional right to vote based on the cornerstone of the legal system where one is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction."

"That all prisoners who are not serving sentence for the commission of an infamous crime have a vested Constitutional Rights to vote," read the report. "

That the Plenary informs the National Elections Commission what the interpretation of the law indicates and that all prisoners have the right to vote except those serving sentences for the commission of an infamous crime as stated in Section 5.1 of the New Elections Law of Liberia."

They added that the right of a prisoner to vote is granted by the Constitution in article 77(b) and further defined by Section 5.1 of the New Elections Law by creating the means and procedure for the registration and voting of prisoners as per the "category supra."

Pretrial detention refers to detaining of an accused person in a criminal case before the trial has taken place, either because of a failure to post bail or due to denial of release under a pre-trial detention statute.

There was a public hearing on the issue and legal experts were invited and they advised that pre-trial detainees have the right like any other free citizen to participate in national decision making.

The committee named Cllr. Moses Paegar, Cllr. Albert Sims and representatives from the Carter Center as legal experts who attended the hearing and advised the committee on what is best.

However, officials of Ministry of Justice and the National Election Commission did not turn up during the hearing and they are yet to explain reasons for their absence.

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