6 October 2017

Liberia: Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Transition Act, Votes Rape Bailable By Law

Photo: Liberian Legislature
Members of the Liberian legislature

The plenary of the Senate through its Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Grand Cape Mount County Senator H. Varney Sherman, has developed it's own Presidential Transition Act (PTA) after a motion proffered by River Gee County Senator Conmany B. Wesseh.

The Act had earlier been submitted to the Senate by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which she later withdrew.

During its 60th day sitting on Tuesday, October 3, the Senate received a developed report on the Act from Sen. Sherman and was subsequently unanimously passed and forwarded to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

The purpose of the Act, according to the Senate, is to establish arrangements for the proper management and transfer of political power or administration from one democratically elected president to another.

The Act stipulates that the President of Liberia shall appoint 13 persons to the joint Presidential Transitional Team to include the following ministers: State for Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Finance, Internal Affairs, Defense, as well as the Central Bank Governor, Director of General Services Agency, Director of Executive Protective Service (EPS), Inspector General of Police, and three other Liberians at the discretion of the incumbent president; while the president-elect shall appoint 16 persons to the joint Presidential Transitional Team.

Section two (2) of the Act states that the following services shall be provided to the former president and vice president to include: not less than three armed persons (including EPS detail) and not less than two armed persons for the former president and vice president respectively.

The Act further provides that the former president and vice president shall each receive 40 percent of his/her last basic annual salary payable in 12 equal monthly installments as pension, among others.

Also, Section three (3) of the Act as passed by the Senate provides for the use of diplomatic passports by both the former leaders. They shall also have access to Very Important Person (VIP) lounges, tarmac-side pickups and drop-offs whenever they travel in and out of Liberia, and shall be accorded assistance by Liberian Missions abroad.

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, the Senate voted to amend the Rape Law after it received a report from its Statutory Judiciary Committee recommending that rape should be a bailable offense as is provided for in the Draft Act submitted by Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay a few months ago.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Sherman, also recommended that an accused person on bail for the commission of the crime of rape should report to the court that granted the bail on a monthly basis and that reporting should occur on the monthly anniversary of the grant of the bail.

Article 21 (d) (ii) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia provides that "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor excessive punishment inflicted." In the opinion of the Judiciary Committee, the punishment for rape as provided in the Rape Law is excessive and therefore unconstitutional.

Rape is a non-bailable offense under the current Rape Law of Liberia. Those charged of the crime are jailed pending trial and, if convicted must serve their full term with no parole.

The amended version of the law, meanwhile, has been sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

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