West Africa: Reinstate Ja'neh

10 November 2020

-ECOWAS Court orders GoL

Justices sitting at the ECOWAS court in Abuja, Nigeria have ordered the Liberian Government to reinstate former Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja'neh or grant him the right to retire with full pension.

And not only that but also pay him USD200, 000 (two hundred thousand dollars) in reparation for the moral prejudice he suffered for the violation of his rights.

Earlier release from the court had indicated that the impeached Associate Justice of the Supreme Court had sought the Liberian Government to cough out US$25 Million in compensation.

Handling down the judgment Tuesday November 10, Justice Edward Amoako Asante further ordered the Liberian Government to restore and pay to Cllr. Ja'neh all his withheld entitlements, including salaries, allowances and pension benefits from the date of the his impeachment to the date of notification of the court's judgment.

Cllr. Janeh was removed as an Association Justice of the Liberian Supreme Court through an impeachment process that he challenged as unconstitutional.

Ja'neh argues that under Chapter VII, Article 72 (B) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, he was guaranteed the holding and protection of office as Associate Justice during good behavior until the age of 70.

However, lawmakers here brought charges against him to the contrary and hence his removal from office which he is now challenging.

One of the cases which triggered Associate Justice Ja'neh's impeachment trial in Liberia related to a land dispute involving him and one Madam Annie Yancy Constance.

He was accused by lawmakers for abuse of power, using his influence as Associate Justice to secure a ruling in his favor at the Supreme Court to take possession of the land.

But Ja'neh's lawyers maintained that the claim that their client allegedly manipulated the Supreme Court to rule in his favor in the property case questions the credibility of Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor who served as the head of the Supreme Court and also signed the ruling.

In the suit he filed before the ECOWAS Court, Ja'neh through his Counsel, Mr. Femi Falana alleged that his removal violated his human rights to fair hearing and impartial trail, right to work and dignity of person guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights.

He also claimed violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Liberian Constitution by the purported impeachment, trail, conviction, removal and his replacement.

Further, he alleged that he was subjected to impeachment proceedings with no Prescribed Rules of Procedure, thereby depriving him of his fundamental right to fair hearing as stipulated in the 1986 Liberian Constitution.

According to former Justice Ja'neh, when the impeachment trial commenced at the Liberian Senate on 13 February 2019, he filed a motion to recuse asking that the Chief Justice should not preside over the impeachment trial since he signed the Judgment of the Supreme Court in a case that was listed as one of the grounds for his impeachment

He submitted that allowing the Chief Justice Francis Korkpor to preside would be tantamount to a conflict of interest with the possibility of bias. His contention was that Chief Justice Korkpor was involved in several facets of the impeachment proceedings and was expected to recuse himself in order to adhere to the tenets of justice.

He stated that to his surprise, the Chief Justice denied his application and instead proceeded to preside over the impeachment trial.

In the 73 page judgment, a panel of three judges of the Court led Justice Asante said the Court found the matter admissible and within its Jurisdiction contrary to the argument of the government, stating that it has clearly established violation of the Applicant's right to fair hearing and right to work.

His allegation of bias against Chief Justice Francis Korkpor who presided over the impeachment trial at the Liberian Senate was dismissed by the court as unstainable.

But the Liberian Government, represented by the Solicitor General, Cllr. SaymaSyreniusCephus denied violating the human rights of the former Associate Justice and claimed that the impeachment of the proceeding was done through a political process which also followed the due process of law as laid down in Section 43 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

The State urged the Court to declare that the application is inadmissible because the Community Court is incompetent to review, interpret and apply the national constitution and domestic laws of Member States.

However, the ECOWAS court has given the Liberian Government up to six months to report on the enforcement of its judgment.

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