Jefferson Koijee’s Detention without Trial is illegal, Release Him
By Ernest S. Maximore
The law has always been balanced for both sides of the divides, the defendants and complainants .Both are covered under the ambit of the law and dispense of justice for separate justifiable reasons: that the rights of complainants are not grossly violated by the defendants without punitive deterrent remedy and that the defendants are presumed not guilty and accorded due process and fair trial to truly indeed establish the “preponderance of evidence” or” beyond reasonable doubt” conviction or acquittal as required by law in attaining the ends of justice. In the event that the law is willfully, knowingly and purposely tempered and manipulated either for the defendant or complainant to satisfy one of the parties or extended outside person, body, institution and government for ulterior “get even” motive, is a slap in the face of the entire judiciary system and further heighten both local and international bodies and organizations, including the US Human Rights Reports which have consistently disparaged the Liberian Judicial system.
Legal Protection for Complainant and Defendant
Article 20(a) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution squarely puts it “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law. Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay…”
Article 21(d) i,& ii of the 1986 Liberian Constitution clearly states “All accused persons shall be billable upon their personal recognizance or by sufficient sureties, depending upon the gravity of the charge, unless charged for capital offenses or grave offenses as defined by law. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor excessive punishment inflicted.”
Article 21(f): “Every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and presented before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty-eight hours. Should the court determine the existence of a prima facie case against the accused, it shall issue a formal writ of arrest setting out the charge or charges and shall provide for a speedy trial. There shall be no preventive detention.”
Under Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Liberia is a signatory, guarantees that every person charged with a crime has the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Difference between Arrested and Convicted Person
From my reading of the law back in law school, there is clear and simple difference between an Arrested Person and Convicted Person. An Arrested Person does not remain in prison continuously .He has not been tried in a court of competent jurisdiction to establish his quilt or not. Being arrested does not mean one is convicted of a crime. Being convicted of a crime does not in all cases mean an accused actually commits the crime. Innocent but convicted person can serve years in prisons and subsequently free for wrongful conviction. So the law is always cautious to balance the belt on all sides not to punish the innocent and set the actual doer free, not to allow the accuser to merely make an allegation against someone without thoroughly proving the mattered asserted “beyond reasonable doubt” or “preponderance of evidence” best evidence requirement.
An Arrested person, like Mr. Jefferson Koijee and the many other Liberians wallowing in Liberian prisons continuously beyond the 48 hours legal provision ,most especially, when their alleged acts can be billable, should be set free and allow the law take its course. An arrested person is not a guilty person unless he proven guilty through court hearing. Koijee is yet to have court hearing. At Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law in Monrovia, the American Bar Association has been working tirelessly with projects geared at preventing long detention without trial in Liberia ,but it appears all its efforts are the not yielding the desired outcomes. Liberian Chief Justice Francis S. Kporkpor and the Ministry of Justice have been working on pretrial detainees calling for people not to be detained when the alleged offense is billable. Again in Liberia, good laws are there, but adherence and implementation are dreams unremittingly dreamt of but on no account, transform to reality.
Front Page Africa reports Mr. Gbeh Montgomery alleged to police Investigators that “Korjee and Mulbah Morlu, along with others flogged him at the CDC Headquarter because of his alliance with the embattled chairman, Mr. Solo George .FPA also Reports “Montgomery averred that Mr. Koijee and Morlu later told him to declare on a video recording that he (Montgomery) sexually harassed a little girl and that prompted angry mob to attack him. Koijee is the only person now in prison for the alleged act.”
Converted Person remains longer in prison following court hearing, conviction and sentences. This is not the case with Koijee. No court hearing for him but, he remains in prison unendingly. There is no evidence that he poses “flight risk” or he is a “dangerous offender” and will inflict bodily harm on others when released. This is not a capital offense which is non-billable. All he is accused of is he allegedly beats Montgomery. Allow him and others in the same situation to face their court proceedings as required by law.
No malice for Mr. Montgomery, I empathized his alleged beating. I feel his pain, but the law is clearly in black and white, “Article 21(f): “Every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and presented before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty-eight hours.” Not interested delving into the nitty gritty of the case to establish who is wrong or not since I am not a judge. Mr. Montgomery too has his right fully protected and guaranteed under the law of Liberia and so is the accused. The fact, however, remains, had he been in the stead of Koijee, he too would have so desired not to be forever imprisoned without trial. He would want to be tried, convicted, or acquitted than to languish in prison everlastingly. He would have loved that he is presumed innocent until convicted by the court. Koijee has remained in prison since October 21, 2014 without trial, when the law provides that he can be billed since the alleged act is billable.
What is further weird about this is the disparate treatment seemingly meted against the accused.FPA reports that Mr.Montgomery claimed that “Koijee and Mulbah Morlu, along with others flogged him[Montgomery].Koijee is the only person in prison despite the claim from Montgomery that he was also flogged by Koijee and others. This signals a red flag that further intensifies speculation of a politically charged and unjust imprisonment of Koijee.
Liberia Government, a thoughtless Newsmaker
The late former Feature Writing Professor , veteran Liberian Journalist Stanton B. Peabody told one of his classes, that bad news can be laying comfortably in the soft cushion sleeping and enjoying herself without causing any embarrassment to anybody until it is uncouthly awaken an unleashed its tentacles.
For now, the Liberian government is allowing the bad news that pretrial detention beyond 48 hours legal requirement is on the increase. Instead of working around the clock to apply the law already in place against prolonged detention without trial, the government almost always chooses its usual path on getting on the defensive with loud mouth speakers to deny reports from international and local organizations and bodies.
Not surprise that the 2014 US Human Rights Country Report on Liberia will mention that pre- trial detention is on the rise in Liberia. Not surprise loud mouth government speakers will go wide on the defensive again to debunk the Report as they are always noted to be on the defensive against nearly all reports international and local organizations and bodies published about Liberia, when the facts of those reports are glaring like daylight. Prevention is better than cure, but this is not the case with Liberia. For Liberian spokesmen and spokeswomen, they argued and maintained they are paid to talk and just talk plenty on everything to get their salaries and recognition from government. They call this “we working very hard”. They would prefer the news to be bad and then they go on the defensive to show their bosses they are working. They are like caskets dealers, praying every day for the bad news of death to make money.
Nearly all of the US Human Rights Country Report on Liberia catalogued Liberia human rights abuses to the lack of justice, including judicial inefficiency and corruption, lengthy pretrial detention, denial of due process, among others.
The US 2013 Human Rights Reports on Liberia judiciary reform has been consistently constant on arbitrary arrest and pre-trial detention with the same findings since 2011 and likely with the same finding to come in 2014 since the same acts continue unabatedly. The findings generally and constantly since 2011 includes the following:
Note also that pretrial detention in Liberia is increasing and getting worse .US Human Rights 2013 Report is the highest with an estimated 83 percent of prisoners were pretrial detainees. Its 2012 Reports catalogued an estimated 73 percent in 2012 and 79 percent in 2011. From the prevailing situation with Koijee and scores of other Liberians stockpiled in prisons without trial, the 2014 US Human Rights yet to be published may likely indicate a 100 percent jump of pretrial detainees and then noisy and loud mouth government spokesmen and spokeswomen with be on the defensive again.
Free Mr. Jeferrson Koijee and many others stocked in prisons who poised no “flight risk” or danger to society when released. Free them to have their days in court. Let justice be served for all and sundry! Liberian law guarantees "a speedy and public trial” not to keep arrested persons in prison perpetually when they do not pose threat to the society. The law puts in place mechanism that ensures that a defendant is not subjected to unlawful pre-trial detention. These mechanisms include: (i) the granting of bail and, (ii) the requirement that the defendant be released promptly, if he/she is not charged within the time prescribed under law. Free Koijee and others placed behind bar who are yet be arraigned for trial. Do not wait to be on the defensive .Solve it from the embryonic stage. Stop creating bad news when you can create good news easily. Follow the law without prejudice.