Jefferson Koijee’s Detention without Trial is illegal, Release Him

By Ernest S. Maximore


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 8, 2014

                  



 

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:

  1. That “the [Liberian] law provides that detainees either be charged or released within 48 hours; however, arrests often were made without warrants, or warrants were sometimes issued without sufficient evidence.”
  2. That  “Detainees, particularly the majority without the means to hire a lawyer, often were held for more than 48 hours without charge.
  3. That “ Detainees have the right to prompt determination of the legality of their arrest, but this did not always occur.”
  4. That the “ law provides for bail for all criminal offenses except first-degree rape, murder, armed robbery, and treason. Detainees have the right to prompt access to counsel, visits from family members, and if indigent, an attorney provided by the state in criminal and civil cases, but the government did not always observe such rights.
  5. That “Although the law provides for the right of a defendant to receive an expeditious trial, lengthy pretrial and pre-arraignment detention remained serious problems. An estimated 83 percent of prisoners were pretrial detainees…”

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.


About the Author: Ernest S.Maximore, is a Liberian Journalist, poet, lawyer, and former classroom teacher and Director of Communications at the General Auditing Commission (GAC) of Liberia and advocate for good governance and social justice. He can be reached at esmaxus@yahoo.com

Slewion Benson
Jefferson Koijee is in prison while those who killed our people in West Point continue to dine at Ellen's table. If this is the good governance that Ellen receives awards for, let it be said
Slewion Benson at 02:03PM, 2014/11/08.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
This extreme disregard for due process by Ellen and her government and her appointed county attorney or judges certainly shocks the conscience,offends the sense of justice, and runs counter to the decencies of civilized conduct and those of any democratic polity or responsible government.EVEN PLANTING AN EBOLA PATIENT?
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 02:44PM, 2014/11/08.
David Flomo
The disgusting implementation of injustice that have been unleashed by the Sirleaf government is unacceptable to the prerogative of all Liberians.Mr Koijee likewise other alleged prisoners are entitled to due process of law,the enforcement of cronyism and impunity of convicted elite is what this government is noted for. Justice must prevail free Jefferson Koijee and allow the law to take it course.
David Flomo at 04:31PM, 2014/11/08.
Uriel
Hi Myles, I've been enjoying your alirctes on "Getting By". Just returned from a 3 week visit to Liberia this May.I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Robertsport from 1969-72. I was very impressed with the entrepreneurial skills of Liberians as they try to eek out a living. Portable generators have enabled small businessmen to open cinemas (generator+tv+dvd+mudhut) as well as night clubs. Stalls in upcountry market towns use generators to recharge cell phones for a small fee. I don't know the economics of these arrangements but I'm sure it is fascinating which is why I am enjoying your posts.
Uriel at 02:26PM, 2015/12/01.

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