News / Africa

Liberian Supreme Court Suspends Justice Minister

Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia
Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia
James Butty
Liberia’s Supreme Court has suspended the country’s justice minister – Christiana Tah -- from practicing law for six months after finding her in contempt of court. 

In October, the court ordered Tah to explain why she should not be held in contempt for releasing FrontPageAfrica managing editor Rodney Sieh from prison. 

The court had jailed Sieh for failing to pay a $1.5 million libel fine to former agriculture minister J. Chris Toe.

Tah said then that her decision to release Sieh on “compassionate” grounds was part of her duties as attorney-general.

Tah is Liberia’s chief prosecutor and legal advisor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Her suspension raises questions for the government.  Will the president ask the court to reconsider its decision?  How effectively can Tah carry out her responsibilities without her law credentials?  

Information Minister Lewis Brown said Sirleaf is aware of the court’s decision and is consulting with legal experts on the government’s options and rights.

“The executive is aware of this ruling; the executive has received it," said Brown. "The executive recognizes its duty to enforce it.  But, it is working in a way to find out what are its rights as well and, in the face of such action, what are the options available to it.”

The information minister said the fundamental principle of the government is to continue to build and strengthen Liberia’s democracy around the rule of law.

Severe blow to the President?

FrontPageAfrica reports in its Monday online edition that the Supreme Court’s suspension of Tah “marked only the second time in Liberia’s history that a sitting Minister of Justice, who also doubles as Dean of the high court and chief legal advisor to the President, had been dealt a severe professional blow”.
 
The paper said the only other time that this has happened was during the administration of the late President Samuel Kanyon Doe, when the late Chief Justice Emmanuel Gbalazeh suspended then Justice Minister Jenkins K.Z.B. Scott for reportedly referring to judges as ‘unprofessional.’
 
But, according to FrontPageAfrica, Doe “prevailed on Gbalazeh to reverse his decision and pointed out that the court’s ruling to revoke Scott’s license amounted to removing him from office, and that only the Head of State could remove government Ministers."

Brown would not comment when asked if Sirleaf would ask the Supreme Court to withdraw its decision to suspend Tah’s license except to say that Sirleaf will continue to deepen the progress that has been made.

“One thing you can be sure is that this president, as has been done in the past, will continue to respect the line of demarcation of the court, the independence of the various branches and the duty of the court to say what the law is,” Brown said.

He said he was not sure whether Sirleaf can go for six months or even a week without a justice minister.

“That is why she has availed herself to a wide range of consultations, including with legal scholars and luminaries in the country, those who have greater depth about what our constitution says.

"You know, the court can make a decision, but it requires the executive to enforce the decision,” Brown said.

The Supreme Court also suspended for three months Beyan Howard, a member of FrontPageAfrica’s legal team in its Toe libel case.

Butty interview with Lewis Brown
Butty interview with Lewis Browni
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid