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Death Penalty Standing Alone Is Not The Answer – To crime Prevention and Effective Law Enforcement In Liberia

Posted August 10, 2008
The Association of Liberian Lawyers in the Americas, Inc. (ALLA)

Members and Officers of the Association of Liberian Lawyers in the Americas, Inc. (ALLA) are appalled and downhearted to read and learn that the government of the Republic of Liberia and the National Legislature have enacted and signed into law a bill intended to curtail and prevent the commission of the crimes of armed robbery, hijacking, and terrorism by hanging. According to this law, an accused person indicted, tried, and found guilty of any of the crimes named under this Act shall be sentenced to death by hanging or life. For now, armed robbery, hijacking, and terrorism, constitute a capital offense and death by hanging or life imprisonment is their awarded penalty.

Overwhelmingly this bill was enacted and recently signed into law by the President of the Republic of Liberia. Just like murder, this law and all other death penalty laws found on the books of Liberia are cruel, inhumane, and unjust for the Republic of Liberia and its citizenry. Forcefully and vehemently ALLA is articulating and asserting that because under this law, an accused indicted, tried, and found guilty could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, it sees the need for legislative review and evaluation in Liberia. Since such death could be carried out by hanging for the alleged commission of the crimes of armed robbery, hijacking, or terrorism, ALLA is calling on the government of Liberia to rescind and repeal this law, honor its international obligation as to respecting the right to life and to immediately proceed to encourage modern legislative review and reform in Liberia.

ALLA is deeply disappointed and downhearted because any law that sanctions and respects the death penalty or the killing of a fellow human being is truly distressing and unrealistic to fighting crimes. In these modern days, re-instituting and restoring the death penalty as an answer to effective law enforcement and prevention of crimes is clearly repugnant and counterproductive. ALLA submits and represents that effective law enforcement and crime prevention in any country is not successful because the death penalty is imposed or instituted. Rather, the prevention of crimes and the enforcement of law and order will be successful when the criminal justice system is wholeheartedly and financially supported by a government and its people.

ALLA submits and says that all Liberian laws that respect and restore the death penalty in Liberia ought to be stricken from our books. The death penalty, whether it represents putting a fellow Liberian to death by handing, firing, or by injection, same is cruel, inhumane, and is psychologically painful.

In Liberia, an accused is presumed innocent until proved guilty by the State. In every case, the controlling issue is proof. An accused, when indicted must be tried and convicted by his peers. The burden to try and convict a criminal defendant is based on proof or the probative value of the evidence presented at trial. This burden rests on the shoulders of the state and trial jury. Liberia needs to distance and divorce herself from national and international pressure and political emotionalism when it comes to enacting policies or making laws.

The Law of Evidence provides that the proof used to convict an accused in a criminal proceedings must be beyond all reasonable doubt and probative. The contrary is most of the time true in Liberia. In Liberia, judicial history has established that the grand and trial jury have always indicted or found an accused guilty in politically charged cases not relying purely on proof or the existing facts. Elite and highly educated Liberians have always refused and resisted serving on the grand and petite jury. As the result of this, only the poor, jobless, downcast and undereducated Liberians have been summoned to appear and serve as jurors. Actually, this is a great inducement and potential for encouraging and accepting bribes; although bribery is a criminal offense and illegal in Liberia.

Moreover the Republic of Liberia lacks the appropriate method and mechanism to transparently investigate, charged, indict, tried and convict an accused without actual and undue interference by powerful governmental officials or wealthy litigants. Whether in civil or criminal proceedings, jury trials and the conviction thereof can be likened to or equated with a blind man game. Because of underemployment and the economic hardship currently prevailing in Liberia, a verdict of guilty or not guilty could be returned by a trial jury having received bribes. In other words and in some cases, he who pays the highest amount of bribes during a jury trial in Liberia is more likely than not to get the verdict. Many poor and financially underserved citizens of Liberia usually make the sitting as grand or petite jury a permanent job. At times, the grand jury will indict an accused without finding a presentment or a true bill. The legal system in Liberia is too fragile and unpredictable to entrust the life of a criminal defendant in the hands of a grand or trial jury.

The Legal System of Liberia is Unpredictable

Considering the economic hardship and the overwhelming underemployment rate in Liberia today, poor and jobless jurors are tempted against their will and consciences to accept bribes. Some of these jurors could be bribed by wealthy litigants or powerful governmental officials. Particularly so where a case is politically and emotionally driven. Sadly in such cases, justice is either sold or bought. ALLA is therefore calling on the government of Liberia and its operatives to put its money where its mouth is. To effectively curtail and prevent armed robbery, hijacking, terrorism, and killings for land in Liberia, the government of Liberia needs to re-examine its 2008 to 2009 budget and lineup more money to

support and strengthen law and order in Liberia. Let law and order be prioritized by the government of Liberia. This is what a country returning from war to peace should and must do.

Liberia Cannot Re-institute the Death Penalty

Represented by the Bryant government, on September 16, 2005, Liberia signed and ratified the Second Optional Protocol. This international covenant or treat is aimed at totally abolishing the death penalty in all members and ratifying states. Liberia was not interfered with or induced to have signed and ratified this international instrument. Liberia did so at her own free will, consent, and approval. This is what the Second Optional Protocol that Liberia signed and ratified demands:

Article I

1. No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed.

2. Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction. Liberia having signed and ratified the Second Optional Protocol of United Nations, she cannot rescind or revoke its force and binding effect unsoundly and arbitrarily.

Courtroom gavel

Courtroom gavel

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 clearly forbid and prohibit the death penalty:

Article I

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.

Article II

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of human rights.

Article III

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. That is every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

Article V

No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. ALLA submits and says that imposing the death penalty by hanging in Liberia represents cruel, humane, and degrading treatment or punishment.

Article VI

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article VII

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. ALLA says that the death penalty will amount to inequality.

Another piece of legislation that is seemingly making judicial news in Liberia today is the newly enacted rape law. According to this Act, an accused has committed rape and must be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, if he is alleged to have raped, or sodomized a girl or woman against her will and consent. This new law respecting rape is a capital offense and carries the death penalty or life imprisonment. Being a capital offense, an accused is not entitled to bail as provided for and directed by the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia. So, ALLA submits and says that it believes that there are good intentions behind the passage of this law. But, the issue that is controlling under this rape law is, is the death penalty or life imprisonment, appropriate and proportionate to the crime of rape as charged?

Does the punishment for rape represent equal work for equal pay?

Under the doctrine of law and society, the punishment for a crime when committed and established by proof beyond all reasonable doubt, must be appropriate and proportionate to the crime the accused is said to have committed. This is so because it is not justice to do injustice. Again ALLA thinks and do not believe that law and order is achieved and would be achieved by the imposition of the death penalty or life imprisonment on an accused for the alleged commission of the crime of rape. A society and a community cannot prevent crimes by merely attempting to impose on a criminal defendant the life or the death penalty as a means of curtailing and preventing crimes. This law is too severe and unrealistic. We are calling on the government to also revisit this law.

Since 1979 to 2003, Liberians and residents of Liberia have spilled out blood on our land. Therefore, ALLA submits and says that Liberia can no longer afford to waste more and more blood in Liberia; whether the death penalty is imposed in the name of ensuring security and stability in Liberia or not. It is about time that the government of Liberia resolves to commit itself and the resources of Liberia to rehabilitate, reconstruct, and reconcile its people. As it stands, the death penalty standing alone is not the answer to the many crimes that are being committed in Liberia today. What these types of politically and emotionally charged laws would do is to embarrass and bring shame to a nation and its people. In the name of human rights and social justice, the rape law needs to be revisited to create its proportionate effect and appropriate impact in Liberia.

Perhaps, the government of Liberia could work harder and harder to rehabilitate and recreate the method to support the employment needs of its people instead of singing into law bills that are intended to execute more and more of its traumatized citizens. ALLA strongly condemns all forms of crimes in Liberia!

Prepared and issued this 5th day of August, A.D. 2008 by:

The Association of Liberian Lawyers in the Americas, Inc. (ALLA)

By and Thru, Frederick A.B. Jayweh, B.A., LL.B., and LL.M.

Counselor-At-Law & Executive Director

Association of Liberian Lawyers in the Americas, Inc. (ALLA)

4111 Odessa Street, Denver, CO 80249

Culled from


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