The former Chairperson of the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Cllr. Jerome Verdier, has termed the arrest of opposition stalwart and political activist as glaringly misguided, hasty and ill-intentioned, violating the elementary principles of constitutional call law.
Providing four counts that point to the unconstitutionality of Mr. Manikpakei Dumoe’s arrest, Cllr. Verdier in his reaction sent to The Analyst through WhatsApp over the weekend said, in the first instance, free speech is free, inherent and inalienable. “It is sacrosanct and bears the weight of constitutional protection,” he noted.
Secondly, Cllr. Verdier said the Government of Liberia issued a writ of search and seizure without any just (problem) cause and went on a fishing expedition to find an arrestable cause for arrest and prosecution.
“Before attempting an arrest, or applying for a writ of search and seizure the prosecuting must have guaranteed that they have a strong basis for prosecuting the defendant and the aforesaid writ was prayed for to support the allegations or established facts of the crime, or prevent the further or continuing commission of the crime complained of or to prevent the commission of any other crime. The writ is normally prayed for to obtain substantive evidence to support the circumstantial evidence gathered to prosecute the crime, if a conviction is not procureable by the circumstantial evidence alone in the estimation of the prosecutor. This was wrong because the prosecution went looking for evidence to convict an imaginary crime, a figment of the prosecutor’s imagination,” Cllr. Verdier averred.
In the third instance, Cllr. Verdier observed that Mr Dumoe was apparently arrested and hand-cuffed like a common criminal or violent person of interest or suspect without the reading of his rights to remain silent and the crime for which he is being arrested and charged and that he has a right to remain silent till his lawyers advise him otherwise.
“This is very basic and fundamental right of freedom that was violated by the prosecution for which violations, Mr Dumoe has earned the right to sue the Government of Liberia in damages in multiple counts for the unprovoked violation of his rights,” Cllr. Verdier postulated.
Lastly, Cllr. Verdier reasoned that although Solicitor General Cephus, up to the time of the arrest of Mr. Dumoe, had no valid reason to continue holding him in detention, the Chief Prosecutor avowed in a press conference that he will continue to hold the suspect till after the expiry of 48 hours because the Condition so provides.
“This, an abuse of the 48-hour, was violated by the Solicitor General. Said rule is not a freedom to violate the accused person’s freedom but it is a limitation on the rights of the Government to arrest a free law-abiding citizen. It is a mandate to protect civil Liberties and a charge to the prosecution to be diligent enough and fair so as to have laid down the basis of arrest including a charge so that as soon as the arrest is made a charge must be proffered without delay, if not immediate, upon arrest. It is a restriction on the prosecutor and not a leverage to hold an innocent man in detention against his will, without a cause or charge for 48 hours. That’s an absolute abuse of power and authority contrary to the dictates, thinking or estimation or reasoning of the law. Those holding powers granted by the Constitution in exercise of constitutional mandates granted by we, the people, must exercise those powers in favor of utmost restraints against outright abuse which is an attribute of totalitarian ruler ship against our avowed democratic aspirations,” noted Cllr. Verdier.
Was a Crime Committed? No!
In providing reasons why Mr. Dumoe’s arrest was illegal because he committed no crime, Cllr. Verdier noted that the statement made by Mr. Dumoe was exercised in the spirit and within the realms of free speech protected by the Constitution.
“A speech, however abhorrent to the sensibilities of the hearer or a governing authority, once not constituting or spewing hate (there are no hate speech laws in Liberia) or causing harm to any one imaginary or real, physical or emotional, accompanied by an action or acts to perpetuate the crime, hate, or hard is innocent, harmless and mere speech subject to the protection of the Constitution which no one can deny or infringe,” the learned lawyer stated.
Give me Gun, Not Free Rice
Justifying the harmlessness of the allusion made by Mr. Dumoe regarding his call on government to provide him AK-47, not rice, Cllr. Verdier observed that it was an innocent, harmless free speech that could as much said “give me liberty or give me death”.
“No crime was committed worthy of pardon, just as no sin was committed worthy of forgiveness. It is a wanton display of ignorance and arrogance for any public official to think otherwise. Any reference to AK-47 is a reminder of global revolution and April 12, 1980 coup d’état but it is not a cause of it or a threat to our fragile, stable and peaceful society. It’s a reminder of April 12, 1980 Military Coup because the justification for the coup was, violations of human rights, rampant corruption and misuse of public offices and abuse of power,” noted Cllr. Verdier.
The former TRC boss further observed that Mr. Dumoe’s reference of AK-47 is a clear reminder of April 12, 1980, 40 years ago today because the Weah Government is as corrupt as any past government could have been or was.
“The Weah Government is massively suffering the people and violating their human rights without redress just as any tyrannical or totalitarian Government would do. Misuse of public office is common today that the representatives and senators believe their offices are held for themselves to receive bribes and for the President to dictate whatever he desires to them. That’s misuse of public office just as the soldiers of 1980 did. Forty years later, don’t we want to be reminded so that we can change our ways of bad governance to one of good Governance where there will be justice, and anti-corruption and public offices will be used for the good of the people and not for the selfish gains of public holders who do not see themselves as public servants but as public gods, who can do no wrong, see no evil, hear no evil and see themselves beyond accountability and justice; showing no respect for the offices they occupy or the people who put them there? There is corruption all over the place, so rampant that its beginning to appear as normal as eating and drinking,” Cllr. Verdier lamented.
“Also, there’s abuse and misuse of public office. Their offices are used to not benefit the poor but themselves. They are serving themselves and not the people. That’s why mentioning AK-47 is a threat to them because in the dark shadows of their minds they are evil and doing the people no good,” averred Cllr. Verdier.