Is The Sanctioning of Nathaniel McGill a Consequence of Law or Political Retribution? – (Part 2 of 3 Parts)

By: Salomon P. Harris, Burlington, N.J, USA

In fulfillment of my promise to respond to the sanctioning of Nathaniel McGill in a three-part-series article captioned: “Is The Sanctioning of Nathaniel McGill a Consequence of Law or Political Retribution”, I hereby release Part-2 of my response to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

In part 1 of my response, I substantially justified in law and facts that the shocking sanctioning of Nathaniel McGill is merely an arbitrary action that has no basis in law. A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Treasury designated McGill and others pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818 which significantly seeks to enforce the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act essentially targets perpetrators of severe human rights violations and extreme corruption—anywhere around the world based on convincing evidence. However, no quantum of evidence whatsoever has been produced to prove that McGill fits this characterization of the Magnitsky Act.

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson is quoted as categorically declaring, “Through their corruption, these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their personal benefit. The question remains, where is the evidence to back these claims? That the United States of America made these baseless accusations and imposed a sanction on McGill, only because it has the power to do so, does not automatically make said action right or the incriminating things said about McGill truthful.

The U.S. State Department is under a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to show evidence to back such disturbing claims made against a sitting public official of a sovereign country. However, it has failed to do so despite McGill’s open challenge to these multiple allegations splashed on his name and character, and because it is the “Almighty United States of America” making these claims and effecting these actions, everyone is frightened to demand evidence simply because everyone panics when America sneezes. But the point should be quickly noted that imposing sanction on McGill without the corresponding evidence runs contrary to one key principle of law which states that “every person should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty”. This is a superior maxim in law honored by all legal systems and the American jurisprudence or “Juris Prudential” as in Latin is no exception. And the fundamental doctrine of law is ‘Equity and Justice’—this is why Law is quintessentially made and seeks to accomplish.

Article 14 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states: “All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law. The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public), or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice, but any judgment rendered in a criminal case or a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children”.

Article#10  (UNDHR) “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him”.

These are all international laws contained in human rights covenants that guarantee the rights of all persons irrespective of their social, political, religious, and ideological persuasions. This follows the emphasis that no country, no matter its power or might, is above the law. In the age of democracy and civilization, the law is supreme and no one is above the law—and that is the perfect definition of EQUITY.

Western media, propagandists, and academics are currently shouting above their lungs and slamming Russia’s untold and disgraceful aggression meted out against Ukraine and its people but did not muster the same courage and energy to condemn America and UK’s aggression in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and other countries still reeling from their rash and brutal attacks on them years ago. The saddest part is that America and her western allies never account for their excesses and miscarriages because in honesty and sadly too they are above the law. They can walk into other countries especially African countries, meddle in their internal politics and do whatever they desire. This is downright wrong and detestable! It is nothing more than sheer arrogance rooted in the evils of colonialism.

Having laid my premise, let me restate again the disclaimer I made in Part-1 of this article that I do not know Nathaniel McGill personally, have never interacted with him and neither do I have any special interest in him and the political party with which he is aligned. I might have seen McGill a few times on the main campus of the University of Liberia up Capitol Hill perhaps three decades ago, but he was not my peer in terms of age and academic status. I was a senior and far older than him, and believe he was a freshman. I have only taken interest in his case because he has publicly rejected the crippling allegations made against him and has expressed his willingness to face his accusers and exonerate his name within the sacred square of a court of competent jurisdiction.

His expressed willingness to challenge these heaps of blistering allegations generated my interest as a person who finds faith in the enterprise of justice. As a rule of law practitioner and an ardent respecter of fundamental human rights, I feel ethically and morally obliged to respond to the U.S. sanction arbitrarily imposed on McGill.

I also categorically abhor the utter mischief that McGill was deemed guilty without any opportunity to be heard. It sends piercing chills to my spine that in this new age of human rights, the values America has long defended and adored, a person can be adjudged guilty and penalized without being heard. Interestingly, America does not permit such abrasive travesty of justice to be meted against any of its citizens, not even the dogs that live in America. The rights of all, human beings and animals are guaranteed and protected under American laws and no one dares to violate them. But in another country, American institutions can issue a guilty verdict against a high-ranking official, libel and denigrates him as a corrosive criminal, and impose on him a crippling sanction capable of ruining his entire life. What a Travesty of Justice drenched in imperialism!

I maintained that the sanction imposed on McGill is nothing more than a political retribution deeply rooted in the maneuverings and machination of some diaspora Liberians with a vested political interest in Liberia. Prior to designating McGill and others on the sanction list, we saw Liberians here in the states, consistently staging protestations up Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. against the George Weah Government for what they termed as rampant corruption and bad governance in Liberia.

They petitioned Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey and other Congressmen to open special hearings in Congress on the state of governance in Liberia and insisted that those discussions lead to crippling sanctions being imposed on key officials of the current Liberian government. At the same time, it has been reported right across the Liberian community in the U.S. that these Liberians who have lobbied the U.S. Government to impose sanctions on officials of the Weah government were influenced and bankrolled by Alexander B. Cummings, Leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and Liberian businessman and billionaire Richelieu Dennis. I have no way of substantiating these claims as of yet but in Liberia, there is a famous proverb that says, “Where there is smoke there is fire”. It would seem that the desperation of some Liberian politicians to oust Weah from the Presidency would lead them to great lengths.

They have been tirelessly lobbying congress to impose biting and bruising U.S. sanctions on officials of the Weah government with claims that the government is extremely corrupt. They further accused the Weah government of committing a litany of egregious things that warrant the swift intervention of the United States with which Liberia shares historical ties to “save the country from further harm”. The authenticity of these wild claims made against these officials is not in my court to confirm or deny, but as a rule of law expert, I am inclined not to render judgment on mere allegations or prejudices, until and unless there is irrefutable evidence to back or prove them.

No matter how grave an allegation may be or sound if they are not anchored on solid evidence, they are immaterial and objectionable in the realm of the law.

Before the sanctions were announced, I heard Rep. Chris Smith several times saying that the Congress Committee on African affairs which he serves as chair was concerned about the volumes of corruption allegations and claims of misrule brought against the George Weah government. He was even heard one time in a rather grumpy tone accusing the government of being “kleptocratic” on account of accusations made by Liberians in the U.S.. And again these are Liberians with vested political interests in Liberia and mostly members of the opposition’s ranks—meaning the INTENT of their collective action, as regards lobbying for sanctions to be placed on officials of the regime is most likely than not political. But should we also not be concerned about the credibility of Rep. Smith who championed the cause for sanctions to be placed on McGill and others? Should we not be troubled about the scale of prejudices that saturated the discussions in Congress that led to the decision to sanction the officials when Congressman Smith already held an established opinion that the Weah government was coddled into “Kleptocracy”?

Political pundits are of the view that the sanctioning of Nat McGill amounts to blemishing the Weah presidency and it is a grand scheme meant to severely hurt the Weah government and slim its chances of reelection this year (2023). No doubt, the sanction has ultimately besmeared the reputation of potential surrogates of Weah and by extension defame the government in the eyes of the international community and certainly the local community. They believe that if Weah’s strong men are politically villainized in such an incriminating manner they would have lost the political capital and morale to strengthen Weah’s Presidential bid in the impending 2023. The 2023 presidential election is expected to be fiercely contested by potential candidates with the pedigrees to possibly defeat Weah despite the advantages of being an incumbent, so pounding his trusted confidants with dreadful sanctions could be construed as tipping the scale in favor of the opposition. And if this is the case, then such action amounts to meddling and influencing political results in another country, a disreputable act the Global North is fond of.

 Philosophers are of the view that a Leader is standing on sinking sand if his dependable frontline generals are decimated. It means he has lost his legitimacy and is thus poised to be conquered and devoured by his vicious enemies. Do Weah and his aficionados have eyes to pierce these dark veils and discern the potential danger that looms over them? This is where Weah needs to be extremely careful and pay attention to details. He must think smartly in his response to the U.S. sanctions versus how he treats his people being targeted precisely in the case of Nat McGill.

I have been watching McGill from a distance— obviously because he has been in the limelight, as Minister of State of Presidential Affairs and literally the face of President Weah on several fronts. McGill as a human being and out of natural obsession, perhaps without any negative intention, has made some inappropriate comments in public or promoted some wrong ideas that the opposition didn’t take lightly, and rightfully too. Nonetheless, he is politically savvy when it comes to meticulously navigating the tempestuous texture of politics practiced in Liberia. Amid fierce opposition and a more enlightened and vocal student community, McGill had managed to keep President Weah politically insulated. He has adequately represented the interest of his boss, for the most part in line with their beliefs and motivations as a ruling party. As Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, he managed to maintain a concerted, disciplined, and united Executive. I do not live in Liberia for over twenty years now, but as my native country, I pay keen attention to the politics back home. I have kept my ears sharply open and have never heard where there have been public disagreements in the Executive. It does not mean cabinet ministers in the Weah government do not have disagreements or squabbles but they are disciplined enough to quietly resolve their differences among themselves. This demonstrates control which is very important in power politics.

For five years, McGill consistently stayed at home as Acting Head of the cabinet managing the affairs of the Executive and maintaining hearty cooperation, collaboration, and coordination with the two other Branches of government (Executive and Judiciary). I would think he effectively represents Weah in his absence this is why Weah regularly preferred McGill to act as Head of the cabinet when he was on foreign soil to honor international obligations. This is what loyalty does and I believe right within the very government some envied McGill’s bond with President Weah and the immense power he wielded, and are happy that the Americans had politically exterminated him.

I would not be surprised if facts unravel that people from within the very government also passed on fallacious information to the Americans against McGill. Deception and mendacity are common attitudes of most Liberians.

 A friend from the high ranks of the opposition block told me that McGill was the only official of the Weah government that regularly reached out to key members of the opposition community to exchange notes on several issues of national concern. In some instances, he shared with some of them not with the aim to silence them but with the mindset that they own the country together and the ruling party has on its shoulders the onus to graciously reach out to those in the opposition respectfully and professionally. This is called ‘political expediency’ or ‘consensus building’.

So, the point I am trying to make to Weah and others of the ruling establishment is that Nathaniel McGill is a strategically important figure you want to protect in your very interest, for it could be to your detriment not to do so. I am not a politician and I don’t wish to be one, but studying political leaders across the world for several decades now, I have come to know that political leaders are strategic with people in their parameters or people they give their trust. No matter what, certain individuals are critical assets and must be protected as such. Such quality of people must be made to stay in the fold and never leave. Nat McGill appears to be such a person, a consensus builder, and I believe Weah knows that.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf against all odds stuck her neck for her former Finance Minister Agustine Kpehe Ngafuan despite the General Auditing Commission (GAC) indictment of him for not accounting for US$5M of public resources. Ellen also protected Amara Konneh, also former Finance Minister, who was accused of misappropriating 13 million Euros from the European Union as a grant to Liberia’s challenged Health sector coupled with the pillaging of the PSID funds amongst others. She protected most of her officials not because she didn’t know about the wrong things they personally did and odd things that happened under their watch, but because those were her frontline generals on whose shoulders her government relied. If she had bowed to pressure and cut ties with them, her government could have been disintegrated and paralyzed considering the strategic roles they were playing in her cabinet and national politics generally.

Loyalty is the most essential virtue in the game of politics and life as a whole. If you have a loyal adherent never disengage from them no matter what people say or think about him, real or perceived. McGill has proven to be a loyal and politically savvy person who knows how to peddle through the subversive nature of Liberian politics. Maybe going forward, he needs to be mindful of what he utters before the microphone or in the public space.

I need not say more to President Weah, I have said much. However, the point I am trying to hammer across is that McGill is being unlawfully penalized without the right to exonerate himself. The U.S. State Department of Treasury has only acted on a boatload of chinwags without giving McGill and others the chance to respond to these allegations. And this is essentially why I have chosen to come to the defense of McGill—because I believe his fundamental rights have been markedly violated in utter disregard to the principles of law.

Liberians on the other side of the divide will celebrate the arbitrary sanctioning of  McGill as a victory for the opposition community in  Liberia, but politics aside, the violation of somebody’s rights is nothing to be celebrated as a victory, it should be condemned by all. This is about the law, not politics! Not only that the man’s rights have been sullied, but his reputation has also been badly tarnished when the U.S. Department designated him for sanction for alleged acts of extreme corruption and other dealings antithetical to good governance and moral values. People make all these wild and frivolous claims against McGill without producing any evidence. This is just dead wrong, to say the least. And it is important to remind you that McGill had notified state security apparatuses that criminal individuals were imposing in his name to companies and businesses to solicit funding from them.

In the realm of law, notice is an expression of good intent. But in the name of politics, no one cares about this man’s rights. Everyone has abandoned him characteristic of the true Liberian nature.

Let me conclude with a few pointed lines. America and its institutions are not beyond reproach. They have made myriad mistakes and wrong judgments to the detriment of many countries and individuals around the world. This means America and her western allies are not infallible. Their decisions, actions, and inaction are not unquestionable and neither are they faultless. The Global Magnitsky Act should not be used as a tool to get even with officials of other countries. The Magnitsky Act is an instrument of law meant to protect human rights and ensure good governance, it cannot and must not be used to violate the rights of individuals whom America holds unfavorable views against. The emotional pain and character defamation the U.S. government has subjected McGill is beyond measure, and the willful move to sanction him without being heard only reminds us yet again that imperialism whose genealogy is colonialism still exists.

Watch out for Part-3 next week!

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