Editorial: The Real And Present Danger To Judges And, Therefore, The Rule Of Law, Stability And Peace And Security

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THE IMPORTANCE OF judges to the democracy we are enjoying today is of such that Liberia risks instability should the government not take cognizance and control of the numerous attacks on the lives of judges and magistrates of the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia (NATJL).

JUDGES, THE CRADLE of the rule of law and stability in our nurtured democracy, have come under armed attack in recent time. The homes of His Honor Judge Roosevelt Willie, His Honor Roland Dahn and His Honor Ousman Feika were reportedly attacked by gun men. “These assaults are not random, as the judges who are affected believe them to be targeted, and the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia (NATJL) shares this opinion. There is concerted effort by these cowards to harass and terrorize judges and magistrates from exercising their Constitutional authority to interpret the law. There are incidents of putting out the ‘country devil’ (masked men), particularly in the leeward counties, to frighten magistrates from undertaking their responsibilities. This type of conduct by such dishonorable persons must be immediately stopped; else, the rule of law and the effective administration of justice are jeopardized,” the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia (NATJL) has observed.

ACCORDING TO THE NATJL, Article 73 of the 1986 Constitution states, “No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace. Statements made and acts done by such officials in the course of a judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and subject to the above qualification, no such statements made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial proceedings.” The judges lamented that, despite the protection under the organic law of the land, judges are subject to persecution for their judicial statements and acts, as evident from the multiple and vicious attacks on them and their family members.

“LIBERIA, AND DARE add that judges globally, have the herculean task of shouldering the burden of securing the stability of the state. It is the decisions of courts that give effect to elections, and install government democratically elected, should a controversy arise. It is the opinions of courts that protect lives, restore liberty, and guarantee property rights and the pursuit of happiness. “The importance of an independent Judiciary and its impact on the rule of law cannot be overstated,” the NATJL maintained.

“JUDGES COME INTO their role fully aware of the risks, especially in jurisdictions such as Liberia that have seen a series of civil insurrections and the growth of vigilante justice. Yet, the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary must be safe-guarded to also ensure protection of fundamental rights and perpetuity of this nation. Innocent blood was shed, lives lost and rights trampled upon to arrive at what Liberians have today, a seemingly peaceful nation since about 15 years now. To maintain the status quo, those, that is, judges, who give interpretation to the law—the pillars through which democracy is assured—must themselves be safe.”

THE NATJL HAS therefore called on the state, the international community, embassies accredited near Monrovia, residents and the citizenry to similarly take keen interest to amplify and do something about the “real and present” danger to the lives of Liberian judges.

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