The ECOWAS Court of Justice on Thursday in Abuja dismissed a suit filed against the government of the Liberian Government of rights violations.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the alliance of Liberia’s political parties dragged the government to court challenging the decision of the country’s National Electoral Commission (NEC).
In suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/49/20, the parties comprising the Unity Party, the Liberty Party, the Alternative National Congress and the All Liberian Party alleged the violation of their rights.
The parties told the court that they were not allowed to participate in the conduct of public affairs in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
Delivering judgment, Justice Dupe Atoki, held that a defective Voter’s Roll was not a matter within its competence in the context of Article 13(1) of the Charter that guaranteed a right to vote and be voted for.
The court held that the process or conduct of an election same being regulated by the national laws, any challenge thereof belongs to the national realm for adjudication and redress.
She noted that thus, issues of the integrity and credibility of an election process rightfully belonged to the national jurisdiction.
The ECOWAS court further reiterated its position in a plethora of cases that it was not an appellate court and would not review the decisions of domestic courts.
This, Atoki explained was as regards the Applicant’s second contention on the refusal of the Supreme Court to grant a Writ of Mandamus compelling a clean-up of the voters register was a violation of the Applicant’s right to a fair hearing.
She however, noted that the court would consider and rule as appropriate, where there had been an allegation of human rights violation touching on the proceedings before the domestic courts.
“In reviewing the decision of a national court in an allegation of lack of fair hearing, the Applicant must prove that an irregularity in the procedure occurred.
“However, the Applicant has not indicated any irregularities in the proceedings at the Supreme Court to support a denial of a fair hearing.
“Indeed, the Applicant confirmed that they were heard, but their grouse is that the court refused to grant the relief sought”, Atoki said.
The court also noted that the refusal of the Supreme Court to issue the Writ of Mandamus for which the Applicant had applied clearly fell out of the contemplation of Article 7 of the Charter.
This, the court also explained could not be classified as an irregularity in the procedure before the Supreme Court.
Earlier, lawyers representing the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Femi Falana, SAN, Femi Adedeji, Benedict Sannoh, Samuel kofi Woods and Finley Karngar, told the court that the Supreme Court of Liberia had acknowledged several irregularities in the voters’ roll.
This, they said was acknowledged following an earlier petition filed by two political parties challenging the integrity of the Voters Roll and ordered the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to clean up the voters roll.
The lawyers said that following the non-implementation of the order of the Supreme Court, they filed an application before it requesting for a writ of mandamus.
The application, they said was to compel NEC to clean up the Voter Roll but the court declined and that other attempts to ensure compliance by the commission were unsuccessful.
The lawyers urged the ECOWAS Court to declare that conducting the mid-term elections without a clean-up of the Voters Roll.
They also said that the release at least 30 days prior to the elections amounted to violation of their rights to free, transparent and credible elections, which was crucial for national stability and peace.
In its defense, Liberia’s Solicitor General, Sayma Cephus and Lafayette Gould told the court that NEC carried out a clean-up of the Voters Roll, adding that a component of the CPP and another party participated in the run-off elections.
The defence attorneys also told the court that the ECOWAS technical team was involved in the clean-up process.
They also told the court that the additional names on the Voters Roll were those who turned 18 years between 2017 and 2020, a period of three years after the last updating exercise of the initial Voters Roll.
NAN reports that on the panel of the court with Atoki are Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara (presiding) and Januaria Moreira Costa. (NAN)