RIA Scandal Secret Recordings
RIA Scandal Secret Recordings
RIA Scandal Secret Recordings
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|Woods on the Case: Activist, Former Minister Leads FPA Appeal at ECOWAS Court||| Print ||
|Written by FPA Staff Report|
|Monday, 19 August 2013 16:24|
Monrovia - The management of FrontPageAfrica is pleased to reveal that Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods has agreed to represent the newspaper in its appeal process at the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria.
Mr. Woods, who most recently served as Minister of Public Works, is a human rights activist, former journalist, politician and academic. In 1994, he founded the Forefront Organization, which documented human rights abuses during the Second Civil War.
Woods has made his mark in working tirelessly in the field of human rights and has been vigilant in exposing child labor practices and injustice throughout Liberia.
Active even while a student, he was first arrested in 1981. During the Liberian civil war in 1989 Woods escaped to Ghana, but returned to Liberia in 1991 and founded a human rights organization, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
He operated a radio program aimed at exposing improper arrests, unlawful executions and informing citizens of their civil rights. In 1994 Woods created the Forefront Organization in order to shed light on human rights abuses during the Second Liberian Civil War.
In 2006, Woods became the Minister of Labor under President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, only to become Minister of Public Works in 2009 following a cabinet shake-up. Mr. Woods previously took up the case of Journalist Hassan Bility with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights based in Banjul, Gambia in 2002.
Said Woods: "As a human rights lawyer I am proud to associate with a case involving the issue of Freedom of the Press and expression. We will use the law, we will approach regional institutions for redress where it appears impossible to obtain justice through our domestic legal system.
By this act, we will also set new precedence and establish and advance new frontiers for lawyers and other citizens in Liberia. This is important for our new found democracy and sustaining our cherished freedoms. By this act, I am not doing Frontpageafrica a favor but rather we are engaging in a universal enterprise to help our sustained peace and promote the respect for human rights."
Last Friday, the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in Liberia gave the green-light for lawyers of the former Agriculture Minister to proceed with enforcement of the court’s US$1.5 million judgment against FrontPageAfrica print edition newspaper, effectively paving the way for the eventual closure of the newspaper’s print edition and lost of jobs for at least 40 employees at the newspaper.
The Bill of Costs approved by Judge J. Boima Kontoe Friday, puts the final amount at S$1,624,000.00(one million, six hundred, eight and twenty four thousand United States Dollars.
The ruling came in spite of a ton of evidence presented at trial and testimony from auditors at the GAC detailing Dr. Toe's misdeeds, including a letter from President Sirleaf to the General Auditing Commission calling for a probe and the GAC;s Guthrie Plantation audit. Toe was asked to resign in the wake of the army worm scandal during which Sirleaf questioned his handling of the funds.
FrontPageAfrica raised serious charges of jury and judge tampering, including an incident that where Dr. Toe’s lawyers were seen in a discussion with a juror outside the court, during the trial to no avail. Publisher Rodney Sieh says, Woods will bring much-needed firepower in the newspaper’s quest to fight the bogus, frivolous verdict.
“What people don’t understand is that it is not easy for newspapers like ours to find lawyers who understand the media, especially libel issues and the bounds of public officials. I think Mr. Woods understands and has what it takes to reverse the trend that the judicial lapses in our own country has failed to grasp,” said the publisher.
Mr. Sieh said, he and his late colleague Tom Kamara experience similar problems in getting lawyers willing to represent them in the courts out of fear that judges could look on the lawyers unfavorably for representing critical media against the judicial system.”
Sieh said there were a lot of problems overlooked in the case. “Tampered jurors were not dealt with properly and we do not believe Judge Yussif Kaba handled the case well.” At the Supreme Court level, Associate Justice Phillip Banks should have recused himself from the case owing to the fact that his sister is married to Emmanuel James, lawyer representing former Minister Toe’s the legal interest.”
At least 40 employees are poised to be out of jobs when the ruling comes into effect.
At a news conference Saturday, the FPA employees reiterated the judicial lapses which could see all of them out of jobs. “For us we this is not a strange thing in our legal system where family connection higher bidder takes precedence over justice especially when the case at bar is just one of the newest cases on the supreme court dockets when several other cases including the landmark Angel Tokpa case is still languishing in the courts with no sign of adjudication.”
FrontPageAfrica believes that its fight at the ECOWAS level could help draw attention to their case and their quest for real justice. The London-Based Media Legal Defence Fund is also on board and is expected to provide financial assistance in the ECOWAS fight.
The ECOWAS Community Court is the judicial organ of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) and is charged with resolving disputes related to the Community’s treaty, protocols and conventions. The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has competence to hear individual complaints of alleged human rights violations.
The court was founded on May 28, 1975, under the Treaty of Lagos for the purpose of promoting economic integration across the region, ECOWAS comprises fifteen West African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
The ECOWAS Court of Justice was created pursuant to the Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States of 1993, and is headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria. In addition to providing advisory opinions on the meaning of Community law, the Court has jurisdiction to examine cases involving: an alleged failure by a Member State to comply with Community law; a dispute relating to the interpretation and application of Community acts; dispute between Community institutions and their officials; Community liability human rights violations, and the legality of Community laws and policies.
The Court gained “jurisdiction to determine case[s] of violation[s] of human rights that occur in any Member State” in 2005 with the implementation of Supplementary Protocol A/SP.1/01/05, which followed the adoption of Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance, requiring that the Court be given “the power to hear, inter alia, cases relating to violations of human rights…” The Court’s decisions on human rights matters interpret the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, considered by Article 1(h) of Protocol A/SP1/12/01 to contain “constitutional principles shared by all Member States” as legally binding on ECOWAS Member States. Corporations and individuals can submit complaints alleging human rights violations by the Community or Member State actors.
MEDIA LEGAL DEFENCE INITIATIVE
The London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative exists to help journalists and media outlets defend their rights. The initiative We help journalists regardless of the medium they use - print, broadcast or internet - and we do so by making sure they have good lawyers defending them. If necessary we pay legal fees and we work alongside lawyers to make sure the best possible legal defence is provided.
The initiative works directly with individual lawyers around the world, and also have partnerships with national organizations who provide legal aid to journalists. These partnerships are in countries such as Uganda, where the threat of legal action against journalists is high and journalists have no access to affordable high quality legal defence. Our long-term goal is to strengthen media legal defence capacity around the world by supporting initiatives that enhance the legal knowledge, skills and effectiveness of those working in the field.