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ECOWAS Court Issues Judgment on Violation of Rights of Liberian Party

ECOWAS Court Issues Judgment on Violation of Rights of Liberian Party
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The ECOWAS Court of Justice has rendered a judgment in a lawsuit filed by the True Whig Party (TWP), a political party from Liberia, alleging violations of their rights to property, fair hearing, and effective remedy by the Republic of Liberia.

In its judgment, the court affirmed its jurisdiction to hear the case and deemed the application admissible. However, it ruled that there was no violation of the right to property by the Republic of Liberia.

The TWP’s lawyer argued that the party was established in 1869, registered as a political entity in Liberia, and served as the ruling party until a coup orchestrated by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in 1980. The party claimed that 13 of its members were summarily executed, and its headquarters, the E.J. Roye Building, was confiscated by the self-styled military government known as the Peoples Redemption Council (PRC).

The applicant contended that despite an amendment allowing the return of the confiscated building, the respondent did not restore the property. Furthermore, the respondent’s offer to purchase the building for $600,000 was rejected. The applicant also highlighted a questionable Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the respondent and former party members who received $130,000 in 2013, even though their tenure had expired. The applicant opposed the respondent’s attempt to transfer ownership of the property to the National Oil Company (NOCAL), a state agency.

The TWP argued that the confiscation violated its rights, particularly the rights to fair hearing and property as enshrined in the Liberian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and international treaties. The party sought a declaration from the court stating that the forceful takeover of its headquarters, the E.J. Roye Building, was unlawful and infringed upon its fundamental rights. Additionally, it requested an order directing the respondent to pay $10 million in aggravated and general damages.

The respondent, the State of Liberia, acknowledged the killings of the party’s leaders and the confiscation of properties, including the party’s headquarters building. The respondent claimed to have sought reconciliation by making a gratuitous payment of $225,000 for the party’s relocation and rebuilding. The respondent argued that the TWP was bound by the MoU, which indicated that the party had leased the property to another entity. It urged the court to declare the application inadmissible based on a prior ruling by the Supreme Court of Liberia on the same matter, asserting that the application constituted an abuse of the court process.

In its judgment, the court determined that the applicant failed to substantiate the claim of a violation of the right to a fair hearing, as guaranteed by Article 7 of the African Charter. Regarding the allegation of a violation of the applicant’s right to property (ownership of the E.J. Roye Building), the court found that the applicant’s claim was unsupported and concluded that the respondent did not violate the applicant’s right to property, as guaranteed by Article 14 of the African Charter.

The judgment was delivered by Judge Rapporteur, Justice Dupe Atoki, with justices Sengu M. Koroma and Ricardo Claúdio Monteiro Gonçalves serving on the panel.

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