Liberia: Senate Sets Stage for Impeachment; Votes to Amend Rule 63

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Monrovia – Plenary of the Liberian Senate Tuesday, November 6, set the stage for the impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh and all other future impeachment by voting to amend Rule 63 of the Senate Standing Rules.

Report by Henry Karmo [email protected]

In the wake of the decision, Senator Daniel Naathen of Gbapolu County thinks his colleagues are wrongfully proceeding.

In the Senate’s Judiciary Committee’s report to plenary, the Committee claimed the amendment of Rule 63 is being done in conformity with the provisions of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

In the amended Rule 63, two-third votes will be required for any impeachment to occur. The amendment calls for two-third (2/3) members of the entire membership of the Senate and anything contrary to two-third (2/3), the accused shall be rendered an acquittal judgment.

“If the impeachment shall not upon any of the articles/resolutions presented, be sustained by the votes of two-third of the entire membership of the Senate, a verdict of acquittal shall be entered and the Chief Justice or the Presiding Officer shall enter a judgment of acquittal thereon.”

Inasmuch as the Senate decided to amend that rule, some members of that august body believe their colleagues’ decision is unconstitutional and have threatened to take the entire body to court if they continue in the path they are trending.

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Senator Daniel Naathen of Gbapolu County, in an interview with legislative reporters said, the Tuesday vote taken was against Article 43 of the Liberian 1986 Constitution, which sets the basis for impeachment. According to him, the setting of rules for impeachment should not be done by a single house but both chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives.

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“We should have satisfied that constitutional responsibility under Article 43 as required. Rule 63 is in violation of the Constitution of Liberia. To include Rule 63 in our standing rules, I think it is wrong and in direct contravention of Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution,” he maintained.

The Amended Rules

According to our Legislative Reporter, following the Tuesday decision by the Senate, members of this House shall now meet from day-to-day for the exclusive purpose of deciding on the day and date on which the formal trial of impeachment shall commence.

Once the day and date of the trial of impeachment is set by the Senate, the President Pro Tempore shall instruct the Secretary of the Senate to inform the House of Representatives and the Chief Justice.

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The President Pro Tempore shall instruct the Secretary of the Senate to send a Writ of Summons to Associate Justice Ja’neh against whom articles/resolutions of impeachment have been preferred by the House of Representatives, to which Writ of Summons shall be attached the articles/resolutions of impeachment.

The Writ of Summons shall give Associate Justice Ja’neh 10 days within which he must file answers or responses to the articles/resolutions of impeachment. The Writ also would advise him on the date such answers/responses shall be filed with the Secretary of the Senate and that if he refuses to file a response or an answer or otherwise appear in response, judgment of guilty shall be entered against him and the Senate shall thereafter impose the penalty or sanction deemed appropriate under the law and the constitution.

In the amended rules, the Senate also decided that when it gets to voting for impeachment, the vote shall be by the show of hands, unless the show of hands demand by one-fifth of the members present that the vote shall be taken by head count; and in this latter case, the name of each Senator present shall be called to show who votes for, against or abstains.

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The amended rule 63 also states, “That up on the presentation of articles/resolutions of impeachment and the organization of the Senate herein before provided, a writ of summons shall be issued to the accused, reciting said articles/resolution to which said articles/resolutions shall be attached, and notifying him/her to appear before the Senate upon a day and at a place to be fixed by the senate and named in such writ.”

In the same amended rule 63, a Senator shall not volunteer or be called as a witness in an impeachment trial. If a senator wishes a question to be put to witness, or to offer a motion order (except a Motion to adjourn), it shall be reduced to writing and put by the presiding officer of the trial to the witness.

“On the final question whether, the impeachment is sustained, the vote for impeachment shall be taken on a verdict form and there shall be verdict form for each article/resolution impeachment separately. The President Pro-Tempore and Chief Justice or presiding officer shall draft the verdict form and each Senator, who votes for an article/resolution of impeachment shall enter his/her name and signature on the verdict form.”

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