Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Due Process Lawsuit: Teage Appeals for Support to Keep Parties Honest

Written by Alvin Teage Jalloh, Esq
Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Source: Liberian Forum

 Click to view writ issued by court

As the public debate surrounding my lawsuit against the Liberian government for its unconstitutional enforcement of several provisions of the Aliens and Nationality Law continues, I would like to provide you with additional facts.

I was born in Bopolu, Liberia, to two natural-born Liberian citizens, and acquired my Liberian citizenship at birth. During the devastating Liberian civil war, I was forced into exile and sought refuge in foreign lands. Although forced into exile, I did not leave my constitutional rights at any of the warring parties' check points that were placed throughout our nation. My constitutional due process right comes from the same Constitution that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, members of the Honorable 52nd Legislature, and members of the Honorable Supreme Court took an oath to defend and uphold.

I understand the political views about dual citizenship. The question in my lawsuit, however, is not about dual citizenship. Nor is it about an alleged renunciation oath as some would have you believe. Not everyone who becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States is required to take a renunciation oath. Rather, the question in my lawsuit is more fundamental to Liberia’s constitutional democracy: whether the government can enforce a statute, which on its face, purports to abrogate the due process clause under Article 20(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

One of the most profound accomplishments of our framers was the establishment of a document that is the highest law of Liberia. The Constitution establishes three separate, but equal branches of government, and spells out the limited roles and powers of each branch. Among other basic principles essential to our constitutional democracy, the Constitution defines certain fundamental rights of the people which the government may not violate. Due process of law is one of the fundamental rights.

Perhaps the most important, early lesson about due process comes from the Garden of Eden. Although knowing that Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God did not summarily punish Adam and Eve. God interrogates both Adam and Eve, and gives each of them an opportunity to provide an excuse for their transgression before punishing them.

In Liberia, the due process clause is found in Article 20(a) of the Liberian Constitution. It prohibits all levels of the Liberian government, including the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary from depriving any person of life, liberty, property, privilege, or any other right without a hearing and a judgment consistent with due process of law.

The due process requirements are not hollow words without substance. They are rights enumerated in our Constitution, and must be respected and enforced. If a self-executing statute, such as section 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, deprives a person of life, liberty, property, privilege, or any other right without a hearing and a judgment consistent with due process, that person has been denied the constitutional protection of due process. If a governmental action deprives a person of life, liberty, property, privilege, or any other right without a hearing and a judgment consistent with due process, that person has been denied the constitutional protection of due process.

While politicians play games with people’s rights, the judiciary operates on a different level. The judiciary’s foremost role is to defend and uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, and to protect each person's constitutional, human, civil, and legal rights without regards to public opinion.

Section 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, which is being challenged in my lawsuit, states that, “The loss of citizenship under Section 22.1 of this title shall result solely from the performance by a citizen of the acts or fulfillment of the conditions specified in such section, and without the institution by the Government of any proceedings to nullify or cancel such citizenship.” This section purports to abrogate the due process clause under Article 20(a) of the Liberian Constitution--the highest law of the land. Section 22.2 will not withstand constitutional scrutiny.

But you are aware that in this cherished Republic of ours, the status quo holds on like a mussel. And misinformation travels fast. Therefore, I am asking for your help in this matter--not with the legal argument. My claims are supported by the Constitution of Liberia, and my legal interests before the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia are being represented by Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, one of the best legal minds we have. Rather, I need you to join others to keep the parties honest.

This case presents a constitutional question that goes beyond the rights of a Liberian from Bopolu who, with all due respect, does not need a piece of paper to tell him he is a Liberian.

If the legislative process can be used to selectively deny a group of Liberians their constitutional rights to due process, then that process presumably could be used to deprive other disfavored groups of Liberians of their constitutional rights.

The question presented in my case is also about you and other Liberians: whether the government of Liberia can enforce a statute, which on its face, purports to abrogate a right that is enumerated in the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

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