Supreme Court Denies Unity Party’s Request to Hold NEC in Contempt

MONROVIA, Montserrado – On Friday, November 17, the Supreme Court denied a request filed by Unity Party to hold the National Elections Commission in contempt for failing to make documents available to it that could help in the ongoing alleged election fraud hearings.

Unity Party, an intervening party to the complaint filed by Liberty Party, claimed that NEC violated the constitution and elections law, in addition to committing fraudulent acts and gross irregularities during the October 10 elections.

On Thursday, November 16, the full bench of the Supreme Court listened to arguments from lawyers representing both parties and reserved ruling into the complaint for Friday.

The ruling scheduled for 2:00 p.m. was delayed for several minutes as political party representatives, journalists, international election observers, and others waited patiently.

At exactly 2:46 p.m., the justices arrived in the hall of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor announced that Associate Justice Jamesetta H. Wolokolie would speak for the court.

Wolokolie said the court, having reviewed the contentions raised by the parties, perused their responses to the complaint, listened to arguments and considered the relevant laws.

Jamesetta H. Wolokolie, associate justice of the Supreme Court. Photo: Zeze Ballah

She said there was no reason for the Supreme Court to hold NEC in contempt, since “the commission has not exceeded the 30-day period given the NEC under the constitution.”

“The court, however, reiterates its position of November 6 that the NEC does not have to consume the entire 30 days given it under the constitution before concluding a given election matter,” Wolokolie added.

She said NEC should proceed expeditiously with the investigation of the matters before it, recognizing the critical nature of the election and the implication on the government and country.

Unity Party had complained to the court that it had requested from NEC a copy of the final registration roll for the October 10 elections, copies of the addenda to the voters roll made at the polling centers, and copies of the worksheets submitted by presiding officers nationwide.

The party had also requested records of the investigation conducted by NEC of a staff in the office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The staff was arrested with machines used to print voter registration cards, along with other election materials.

Unity Party had similarly requested records of the investigation of NEC presiding officer arrested in Nimba with pre-marked ballots.

In its motion filed before the court, the party said the chief dispute hearing officer at NEC had denied five of the seven requests, allowing Unity Party access to the final registration roll and the records of the NEC presiding officer arrested in Nimba’s third electoral district.

Unity Party said it needs the evidence to substantiate the allegation of election fraud. The party motion filed before the Supreme Court said NEC’s commissioners’ delay in ruling on its appeal is unduly delaying the case.

The court’s decision means the parties will resume the ongoing proceedings before NEC’s hearing officer. NEC has until November 22 to rule on the matter, as stipulated by the constitution.

Featured photo by Zeze Evans Ballah

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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