By T.Q. Lula Jaurey
After five days of reviewing the application filed by Government Lawyers regarding to the production of the original copy of the May 19, 2020 Framework document signed and kept by the Standard Bearer of the Alternative National Congress Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings, Judge Jomah Jallah of the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice has given Mr. Cummings along with his deputies 72 hours ultimatum to produce the original copy of the Framework document.
Judge Jalllah ruled on Wednesday, January 26, 2022, granted the motion as a matter of law and ordered the defendants to bring and produce the original signed Framework document and the photocopy of May 19, 2020, in three days to continue the trial.
He said the court holds and submits that the constitutional privilege against self-crimination as provided for under Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution does not apply to business records, public documents or political contracts that are normally executed in accordance with the parties own rules and regulation as they may deem fit.
According to Judge Jallah, the Subpoena duce tecum application by the prosecution requiring the accused to produce to this court the original Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Framework document signed on May 19, 2020, which the court has declared as public document does not and cannot be construed as an invasion of the province of self-crimination.
He said subpoena seeking public records does not fall within the ambit of Article 21 (h) as such, it does not amount to self-incrimination.
Judge Jallah quoted the Writing in the Law Times Journal, Mohini Caturvedi, a renowned Indian jurist defines self-incrimination as “acts or declarations either as testimony at the trial or prior to trial by which one implicates himself of being involved in a crime.” He argues that the right to silence may be categorized into various aspects and this includes namely (1) that the burden is on the State or the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty and is involved in crime; and until an accused is proved to be guilty, he is presumed to be innocent; and (2) that the right of the accused against self-incrimination; namely, the right to be silent and that he cannot be compelled to incriminate himself.”
While, a leading Canadian Supreme Court opinion on the right to silence under section 11 (c) of the Canadian Chapter of Rights and Freedoms, the majority opinion in that case held that the “right to silence is absolute and the silence of an accused cannot lead to any adverse inference against him nor be used for concluding his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
Accordingly; he furthered that when combined and analyzed along with Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution, it becomes indisputably clear that the emphasis regarding self-incrimination is placed on testimony of the accused either upon arrest or during a criminal investigation or at trial as the case maybe and has nothing to do absolutely with production of public records based on a court subpoena.
Judge Jallah in his mind indicated that the doctrine of self-incrimination as provided for under Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution becomes apparent and may be invoked if upon arrest, or during criminal investigation or at trial a defendant is mandated or coerced to provide a testimony that may be considered utterly reprehensible as to incriminate him, as such; this is possible if the testimony so required, violates the principle of the defendant’s right to remain silence and thereby gives the prosecution an edge to convict him at all cost.
He explained that to determine and challenge an act as self-incrimination and unconstitutional under Article 21 (h) of the Constitution, as it is being done by the defense counsel, there must be an egregious violation or application of the law that demonstrably reveals a rather callous and brazen disregard of the rights of the defendant on trial. “Strangely, however, this does not obtain in the instant case which is why it is difficult if not impossible to contextualize the defense counsel’s reliance on Article 21 (h) of the 1986 Constitution.
Recently, the Monrovia City Court Judge reserved ruling in the case involving ANC and the All Liberian Party Benoni Urey regarding to Government lawyers requesting the court that the defendants should produce the original copies of the Framework Document signed by Mr. Cummings on May 19, 2020.
Judge Jallah on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, reserved ruling based on a notice of assignment from the court.
Prior to the Judge’s decision, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus prayed that the defendants should bring the or produce the original copy of the May 19, 2020, Framework Document which was signed by the ANC Standard Bearer when he was serving as Chairman of the CPP which he did not issues the real copies to his colleagues, as such the court should grant onto them their motion.
In counter argument, Cllr. Abrahim B. Sillah quizzed the court whether or not the defendants are compelled to produce evidence against themselves is what they want to know from the court.
Cllr. Sillah said this brings in the lack of adequacy in providing the evidence by telling the defendants to produce documents against themselves when the burden the of proof lies on the government as such requested the court to deny and dismiss the 10 counts motion in it’s totally.