Liberia: Court dismisses elections case

MONROVIA, 22 February (IRIN) - Liberia's Supreme Court dismissed on Friday a case filed by residents of three war-affected counties demanding a postponement of the October 14, 2003 general and presidential elections unless a national census is conducted.
The petitioners, who are internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the western Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Lofa counties, had on 16 January told the court that a national census was necessary to verify eligible voters and for demarcation of electoral constituencies. They said that, given the current war situation in their counties, the IDPs could be deprived of the right to register in their constituencies and vote.

They therefore petitioned the court to compel the Liberian parliament and relevant government agencies to call for a census before elections and further indicated that if the polls went ahead without a national census, they could be marred by controversies since some voters would not be accessible to candidates.

On Friday, the Supreme Court after hearing legal arguments from the petitioners, the parliament and the government, ruled that the petitioners "failed to articulate the grievances of petitioners and to seek relief through the necessary political and legal procedures to defer and postpone the 2003 elections".

The ruling , which was read by chief justice Gloria Musu Scott, said the court does not have the legal jurisdiction over the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to stop the war and added that stopping the war for the conduct of a national census was apolitical issue.

"In future unmeritious attempts to directly or indirectly draw this court into political issues in the absence of appropriate judicial procedures and administrative procedures being exhausted, this court will not hesitate to take appropriate punitive measures," the ruling said.

In an earlier submission to the court, Roland Massaqoui, Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, said a census could not be conducted because of the armed hostilities and lack of funding and logistics. The national legislature also argued that the court did not have the legal authority to compel the legislative branch to demand for a census.

The ruling means that elections will be held late this year without a census being held.


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