|Cllr. Alvin T. Jalloh|
|Named in suit: Nathaniel Barnes, Liberia’s Ambassador to the U.S.|
|Named in suit: Foreign Minister Banke King Akerele|
|Named in suit: Justice Minister Cristiana Tah|
UNCONSTITUTIONAL: “The lawsuit also challenges as unconstitutional several provisions of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia (provisions), which seek to deprive a Liberian of his or her Liberian citizenship without due process of law. The lawsuit does not ask the Liberian government to recognize dual citizenship, nor does it ask the government to recognize my American citizenship. The lawsuit does, however, require the Liberian government to respect all of my rights as a natural-born citizen of Liberia, including but not limited to my constitutional right to due process of law.”
At the height of the Liberian civil war many fled their homeland to seek refugee and a safe haven away from the guns of war. With peace now returned and post-war democracy in full swing, many of those in the Diaspora appears to have lost out on the happenings back home. Several nominees to appointed positions have been either rejected or turned down for positions in the post-war government simply because they chose to take up citizenship in a foreign land. Now, one Liberian lawyer based in the United States of America has had enough and is taking his homeland to court – in the United States.
Named in suit: Nathaniel Barnes, Liberia’s Ambassador to the U.S.
Teage’s lawsuit comes in the wake of the rejection of several Diaspora-based Liberians seeking jobs in post-war Liberia. In 2009, the Senate Committee on Judiciary failed to conduct confirmation hearings on Sam Russ, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs-designate of the Ministry of Justice. Following this reply, Sinoe County Senior Senator Nyenpan asked the nominee whether he had an American passport in his possession since he (nominee) had spent a long period of time in the USA. “Yes, I do have an American passport in my possession as an American citizen,” came Mr. Russ’s reply.
After noticing that some members of the Committee appeared disturbed by his answer, Russ told the Committee that he would denounce his American citizenship when confirmed by the Liberian Senate. Russ was then asked whether he had been admitted into the Liberian Bar Association that is responsible for admitting Liberians lawyers to practice law in the country.
Weeks after Russ’ surrendered his U.S. citizenship, another nominee, Samuel Momolu Lynch was also denied nomination for the post of Commandant of the Liberia National Coast Guard by the Security Committee of the Senate. During Lynch’s hearing, Lynch confirmed serving the American Army especially that Country’s Coast Guard for thirteen years. Despite his pledged of allegiance to the United States, he told the Senate Security Committee he remains a citizen of Liberia. However, Senators Mobutu Nyepan, Blamo Nelson and Sumo Kupee said it was against Liberian laws to confirm anyone who pledged their allegiance to another country. Others who have also fallen prey to the nationality dilemma are former Minister of Public Works Luseni Dunzo and Deputy Defense Minister Dionysius Sebwe among others.
Named in suit: Foreign Minister Banke King Akerele
Now, Attorney Alvin Teage Jalloh, represented by Counsel Jerome G. Korkoya on Monday, July 12, 2010 filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, challenging what he says is the Liberian government’s erroneous and unconstitutional assumption that a Liberian automatically loses his or her Liberian citizenship when that Liberian becomes a naturalized citizen of a foreign country, votes in a foreign election, or serves in a foreign armed forces without prior approval from the President of Liberia.
According to Teage, the lawsuit challenges as unconstitutional the arbitrary visa demand by the Liberian government, which only requires certain Liberian citizens to obtain nonimmigrant visas before they maybe permitted to enter Liberia.
Says Teage: “The lawsuit also challenges as unconstitutional several provisions of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia (provisions), which seek to deprive a Liberian of his or her Liberian citizenship without due process of law. The lawsuit does not ask the Liberian government to recognize dual citizenship, nor does it ask the government to recognize my American citizenship. The lawsuit does, however, require the Liberian government to respect all of my rights as a natural-born citizen of Liberia, including but not limited to my constitutional right to due process of law.”
Named in suit: Justice Minister Cristiana Tah
Teage further notes that Article 20(a) of the Liberian Constitution is one of our most important protections against arbitrary rule. “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.”
Ignoring this clear prohibition, Teage asserts that the government continues to use the challenged provisions, which lack any semblance of due process, as reasons to deprive me and tens of thousands of similarly situated Liberian citizens of our constitutional rights. “The government has gone as far as to require several of its natural-born citizens to become “naturalized” Liberians, on the erroneous assumption they lost their statuses as natural-born Liberian citizens.”
Such actions, Teage laments, have a chilling effect that inhibits the exercise of constitutionally protected rights, especially among Liberians who lack the financial means or willingness to challenge them. Moreover, Teage says, calling something a “law,” that clearly does not have the force of law, will not advance respect for the rule of law. The challenged provisions cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.
Any first-year law student can tell you the challenged provisions, by their expressed terms, violate the due process clause of the Liberian Constitution. The only question here is whether the Liberian government, which advertises itself as a government of laws and not of men, can enforce provisions the Constitution does not recognize as law. I believe, and the Constitution tells us, the answer is no.
Teage’s lawsuit in the U.S. comes as a a network of Liberians in the Diaspora have been intensifying campaign for the passage of a dual citizenship bill in Liberia. Recently, a delegation of the European Federation of Liberian Associations visited Monrovia to prevail on Lawmakers to push the bill through. The President of the group said it was important to pass the dual citizenship bill to allow Liberians with dual nationalities to help develop their native Country. Mr. John Nimly Brownell said the dual citizenship bill will also pave the way for Liberians in other parts of the world to bring investment into their Country. He argued that Liberia belongs to all Liberians who were born here but because of the war they naturalized in other Countries.