The ECOWAS Court of Justice has ruled that a Monrovia-based non-governmental organisation lacked the ‘judicial capacity to take legal action’ in a case brought by the NGO against the Republic of Liberia, alleging the violation of the human rights of the more than five-hundred displaced and victimised families of Ganta in the country’s Nimba County over the illegality of their communal lands.
Ruling in a suit filed by the Concerned Youth of Ganta for Reconstruction and Development, a three-member panel of the Court on Friday, 26 June 2020, declared as ‘well-founded,’ the preliminary objection of the Republic of Liberia and thereby ruled the case ‘inadmissible.’
A statement by the regional court on Monday, 29 June 2020 in Abuja said that in the ruling read by Justice Januaria Tavares Silva Moreira Costa, the Court also held that the second applicant in the suit, Mamadee. F. Donzo, leader of the oppressed people of the inhabitants of Ganta ‘does not have the locus stand on to bring the present action on behalf of the alleged victims’ not being a victim nor did he provide any evidence empowering him to act on behalf of the victims.
It added that the defendant had in its submission, urged the court to declare the matter inadmissible on the grounds that both plaintiffs cannot institute the matter before the Court. Councilor Lafayette Gould, counsel to the defendant contended that the first plaintiff was not a legal personality under the laws of Liberia and did not give names of or identify any victim of the alleged violations, while the second plaintiff was not a victim of the alleged violations.
In suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/10/17 filed on 9th of February 2017, both plaintiffs suing on behalf of over five-hundred displaced and victimised people of Ganta claimed the violation of their rights particularly rights to life, to own property, to personal integrity, to privacy, to a fair trial, to freedom of movement, among others.
The plaintiffs through their counsel Ifeanyi Ejiofor alleged that the Liberian military forces invaded the Ganta district during the Liberian civil war, leading to their displacement from their ancestral homes and lands in search of safety, but were prevented from reoccupying their lands by the government forces, who had taken over their homes.
They averred that the former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, set up two Commissions aimed at resolving the dispute and achieving reconciliation and peace.
They added that although the illegal occupants were compensated by the defendant to vacate their ancestral lands, they continued to occupy their lands while the defendant has failed to prevail on them to vacate but instead appeared to enjoy the tacit support of the defendant in continued illegal occupation of their ancestral lands.
The plaintiffs had sought orders of the Court to declare the violent attacks, arrest, and detention of the unarmed people of Ganta as unlawful, the banishment of the heads of their families as a violation of their right to own property and payment of monetary compensation of USD 200,000,000 for the gross violations of the rights of the people of Ganta.