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Saturday, July 20, 2024

CLLR. ALOYSIUS TOE DEFENDS APPOINTMENT OF CLLR. JONATHAN MASSAQUOI AMID HUMAN RIGHTS BACKLASH

Date:

MONROVIA – Cllr. Aloysius Toe, Executive Director of the Public Interest Law and Advocacy Center (PILAC), has praised President Joseph Nyumah Boakai for appointing Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi as Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.

According to a PILAC press release issued on Monday, June 24, 2024, Cllr. Massaquoi is recognized for his extensive skills, moral integrity, and human rights advocacy, demonstrated through his legal defense of numerous indigent clients and political activists who faced persecution from previous administrations. His legal experience and knowledge make him a suitable candidate for the position. Highlighting their past collaboration, Cllr. Toe recalled that both he and Cllr. Massaquoi represented political commentator Henry Costa against a defamation suit by the CDC government and defended former Chief Justice Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott. “I believe Cllr. Massaquoi will make our country proud in his new role,” stated Cllr. Toe.

Cllr. Toe rejected criticisms from some of his former colleagues in the human rights community who opposed Cllr. Massaquoi’s appointment, arguing that providing legal representation for individuals such as Mrs. Agnes Taylor and others should not disqualify him from this role. Toe emphasized that objecting to Massaquoi’s appointment without due process contradicts the fundamental rights outlined in Article 18 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which ensures equal employment opportunities for all citizens.

Toe also underscored that Cllr. Massaquoi’s legal representation of individuals, regardless of the accusations against them, is protected under Article 21 (i) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, which safeguards lawyers from punishment for providing legal services. “It is ironic that human rights advocates, who should protect these rights, would seek to violate them,” Toe remarked.

Toe urged human rights activists to cease opposing the appointment of lawyers to government positions solely based on their history of defending accused individuals. He reminded them that the current Chairman of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, Cllr. Dempster Browne, also provided legal representation for individuals accused of serious crimes, yet now serves with distinction.

Drawing on his extensive background as a human rights advocate, Toe emphasized his authority on the matter. He recounted his contributions to the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG), his role in the passage of the TRC Act, and his leadership in the International Campaign Against Impunity. Toe’s activism, which included being imprisoned on false treason charges, earned him international recognition, including the prestigious Reebok International Human Rights Award in 2005 and being declared a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International.

In conclusion, Cllr. Toe reiterated his support for Cllr. Massaquoi’s appointment and called for respect for legal professionals’ rights to provide representation without facing professional or personal retribution.

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