Sunday, April 10, 2011
Supreme Court Hears Argument in Landmark Citizenship Case
In what is one of the most closely watched cases on its docket, the Supreme Court of Liberia will on Monday, April 11, 2011, hear oral argument in the automatic loss of citizenship case.
In July 2010, our friend and brother, Counselor Alvin Teage Jalloh filed suit with the High Court, challenging as unconstitutional the automatic loss of citizenship provisions of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia.
The challenged provisions call for automatic loss of Liberian citizenship from the moment a Liberian becomes a naturalized citizen of a foreign country, votes in a foreign election, or serves in a foreign military without approval from the president.
This is by far the largest group-focused case of our time. The constitutional, social, political, and economic stakes are high. How the justices resolve the case will have significant impact not only on the 600,000 plus Liberians in the Diaspora, but also on high-ranking officials of the Liberian government who hold foreign passports.
The many years of arm violence and unrealistic prosecution in Liberia forced more than 900,000 Liberians to flee home in search of security in other countries. As time passed, a sizable number of these exiled Liberians got marry to citizens of other countries, gave birth to thousands of children in their host countries, and became naturalized citizens in their host countries.
Today, some of the very people who coerced thousands of Liberians into refugee camps and other countries around the world are the very people questioning the patriotism of those Liberians challenging the unconstitutionality of the automatic lost of citizenship law, currently before the Supreme Court.
Any law that treats a Liberian or group of Liberian as non-citizen or second class citizen is a violation of our constitution and the system of social equality as advocated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The problem of a law that condemns without due process was recently addressed in the honorable Supreme Court’s decision about the TRC recommendations, where the Court ruled that the 30-year ban recommendation was in violation of due process of law.
Liberians in the Diaspora have and continue to make substantial contribution to the reconstruction and development of Liberia. Last year, the World Bank report showed that Liberians in the Diaspora remitted more than hundred million dollars to Liberia. How can anyone, group, or institution try to ignore such immense contribution?
The citizenship retention lawsuit is designed to protect all Liberians against involuntary losses of their natural-born Liberian Citizenship. It further addresses the concern that Liberians should not be punished for being forced into refugee camps and other places they would have never gone under normal circumstances.
By Sam K. Zinnah
Chairman, Non-Resident Liberians