NEC prepares Election Magistrates for Electoral Dispute ResolutionNov 30, 2016
The Hearing Section of the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia with support from the Elections Project funded by the European Union has conducted a 10-day workshop in Gbarnga on Electoral Dispute Resolution for Election Magistrates.
The training held from October 17-28, 2016 was the first of its kind for Election Magistrates who hold the primary jurisdiction over electoral disputes. The purpose of the workshop was to educate Election Magistrates on their quasi-judicial role and responsibility during the adjudication of electoral disputes to prevent political conflicts.
The training was conducted by the UNDP Elections Project legal consultant Shalva Tskhakaya in cooperation with the Chief Hearing Officer and Junior Legal Counsel of the NEC. The Training focused on legal framework and procedures of hearing and hands-on practice. Participants were able to preside over mock cases, investigate allegations, decide over motions and deliver judgements.
In order to allow enough time for practical exercise and coaching of each participant, election magistrates were split in two groups and underwent the 10-day training in two separate sessions.
Making opening remarks, NEC Commissioner Boakai A. Dukuly emphasized the significant role of Election Magistrates in peaceful and credible conduct of elections: “Doing this properly will save us from running to Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire” – Commissioner Dukuly told workshop participants.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh visited both sessions to convey expectations of the Supreme Court to the Election Magistrates during the electoral dispute resolution training. “Don’t do anything that would jeopardize your credibility of the election process. The law must be scrupulously adhered to” Associate Justice Janeh noted.
Reviewing some of the Supreme Court opinions from 2011 and 2014 on election related cases was part of the training curriculum. Participants had the opportunity to reflect on decisions and judgements from previous Elections.
UNDP Elections Project Legal Consultant who prepared the curriculum and facilitated the workshop asserted that Election Magistrates should learn from the shortcomings of the hearings conducted during the 2014 Senatorial Elections.
“The Supreme Court in its opinions was harsh in its criticisms toward some of the decisions taken by Magistrates in 2014 Elections. “Honorable Justices sent the message, that your primary role in hearing electoral disputes is fact-finding rather than indulging in legal technicalities and we should hear their message” Shalva Tskhakaya told the participants.
Introducing adequate remedies for the violations was particularly stressed during the training. Trainers pointed out that, disciplinary sanctions against poll workers and NEC personnel in the event of proven violations will provide redress to the aggrieved candidates and prevent possible future violations.
The workshop also identified residual gaps in electoral dispute adjudication structures which need to be further addressed prior to the 2017 General Elections.Contact
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