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The Liberian Constitutions

Declaration 1983 Draft

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1984 Liberian Constitution

CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA

 

PREAMBLE

 

We the People of the Republic of Liberia:

 

Acknowledging our devout gratitude to God for our existence as a Free, Sovereign and Independent State, and relying on His Divine Guidance for our survival as a Nation;

 

Realizing from many experiences during the course of our national existence which culminated in the Revolution of April 12, 1980, when our Constitution of July 26, 1847 was suspended, that all of our people, irrespective of history, tradition, creed or ethnic back ground are of one common body politic;

 

Exercising our natural, inherent and inalienable rights to establish a framework of government for the purpose of promoting unity, liberty, peace, stability, equality, justice and human rights under the rule of law, with opportunities for political, social, moral, spiritual and cultural advancement of our society, for ourselves and for our posterity; and

 

Having resolved to live in harmony, to practice fraternal love, tolerance and understanding as a people and being fully mindful of our obligation to promote African unity and international peace and cooperation,

 

Do hereby solemnly make, establish, proclaim and publish this Constitution for the governance of the Republic of Liberia.

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CHAPTER I

STRUCTURE OF THE STATE

 

Article 1   All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.

 

Article 2   This Constitution is the supreme and fundamental law of Liberia and its provisions shall have binding force and effect on all authorities and persons throughout the Republic.

 

   Any laws, treaties, statutes, decrees, customs and regulations found to be inconsistent with it shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void and of no legal effect. The Supreme Court, pursuant to its power of judicial review, is empowered to declare any inconsistent laws unconstitutional.

 

Article 3   Liberia is a unitary sovereign state divided into counties for administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican with three separate coordinate branches: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary. Consistent with the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, no person holding office in one of these branches shall hold office in or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches except as otherwise provided in this Constitution; and no person holding office in one of the said branches shall serve on any autonomous public agency.

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CHAPTER II

GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF NATIONAL POLICY

 

Article 4   The principles contained in this Chapter shall be fundamental in the governance of the Republic and shall serve as guidelines in the formulation of legislative, executive and administrative directives, policy making and their execution.

 

Article 5   The Republic shall:

a) aim at strengthening the national integration and unity of the people of Liberia, regardless of ethnic, regional or other differences, into one body politic; and the Legislature shall enact laws promoting national unification and the encouragement of all citizens to participate in government;

 

b) preserve, protect and promote positive Liberian culture, ensuring that traditional values which are compatible with public policy and national progress are adopted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of the Liberian society;

 

c) take steps, by appropriate legislation and executive orders, to eliminate sectionalism and tribalism, and such abuses of power as the misuse of government resources, nepotism and all other corrupt practices.

 

Article 6   The Republic shall, because of the vital role assigned to the individual citizen under this Constitution for the social, economic and political well being of Liberia, provide equal access to educational opportunities and facilities for all citizens to the extent of available resources. Emphasis shall be placed on the mass education of the Liberian people and the elimination of illiteracy.

 

Article 7   The Republic shall, consistent with the principles of individual freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.

 

Article 8   The Republic shall direct its policy towards ensuring for all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions, and towards promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment.

 

Article 9   The Republic shall encourage the promotion of bilateral and regional cooperation between and among Liberia and other nations and the formation and maintenance of regional organizations aimed at the cultural, social, political and economic development of the peoples of Africa and other nations of the world.

 

Article 10   The Republic shall ensure the publication and dissemination of this Constitution throughout the Republic and the teaching of its principles and provisions in all institutions of learning in Liberia.

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CHAPTER III

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

 

Article11   

a) All persons are born equally free and independent and have certain natural, inherent and inalienable rights, among which are the right of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of pursuing and maintaining the security of the person and of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, subject to such qualifications as provided for in this Constitution.   

  

b) All persons, irrespective of ethnic background, race, sex, creed, place of origin or political opinion, are entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, subject to such qualifications as provided for in this Constitution.   

  

c) All persons are equal before the law and are therefore entitled to the equal protection of the law.

 

Article 12   No person shall be held in slavery or forced labor within the Republic, nor shall any citizen of Liberia nor any person resident therein deal in slaves or subject any other person to forced labor, debt bondage or peonage; but labor reasonably required in consequence of a court sentence or order conforming to acceptable labor standards, service in the military, work or service which forms part of normal civil obligations or service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well being of the community shall not be deemed forced labor.

 

Article 13

a) Every person lawfully within the Republic shall have the right to move freely throughout Liberia, to reside in any part thereof and to leave therefrom subject however to the safeguarding of public security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others.   

 

b) Every Liberian citizen shall have the right to leave and to enter Liberia at any time. Liberian citizens and non Liberian residents may be extradited to a foreign country for prosecution of a criminal offense in accordance with the provisions of an extradition treaty or other reciprocal international agreements in force. Non Liberian residents may be expelled from the Republic of Liberia for cause.

 

Article 14   All persons shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health. or morals or in the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. All persons who, in the practice of their religion, conduct themselves peaceably, not obstructing others and conforming to the standards set out herein, shall be entitled to the protection of the law. No religious denomination or sect shall have any exclusive privilege or preference over any other, but all shall be treated alike; and no religious tests shall be required for any civil or military office or for the exercise of any civil right. Consistent with the principle of separation of religion and state, the Republic shall establish no state religion.

 

Article 15   

a) Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.   

 

b) The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right of libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent.   

 

c) In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.   

 

d) Access to state owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas express. Denial of such access may be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.   

 

e) This freedom may be limited only by judicial action in proceedings grounded in defamation or invasion of the rights of privacy and publicity or in the commercial aspect of expression in deception, false advertising and copyright infringement

 

Article 16   No person shall be subjected to interference with his privacy of person, family, home or correspondence except by order of a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

Article17   All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations .

 

Article 18   All Liberian citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin or political affiliation, and all shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work.

 

Article 19   No person other than members of the Armed Forces of Liberia or of the militia in active service shall be subject to military law, or made to suffer any pains or penalties by virtue of that law, or be tried by courts martial.

 

Article 20   

a) No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the out come of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law . Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under courts martial and upon impeachment, the parties shall have the right to trial by jury.   

 

b) The right of an appeal from a judgment, decree, decision or ruling of any court or administrative board or agency, except the Supreme Court, shall be held inviolable. The Legislature shall prescribe rules and procedures for the easy, expeditious and inexpensive filing and hearing of an appeal.

 

Article 21   

a) No person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of commission of an offense, nor shall the Legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law .   

  

b) No person shall be subject to search or seizure of his person or property, whether on a criminal charge or for any other purpose, unless upon warrant lawfully issued upon probable cause supported by a solemn oath or affirmation, specifically identifying the person or place to be searched and stating the object of the search; provided, however, that a search or seizure shall be permissible without a search warrant where the arresting authorities act during the commission of a crime or in hot pursuit of a person who has committed a crime .

  

c) Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed in detail of the charges, of the right to remain silent and of the fact that any statement made could be used against him in a court of law. Such person shall be entitled to counsel at every stage of the investigation and shall have the right not to be interrogated except in the presence of counsel. Any admission or other statements made by the accused in the absence of such counsel shall be deemed inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.   

  

d)   (i) All accused persons shall be bailable upon their personal recognizance or by sufficient sureties, depending upon the gravity of the charge, unless charged for capital offenses or grave offenses as defined by law.

    (ii) Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor excessive punishment inflicted.   

  

e) No person charged, arrested, restricted, detained or otherwise held in confinement shall be subject to torture or inhumane treatment; nor shall any person except military personnel, be kept or confined in any military facility; nor shall any person be seized and kept among convicted prisoners or treated as a convict, unless such person first shall have been convicted of a crime in a court of competent jurisdiction. The Legislature shall make it a criminal offense and provide for appropriate penalties against any police or security officer, prosecutor, administrator or any other public official acting in contravention of this provision; and any person so damaged by the conduct of any such public official shall have a civil remedy therefor, exclusive of any criminal penalties imposed.

  

f) Every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and presented before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty eight hours. Should the court determine the existence of a prima facie case against the accused, it shall issue a formal writ of arrest setting out the charge or charges and shall pro vide for a speedy trial. There shall be no preventive detention.  

  

g) The right to the writ of habeas corpus, being essential to the protection of human rights, shall be guaranteed at all times, and any person arrested or detained and not presented to court within the period specified may in consequence exercise this right .   

  

h) No person shall be held to answer for a capital or infamous crime except in cases of impeachment, cases arising in the Armed Forces and petty offenses, unless upon indictment by a Grand Jury; and in all such cases, the accused shall have the right to a speedy, public and impartial trial by a jury of the vicinity, unless such person shall, with appropriate understanding, expressly waive the right to a jury trial. In all criminal cases, the accused shall have the right to be represented by counsel of his choice, to confront witnesses against him and to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor. He shall not be compelled to furnish evidence against himself and he shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. No person shall be subject to double jeopardy.

  

i) The right to counsel and the rights of counsel shall be inviolable. There shall be no interference with the lawyer client relationship. In all trials, hearings, interrogatories and other proceedings where a person is accused of a criminal offense, the accused shall have the right to counsel of his choice; and where the accused is unable to secure such representation, the Republic shall make available legal aid services to ensure the protection of his rights.

  

There shall be absolute immunity from any government sanctions or interference in the performance of legal services as a counsellor or advocate; lawyers' offices and homes shall not be searched or papers examined or taken save pursuant to a search warrant and court order; and no lawyer shall be pre vented from or punished for providing legal services, regard less of the charges against or the guilt of his client. No lawyer shall be barred from practice for political reasons.

  

j) Any person who, upon conviction of a criminal offense, was deprived of the enjoyment of his civil rights and liberties, shall have the same automatically restored upon serving the sentence and satisfying any other penalty imposed, or upon an executive pardon.

 

Article 22   

a) Every person shall have the right to own property alone as well as in association with others; provided that only Liberian citizens shall have the right to own real property within the Republic .

  

b) Private property rights, however, shall not extend to any mineral resources on or beneath any land or to any lands under the seas and waterways of the Republic. All mineral resources in and under the seas and other waterways shall belong to the Republic and be used by and for the entire Republic.   

  

c) Non citizen missionary, educational and other benevolent institutions shall have the right to own property, as long as that property is used for the purposes for which acquired; property no longer so used shall escheat to the Republic .

  

d) The Republic may, on the basis of reciprocity, convey to a foreign government property to be used perpetually for its diplomatic activities. This land shall not be transferred or otherwise conveyed to any other party or used for any other purpose, except upon the expressed permission of the Government of Liberia. All property so conveyed may escheat to the Republic in the event of a cessation of diplomatic relations.

 

Article 23   

a) The property which a person possesses at the time of marriage or which may afterwards be acquired as a result of one's own labors shall not be held for or otherwise applied to the liquidation of the debts or other obligations of the spouse, whether contracted before or after marriage; nor shall the property which by law is to be secured to a man or a woman be alienated or be controlled by that person's spouse save by free and voluntary consent.

  

b) The Legislature shall enact laws to govern the devolution of estates and establish rights of inheritance and descent for spouses of both statutory and customary marriages so as to give adequate protection to surviving spouses and children of such marriages.

 

Article 24   

a) While the inviolability of private property shall be guaranteed by the Republic, expropriation may be authorized for the security of the nation in the event of armed conflict or where the public health and safety are endangered or for any other public purposes, provided:

(i) that reasons for such expropriation are given;

 

(ii) that there is prompt payment of just compensation;

 

(iii) that such expropriation or the compensation offered may be challenged freely by the owner of the property in a court of law with no penalty for having brought such action; and

 

(iv) that when property taken for public use ceases to be so used, the Republic shall accord the former owner or those entitled to the property through such owner, the right of first refusal to reacquire the property.

b) All real property held by a person whose certificate of naturalization has been cancelled shall escheat to the Republic, unless such person shall have a spouse and/or lineal heirs who are Liberian citizens, in which case the real property shall be transferred to them in accordance with the intestacy law.

 

c) The power of the Legislature to provide punishment for treason or other crimes shall not include a deprivation or forfeiture of the right of inheritance, although its enjoyment by the convicted person shall be postponed during a term of imprisonment judicially imposed; provided that if the convicted person has minor children and a spouse, the spouse or next of kin in the order of priority shall administer the same. No punishment shall preclude the inheritance, enjoyment or forfeiture by others entitled thereto of any property which the convicted person at the time of conviction or subsequent thereto may have possessed.

 

Article 25   Obligation of contract shall be guaranteed by the Republic and no laws shall be passed which might impair this right.

 

Article 26   Where any person or any association alleges that any of the rights granted under this Constitution or any legislation or directives are constitutionally contravened, that person or association may invoke the privilege and benefit of court direction, order or writ, including a judgment of unconstitutionality; and anyone injured by an act of the Government or any person acting under its authority, whether in property, contract, tort or otherwise, shall have the right to bring suit for appropriate redress. All such suits brought against the Government shall originate in a Claims Court; appeals from judgment of the Claims Court shall lie directly to the Supreme Court

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CHAPTER IV

CITIZENSHIP

 

Article27   

a) All persons who, on the coming into force of this Constitution were lawfully citizens of Liberia shall continue to be Liberian citizens.

  

b) In order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.

  

c) The Legislature shall, adhering to the above standard, pre scribe such other qualification criteria for and the procedures by which naturalization may be obtained.

 

Article 28   Any person, at least one of whose parents was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the person's birth, shall be a citizen of Liberia; provided that any such person shall upon reaching maturity renounce any other citizenship acquired by virtue of one parent being a citizen of another country . No citizen of the Republic shall be deprived of citizenship or nationality except as provided by law; and no person shall be denied the right to change citizenship or nationality.

 

 

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Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2004 12:06

 

Thursday, January 22, 2004 12:06