Monrovia – The Liberia Law Society declares as unwarranted, wrong, unacceptable and unnecessary the use of force against peaceful protesters on January 6, 2020 and declares that this signals a reversal in the minimum gains made in consolidating our democratic culture and peace. The Liberia Law Society also supports the position of the Independent Human Rights Commission, The Human Rights Platform and the Inter-religious Council.
No government must believe that economic progress and infrastructural development are substitutes for the full enjoyment and happiness of its citizens’ desire to live in dignity, respect for human rights, respect for the rule of law, equality before the law and full adherence to the dictates of the constitution. History has shown that mere economic development without a human face is temporary and bound to implode. The tragic lessons of history are unequivocal in this regard.
The LLS notes the tragic accounts of alleged human rights violations that have not been investigated, unsolved mysteries and impunity since this government assumed leadership of the State in January 2018.
The mysterious death of Matthew Innis from the Central Bank of Liberia and others; The countless abuse of women and girls (Rape, sexually deviant behavior, sexual assault, violent abuse of our youths). Young girls have become sexual pawns in an abyss of impunity, wealth and power; Electoral -related violence: District 13 & 15 have not been investigated or at least no one has been held responsible;
Violence and threats against individuals: The case of Hon. Yekeh Kolubah (his home shot into and various attacks reported on he and his family have not been investigated and no one held responsible), the denial of free movement of his family when they were prevented from traveling, many others including members of the Council of Patriots and other political parties; The forced exile of Jestina Taylor are all cases in point; Executive Tyranny & Judicial subordination: Impeachment of Associate Kabineh Ja’neh and the replacement of Judge Ernest Bana (Magistrate Bana was replaced after presiding and announcing his ruling in the case involving Roots FM);
Use of Force against students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) on October 15, 2019, protesting the denial of education The Question of the War Crimes Court: This neglect has engendered an attitude of complete disregard for the respect of the rule of law
The lack of action on the 25 million mop-up scandal
The 16 billion Liberian Dollars Scam
The Kingsville Killing of peaceful and unarmed protesters by the Liberian National Police;
Freedom of the Press and Expression: The violent attack on Henry Costa of the Council of Patriots as well as the violent break-in of Roots FM and other radio stations;
The Henry Costa Laissez Passez Fiasco provides ample evidence of why political exiles might be on the increase signaling the rise of totalitarianism in Liberia. In addition, the question of a violation of the right to free movement, well-founded fear, and other gross breaches of international human rights laws will now unfortunately become associated with the credentials of the Liberian Government.
On this issue, the Law Society hails the position of the Government and People of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Civil Society Organizations, Liberian Civil Society Organizations and all who worked to ensure that the rights of Henry Costa were protected and international human rights laws upheld. We hope that similar advocacy and collaboration will become the hallmark that prevents dictators from prevailing. The LLS proposes a Mano River Union Civil Society Meeting to further consolidate and re-enforce the great lessons associated with this experience.
The Law Society believes that an end to the culture of impunity, the supremacy of the rule of law and human dignity requires greater attention and recommends among other things: A full audit of all sectors of the Liberian Government (Legislature, judiciary & Executive): The integrity of the Government of Liberia is in question since a full audit of its various sectors has not been conducted in the face of raging suspicion by the public. The completion of these audits during the period of this administration and the necessary action will go a long way in promoting transparency and accountability;
A national conversation and/or dialogue that promote national reconciliation and justice: The Government continues to exhibit its unwillingness to dialogue and promote national reconciliation. All and any attempts are being viewed as hungry people in search of jobs rather than a genuine process to reconcile the country. We are attempting to roll back the wheels of reconciliation and return Liberia to its ugly past of division, extra-judicial killings, nepotism, rampant corruption, divisive politics, state criminalization, etc.
A full investigation on the role of former ex-generals and combatants: there’s open admission and display of the brazen remobilization of former combatants allegedly associated with our security forces. This is a violation of our peace agreement and a deadly reminder of the Liberian Civil War. Their reemergence as paramilitary units represents a chilling reminder of the human rights abuses and reign of terror their actions imposed on the Liberian People and Nation. This action by the Liberian Government is also forcing victims to relive the trauma of their horrific experiences during the war.
The Guarantors of our peace especially ECOWAS have remained mute on this important development. When peaceful citizens are subjected to dehumanizing treatments when human rights violations increase when exiles swell when a Vice President agonizes for deserved and legal benefits and privileges, these are signs of Early Warnings and potential conflict. We must act together and with urgency.
The report by the Independent Human Rights Commission on the alleged involvement of former ex-generals in the recent January 6th Protest should not be taken lightly. It must be thoroughly investigated and actions are taken to deal with this issue within the framework of both domestic and international laws.
Review of the declaration and verification of assets regime: Some officials old and new have not completed and fully complied with the Asset declaration process and even where they have done so, these assets have not been truthfully verified. Personal acquisition of wealth and the Code of Conduct have all been thrashed. The Code of Conduct must be revived. Support to integrity institutions is necessary and urgent.
In 2018, the Government announced the review of all concession agreements ratified by the previous administration and a committee was announced to address this challenge. Liberians have yet to appreciate the lessons learned from issues surrounding how our natural resources were negotiated. In the face of this, the Government of Liberia has decided to commence new bid rounds for oil blocks. The past lessons would have helped our country understand the gaps, how distributive justice may have been dispensed and how wealth creation can be assured. Liberians need to know what happened to the concession review exercise as well as the steps put in place to avert experiences of the past.
The role of the International Community and Partners: Some sectors of the International Community have remained mute, others complicit, while others actively involved. Some of those actively involved have not been seen establishing pre-conditions for their involvement but have appeared to offer a carte blanche to this Government and condone their behavior even where such actions violate international laws. More disturbing is the fact that some have stoop to the temptation of being anointed the De Facto Governors of Liberia issuing orders, setting standards for the exercise of constitutional prerogatives and in some cases issuing edits and parameters on how rights may be proscribed and/or exercised. This is an affront to international human rights laws and those involved will answer someday for their complicity in the exploitation and any violations of the rights of the Liberian People.
While we appreciate the international community and development partners for accompanying us on our long march to peace and development, there can be no compromise of some cardinal principles of human rights and justice. These principles are also critical for economic growth and development. They are mutually complimentary not exclusive.
The legislature: Lawmakers share the blame for the current state of affairs of our country. They have been complicit with the executive abdicating their responsibilities and cowing into the neglect of the Liberian People. All matters of human rights violations and the remobilization of former combatants and ex-generals of warring factions must be investigated.
Dutiful and loyal citizens: All dutiful and loyal citizens my eschew opportunism, nepotism, ethnicity, patronage, and violence. We must continue to advocate for respect for the rule of law. The Law Society is prepared to assist those who are willing to use the law as a vehicle to advance change in our society.
The Law Society will continue to support the need to establish the war crimes court to promote accountability and end the culture of impunity in Liberia. It will use all other regional and international avenues and judicial mechanisms to pursue this goal.
The Law Society will use any and all regional and international legal avenues to guarantee redress for human rights violations and pledge to work with other organizations to achieve this objective.
The Law Society pledges to work with all Civil Society Organizations, Religious, human rights and other organizations to support peace, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Finally, the Law Society advises that only the dull and ignorant will repeat and justify the wrongs of history. It is wise that they will seek to correct them and take radical measures to change.
We will continue to stand and work in Liberia consistent with our pledge to support and aid in the respect for the rule of law, human dignity, and human rights.
Main Photo; Samuel Kofi Woods, Liberian Law Society