‘Impunity Giving Rise to Killings’

Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe.

-- Says Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe

The President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe has blamed the government's failure to prosecute perpetrators of Human Rights violations for giving rise to crimes like murder.

“Every aspect of Human Rights advocacy, protection in Liberia is ignored, violated with a high degree of immunity,” he said.

Cllr. Gongloe, reflecting on the country's civil war, said people are not afraid to kill because those who facilitated the 14-year civil war were awarded jobs in the legislature, Senate and the executive instead of them facing justice.

“That is the best way of promoting immunity by paying those who committed crimes rather than bringing them to justice,” he added.

The deaths of the sons of two former Liberian Presidents, Mr. John Hilary Tubman and Mr. William Richard Tolbert, III, as well as a female immigration official, Ms. Maude Elliot, has instilled fear amongst citizens. 

Tolbert III, was found dead at his residence in a pool of blood on Monday, November 1, 2021. Tubman’s lifeless body was discovered on Wednesday, September 22 in similar posture, Ms. Elliott was killed by unknown persons at her residence in Brewerville.

Reports from the Liberia National Police (LNP) suggest that the three deaths connected, suggesting that it could have been by the same person although no arrests have been made.

But the government has promised to reward individuals with US$15,000 for information that will help authorities unmask the killers behind the three deaths.

“The amount of US$5,000 is set aside for actionable information on each of the persons of interest,” said Ledgerhood J. Rennie, Minister of Information. “The Joint Security is working around the clock to solve the recent murder cases in Monrovia and provide enhanced security to the public.”

Speaking at a one-day symposium organized by the Foundation for Human Rights Defense International (FORD), Cllr. Gongloe is worried that  if people who have the means of protecting themselves are killed without consequences, then what happens to those who cannot?

“If Tolbert, Tubman and an Immigration officer are killed and nothing happened, what happens to the person in rural areas who is unknown,” he says.

According to him, for every violation of human rights against a prominent person without any consequence, 10 to 20 unknown persons are being violated.

The LBA president believed that until immunity is addressed in Liberia, corruption and human rights violations will continue to surface.

“Somebody kills five hundred people -- harmless people -- and nothing happens to that person, then what will stop someone from killing one person,” Cllr. Gongloe wondered. 

In a louder tone, he said when people advocate and nothing happens, it serves as a deterrent and emboldens perpetrators of Human Rights.

In recent weeks, Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue said people were sharing pictures of dead bodies on social media to present the country as unstable.

Cllr. Gongloe trashed the comments by the Police IG and called on him to arrest those presenting the government's bad image. If you  know them, arrest them and bring them to justice. If that statement is not based on any evidence then it’s a reckless statement,” he added.

He called on the government to provide more funding for the police that will enable them to execute their duties.

“If it is the question of not funding the police, then our government should fund the police and provide regular funding for the police so that the police can protect us. That is not happening.” 

Frances Johnson-Allison, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, expressed distress over the killing of the three individuals, adding that it is a clear indication that the country is not safe.

Like Cllr. Gongloe, Cllr. Allison is also saddened by the inability of the police to arrest anyone in connection with the killings. “The situation is getting very violent everyday in the country. Every day you wake up, you hear about this death and that death. The most disgusting thing about it is that we do not hear about investigations from security personnel, they don't tell us anything, I don't know if they are investigating or they are not investigating. It's scary,” she said.