Independent Human Rights Investigators (IHRI), a local based rights group, and the Liberia Independent Advocates for Human Rights (LIAHR) yesterday issued a joint statement drawing the attention of the government of Liberia (GOL), through the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), to what they call the “culture of suspicious deaths while in the custody of the Liberia National Police (LNP).” The act, the right groups said, has raised concerns.
The IHRI and LIAHR are both raising “serious concern” about the recent death of Victoria Zaizay, a resident of Virginia, at the Zone 6 Depot 1 police station on Hotel Africa Road. The police claims that the young woman committed suicide.
For the right groups, such a claim by the LNP is “worrisome as our ongoing investigation into the matter finds it very difficult to believe, considering the size and height of the detention cell.”
The two institutions said they recall a similar case of suspicious death on November 11, 2014, at the New Kru Town police depot with the LNP claiming that the deceased hanged himself with his T-shirt after being charged with “persistent non-support” by the LNP.
“As we speak, the outcome of that investigation remains unknown. The officers on duty that night when the incident occurred were being investigated at the LNP headquarters, but to date, the outcome of the investigation is yet to be released to the public,” the joint statement from the rights groups read.
They called on authorities at the Ministry of Justice to proceed without delay, using clinical and forensic means, to determine the cause of death in the case of Victoria Zaizay.
They believe that an investigation will prevent the culture of suspicious deaths while in the custody of the LNP, adding, “It will be prevented and addressed swiftly whenever it is reported.”
“For us, until abuses and violations cease, our job is not done,” they declared.
A fortnight ago, Victoria Zaizay, 20, reportedly hanged herself in detention at Zone 6, Depot 1 police station in Virginia. Police confirmed to the Daily Observer that she was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby community clinic.
She was detained for ‘disorderly conduct,’ a source at Depot 1 said.
Family members said the late Zaizay was detained when she and another lady reportedly fought over wasted milk candy valued at L$1,500. According to the commander at the depot, it was decided that Zaizay spend the night in police custody.
Meanwhile, the parents of the deceased said they don’t believe that she hanged herself because “she had people to take care of her, and nothing could have led her to do such a thing.”