The Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform has released the “backing frameworks” that could help provide guidance to protesters for the planned June 7 “peaceful protest.”
A statement released by the advocates late Monday, May 27, 2019, calls on the government to respect the constitutional rights and other human rights protocols that grant rights to the protesters.
While it is meant to remind the government of its obligation, it has over the time been noticed on social media and radio programs that hate messages have been preached and threatening remarks made to create fear and uncertainty in the public. In fact, others including government officials have sent messages out that the protest may result to war, and that giving credence to it may plunge Liberia into its “dark days.”
In the first count granting right to the protesters, the human rights advocacy group cited Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution which states: “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.”
In a related protocol, the group cites Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) to also caution the government to grant protesters the right and to ensure security protection for them.
The UDHR states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas thoughts, any media and regardless of frontiers. In furtherance, the UDHR added Article 20, “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
Additionally, the group referred the government to the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), which Liberia is also a signatory, noting in Article 19 of that covenant that, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his/her choice.”
On the basis of Article 19 of the ICCPR, the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform, summarized in principles that the right to protest is the individual and or collective exercise of existing and universally recognized human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to participation in cultural life, the rights to life, privacy, liberty and security of a person and the right to non-discrimination.
The right to protest, according to the group’s secretary-general, Adama K. Demspter, is also essential to securing all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
The government was also reminded that protesters should not be prevented, hindered or restricted the right to protest except to the extent allowed by international human rights law.
The state is also urged to take reasonable steps to protect those, who want to exercise their right to protest; including adoption of measures necessary to prevent violations by third parties; and establishing an enabling environment for the full enjoyment of the right to protest, which includes providing effective remedies for violations of all human rights embodied in the right to protest.
Furthermore, the state is urged to protect the right to protest by ratifying and giving effect to all relevant international and regional human rights treaties, through incorporation into their domestic legislations or otherwise; adopting clear legal, regulatory and policy frameworks for the protection of the right to protest, in full compliance with international standards and best practice, and the full and effective participation of civil society and other concerned stakeholders at all stages of their development.
It also provides sufficient safeguards against the violation of the right to protest and for prompt, full, and effective scrutiny of the validity of any restrictions imposed, by an independent court, tribunal or other independent adjudicatory body.
The government is also urged to ensure that effective remedies for violations of the right to protest are available, including redress through criminal and civil law processes, as well as precautionary measures and non-judicial remedies such as those awarded by dedicated regulators and agencies, national human rights institutions and, or ombudspersons.
The state is also reminded to enable the free flow of information relating to protests, including through all types of media, so that everyone can freely impart and receive information about protests before, during and after them.
Additionally, the state is obliged to ensure in its legislation and in practice that, at a minimum; all public authorities and law enforcement provide detailed, accurate and comprehensive information about decision-making relating to protests and policing protests; and that those with an obligation to disclose information must make information available on request, within the time frame specified by law, subject only to limited exceptions prescribed by law and that are necessary to prevent specific, identifiable harm to legitimate interests.
Having provided these provisions and principles, the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform called on the government to adhere to all that it (government) has dedicated itself to subscribe to in the pending protest.
It also called on the organizers of the protest, the Council of Patriots, to provide details about the objectives of the protest in line with international and domestic laws, and must be able to abide by all human rights principles enshrined in the Liberian Constitution and other international protocols to which Liberia is a signatory.