Call on citizens to seek redress from the court if they believe that “their rights have been abridged”
The ambassadors of ECOWAS, the European Union, the United States, and the UN Resident Coordinator in Monrovia have condemned state security forces for using force to disperse the January 6 peaceful protesters on Capitol Hill. On January 6 over two thousand Liberians under the Council of Patriots gathered on Capitol Hill to protest against bad governance and ask the George Weah Administration to address some crucial issues including justice, economic and social.
“We note with regret for all present on Capitol Hill on 6 January, that a protest ended abruptly after a day in which approximately 2,000 demonstrators had peacefully assembled and security forces had displayed commendable professionalism in executing their duties. While it is understandable why the Liberian government would find it untenable for a large group of demonstrators to block the primary route through the government quarter endlessly, to disperse the crowd without reasonable audible warning increased the risk of harm to citizens,” the ambassadors in a joint statement said.
The joint statement, posted on the US Embassy’s Facebook page, however, said the ambassadors also appreciated the state security forces for their professionalism in executing their duties during the protest.
The ambassadors’ statement comes after the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) released a report accusing the LNP of breaking the rules of engagement by using force against “peaceful protester” and called on the Liberian Government to investigate the cause of the “Excessive use of force by state security against peaceful protesters”.
“This excessive use of force by the LNP against the protesters who had been peaceful all day on Monday, January 6 was disproportionate and unwarranted,” INCHR’s statement said.
During the evening hours of the protest when a lot of people were joining, the LNP used teargas and hot water cannon to disperse the crowd for accordingly attempting to cook on the Capitol Hill ground hosting offices of the three branches of government (Legislature, Executive and Judiciary).
LNP Inspector General, Patrick Sudue late evening explained that the use of force to disperse the protesters came as a result of the protesters’ refusal to quit cooking on the grounds of the Executive Mansion and other state buildings, including the Capitol.
“We told them to stop the use of fire for the cooking of their food but they did not adhere. We called in human rights observers to talk to them, they obeyed but later they reignited the fire. For us, as members of the security apparatus, it was a threat,” Sudue said.
The joint statement further indicated that the recent requests by large citizen groups seeking to demonstrate in central Monrovia underscore the need for the government to explain the application process for demonstrations, timelines, locations, and restrictions on what can be brought to events.
“Transparent notification or application procedures for permits to hold large demonstrations, coupled with apolitical and content-neutral adjudications of said applications can ensure that future events, which are normal and healthy in a democracy, efficiently allow protestors to gather, express grievances, and present petitions to the government,” the statement added.
The ambassadors, whose earlier intervention led to the postponement of the protest earlier scheduled for December 30, 2019, said any restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly should be consistent with Liberia’s Constitution as well as Article 21 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
“The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than that imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health, or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others,” the statement said. “It is important for individuals in all democracies to be able to exercise their freedoms of expression, petition, and peaceful assembly,” said the statement.
Nevertheless, the ambassadors are calling on Liberians to seek redress from the court if they believe that “their rights have been abridged” and not through protest because “there are possible judicial remedies accessible under Liberian law.”
According to the ambassadors, a review of administrative decisions by the courts can serve as an important mechanism in a democratic society to “refine and clarify the interpretation of domestic laws and Constitutional rights. “Citizens should also feel that their concerns can be heard and deliberated through their elected representatives in the legislature,” the statement added.
“We in the international community will continue to stand by Liberian citizens and the government as they work together to strengthen core institutions, protect universal human rights, and endeavor to create opportunities for all Liberians to provide a better life for their families and communities. To that end, we encourage all actors to recommit themselves to constructive consultations at the community, regional, and national levels. It is only through such engagement that challenges can be understood and that durable progress can be made. As committed international partners, we and other friends of Liberia will continue to support efforts that yield meaningful results,” the ambassadors said.