— INCHR monitors say, want Government to investigate causes of excessive force on protesters by state security
The Independent National Human Rights Commission (INCHR), in conjunction with the Civil Society Human Rights Platform, has called on the Liberian Government to investigate the cause of the “Excessive use of force by state security against peaceful protesters” on Monday, January 6 on the Capitol Hill during the Council of Patriots (COP) protest.
A joint statement issued by the INCHR and the Civil Society Platform says the combined group monitored the protest and observed that it began peacefully without any form of intimidation but, by the evening hours of the day, the Liberia National Police headed by Deputy Inspector General for Operation, Marvin Sackor went ahead and gave an order that the crowd should be dispersed, point at which the police began using tear gas and hot water cannon on the protesters.
“This excessive use of force by the LNP against the protesters who had been peaceful all day on Monday, January 6 was totally disproportionate and unwarranted,” INCHR’s statement said.
The human rights groups, in their statement, referenced Chapter 3 Article 17 of the Liberian 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.”
Referencing other protocols that Liberia is a signatory to, the INCHR and other human rights groups cited Article 21 of the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which says: “The right to peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right.” Also Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights was cited in favor of protesters, saying: “Every individual has the right to assemble freely with others.”
According to the human rights groups, monitors who were deployed on the day of the protest exerted effort to dissuade the police action, but was ignored by the Police Deputy Director for Operations (code number: 102) on ground that he accordingly received orders from above to totally disperse the crowd of protesters.
The LNP Inspector General, Patrick Sudue had justified earlier that the Police took the action due to failure of the protesters to stop cooking in the vicinity that hosts the Executive Mansion, Legislature and the Judiciary.
Human rights monitors also countered that, when the police raised the concern, they worked with the protesters and they saw reason to quench the fire and relocate. It was during the course of relocating, the human rights monitors said, the orders came to 102 to disperse the crowd.
The human rights organizations, however, acknowledged the LNP’s earlier professional and cooperative posture during the morning hours of the protest but, at the same time, demand and investigation and explanation concerning the excessive force used.
During the protest, human rights monitors in the joint statement disclosed that a vehicle occupied by former notorious rebel generals was seen on the ground among the protesters; which INCHR and its collaborators say they want the government to provide explanations about.
The human rights groups confirm in the joint statement that monitors saw vividly ex-LURD rebel General Ofori Diah driving the unmarked vehicle, along with ex-NPFL General Siafa Norman, ex-ULIMO-J General Augustine Nagbe alias “General Power,” and four others.
The INCHR and others are concerned that the protest ground was a “No go zone” for vehicles as police officers were mounted to monitor protesters who were coming to converge. However, to their dismay, those rebel generals, some of who are recorded for committing atrocities in the country’s civil war, were on a vehicle among the protesters who resolved to be peaceful.
The aforementioned former rebel generals were last year heard on the radio threatening to arrest Representative Yekeh Kolubah, who is also a former general of the NPFL, for expressing his candid view on the way the country is run.
The former rebel generals also announced last year that they were forming a non-governmental organization with the support of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, something that sparked public debate about the intent of the government supporting such a group in the name of an NGO.