Human Rights Lawyer Samuel Koffi Woods has declared that the government of Liberia is responsible for the death of Victoria Zayzay, the young mother-to-be who was incarcerated by police following a dispute with a neighbor and who was hours later found “unconscious” in her cell but later pronounced dead on arrival at Redemption Hospital outside Monrovia.
“The Liberian government is responsible for the death of twenty-one year Victoria Zayzay, and her unborn baby found dead in police custody in which an autopsy report described the death as ‘uncertain,’” said Atty. Woods.
Speaking at Victoria’s funeral last Thursday at the Bethel Church in Lower Virginia, outside Monrovia, Atty. Woods said the failure of the government to find the cause of Ms. Zayzay’s death is an indication that it is time for Liberian women to mount pressure on the government to bring the perpetrator to justice.
Attorney Woods who is the head of the legal team of the late Victoria Zayzay said the failure of the Liberia National Police and the Ministry of Justice to establish how Victoria died should be enough for the heads of the two agencies of government to be dismissed.
Young Zayzay died under mysterious circumstances in police custody on October 21, 2015. She was arrested on October 20 at about 6:30 p.m. by police officers and charged with simple assault and was placed in the female holding cell of Zone-6/Depot-1 Police Station on Hotel Africa Road in Virginia.
According to the commander, a few hours later, Victoria was found unconscious in the cell, with her lappa tied to the cell gate around her neck. She was found in a sitting position and leaning against the cell gate with her head bent, resting on her chest. Police claimed she was hurriedly removed from the cell and rushed to Redemption Hospital for medical attention, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Police later claimed she committed suicide, which her family rejected as impossible, gaining support across the country.
The Liberian government brought in a Ghanaian pathologist, Dr. E. K. Wiredu, who after extensive examination of the body concluded the cause of death as “Not Determined.”
Continuing his statement, Attorney Woods said: “Gone are the days when the government would not accept responsibility for its failure to protect the Liberian people.”
In a somber mood, Woods said he had hoped for … hundreds of Liberians and their organizations to join women advocacy groups to demand justice for Victoria.
He called on Liberians to support the victim’s family in seeking justice so that Liberians can go to bed in peace; so that they won’t fear being raped and killed.
“If there is justice for the rich,” Woods stated, “there must be justice for the poor.”
Pointing out that those responsible for the death of Victoria are still in the employ of the government, Woods called on Liberians to be aware that Victoria’s experience is Liberia’s tragedy.
Making reference to the autopsy report that described the cause of death as undetermined, Woods said “this happens to too many persons and Liberians must call an end to it.”
He meanwhile called on the government to produce an autopsy report that would state the cause(s) of Victoria’s death.
In her statement, Mrs. Bernice Freeman of Women in Peace Building Network (WIPNET) said the government is responsible for Victoria’s death since she died while in the custody of the Liberia National Police.
Mrs. Freeman challenged the government to find those responsible for Victoria’s death within two weeks.
“It’s time that Liberian women stand up and ensure that Victoria’s killers are prosecuted for their action,” she said, and vowed that Liberian women would not be deterred and would not rest until justice prevails for Victoria.
The late Victoria was buried at the Brewerville Cemetery.
The director and lead investigator of the Independent Human Rights Investigators, (IHRI), Adama Dempster, told journalists last Wednesday that suspicious deaths have emerged as another trend in Liberia, creating fear and insecurity among Liberians and other residents.
He urged the government to provide security and improve on the status of the country’s human rights in the wake of UNMIL’s drawdown.
Other human rights advocates that have been instrumental in the search for justice for Victoria Zayzay are Liberia Independent Advocate for Human Rights (LIAHR) and the Advocacy Movement for Montserrado County.
Victoria was born June 29, 1994. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Rufus Zayzay of Virginia.