– Rights Group finding revealed
The Alliance Monitoring Mission (AMM), an arm of the Alliance for Transitional Justice (ATJ), a human rights group that comprises of 16 civil society organizations on Thursday, June 13, 2019, released its finding that accused the government and the Council of Patriot (CoP), organizers of the June 7 protest of engaging into spreading hate messages, divisive slogans, intimidations, arrest and provocations prior to holding the protest.
At a press conference in Monrovia, Jeremiah S. Swen, ATJ’s founder and national secretary, said the comprehensive report, the group had presented covered all activities ranging from pre-protest and post monitoring that began from June 3 to and including June 9, 2019.
Swen added that his team of observers assessed a grew up waves of insecurity prior to holding the June 7 which was attributed to the tones of text messages on the various media platforms.
“We observed a tremendous amount of hate messages, propaganda and divisive slogans, some of which were overwhelming and uncontrollably propagated, conveyed as expressed by the leadership of the CoP, the government and its sympathizers with no regard to the peace and stability, the rights and dignity of the society,” Swen said.
Intimidation, arrest and provocation
On June 6, Swen recollected that the government instituted and deployed measures aimed at consolidating national security, “but, sharply flipped off grip, by transforming these measures into intimidation mechanisms to instill fear in the potential protesters and discouraging many people from participating in the June 7 protest.”
The mission found that on June 5 the government executed a search and seizure warrant against Montserrado District#10 lawmaker, Yekeh Kolubah , which witnessed the deployment of uniformed armed officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) at the lawmaker Gaye Town, Old Road, Sinkor residence.
“We believed that action was untimely given the prevailing security climate and the possible long-term implications under the circumstances,” the ATJ secretary noted, adding, “The fragility of the security climate was manifested by the violent outburst that accompanied the invitation of Kolubah by the police.”
“We condemned that act of violence provocation by the government and the unlawful behavior exhibited by students and supporters of the lawmaker at the headquarters of the LNP,” Swen maintained.
As a matter of expediency, Swen emphasized, “the ATJ believed that the search and seizure warrant should have been delayed so as to maintain and or consolidate the security climate of the country and to preserve police-protesters relationship and the peace.”
The mission witnessed among other things, the closure of stores and market places, suspension of classes by school authorities and those of higher learning institution.
“The mission also recorded the conduct of search of vehicles by officers of the joint security beginning from the interception of the Tubman Boulevard and Congo Town Back road and the officer diverted human and vehicle movement from 12th Street to the Jallah Town Community,” Swen narrated.
The mission found that there a restrictive policy measure by the joint security administrated at the Jallah Town Community and the Bushrod Island Community where officers were requesting protesters to display their National ID Card before granting them passage, stressing, “Later said restriction was dropped.”
Swen also claimed that the mission observed persistent complaint of frustration among protesters due to the abrupt inability to access all social media platforms, “Due to our lack of technical capacity we could not determine the root cause of the social media failure.”
The mission, Swen noted, witnessed a genuine and immeasurable manner of friendly atmosphere between the protesters and the police at the center stage of the protest, “from the Capitol Hill, and all interactions and intervention as well as decision reached were driven by mutual respect, team work, share responsibility and great respect for the peace.”
The mission also observed that at a particular occasion, it was the decision of the protesters that led to the drawing of lines to separate the protesters and the police. “This decision was later follow-up by the installation of ropes as the result of request from the protesters,” Swen indicated.
He emphasized by saying, “Let this be a matter of necessity and history that we openly appreciate the courage and hard work of the Melvin Sackor, deputy inspector general of the LNP (102). His humility and service helped to breed and sustain the partnership and mutual respect between the joint security and the protesters.”
On the submission of the petition
Swen said,” due to our role as observer and our strategic location, we witnessed the sad expression and frustration of Henry Costa, one of the organizers of the June 7 protesters, as he was heard telling the officer-in- charge by 2:40PM about the inability of Vice Jewel Howard Taylor to receive the petition.”
The mission found that the official feedback from the government was made known at about 4:40PM, this time the official representatives that include the justice minister, foreign minister, senior legal advisor to President George Weah and other stakeholders.
“It was through stakeholders’ interactions with key protesters that include Darius Dillon, Henry Costa and Senator Sando Johnson of Bomi County and the government agreed to read and present the petition,” the mission stated.
They continued, “At about 5:20PM, a delegation led by the ECOWAS Mission head to Liberia and the government representatives traveled to the center stage of the protest with the intention to receive the petition.” In contrast, the mission noted that the protest organizers struggled to meet a balance on policy, but finally requested the government representative to release some of their colleagues that include students of the University of Liberia (UL) that were arrested on June 5 when Rep. Kolubah was invited at the headquarters of the LNP before the petition could be delivered.
“The government representative received the information and promised to get back to the protesters, absolutely, there was no feedback from the government and the protesters waited and at last adjourned the gathering with a promise to reconvene on Monday, June 10,” the mission noted.
The mission found that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the government and the CoP was respected by the protest organizers.
“CoP peacefully conducted the protest, stage it at the designated area and was ready to submit the petition to the vice president. We also witnessed the government failure to live up to the MOU, especially holding to account for decision to receive the petition through the vice president,” the mission said.
“We also call on the government to embrace the petition in the spirit of nationalism and take practical steps to address the concern of the Cop,” Swen added. “The government and CoP should develop and sustain a mutual path of dialogue to critically assess and practically address all of the counts of the petition base on sincere reasoning and timeframe.”
In conclusion, the mission recommends that “the government should avoid and or curtail any provocative exchanges with the CoP, likewise, the CoP should refrain from all insightful and hate messages to the government , but lead a path of criticism driven by morality, ethical standing and constitutional adherence.”