Rights Group Report Details Police Abuses

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The Liberia National Police (LNP) remains unethical in the discharge of its duties to protect lives and properties. They showed brutal, destructive, abusive attributes and are mostly the gross violators of the rights of people, a local human rights group has said in its 2014 report released on Wednesday.

Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL), has described as “worsening, (the level of) human rights violations by security actors especially the police against civilians.” This startling allegation was contained in its report entitled, “Human Rights Situation Report 2014: A Close Look at Police Behavior.”

Sam Nimely, RAL Program Coordinator, launched his organization’s report on Wednesday at the opening of a one day forum on policing in Monrovia.

The ceremony, which brought together police officers and community dwellers, was held in the borough of New Kru Town, outside Monrovia.

According to Nimely, the 21-page document catalogues cases of human rights violations and abuses through visitations and monitoring by his group’s human rights monitors.

Nimely said places visited and monitored included communities, prison facilities including the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP), in Montserrado County, the Gbarnga Central Prison, in Bong County, and the Sanniquellie Correction Palace in Nimba County.

“At the community level, the monitoring exercise highlighted the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers, especially police at the various detention centers,”Nimely said.

The report also identified constrictions faced by detainees such as capacity of prisons, category of inmates, ages and genders, conditions in the cells, hygiene, medical and health care, clothing, work, leisure and physical exercise.

“This report contains observations and recommendations made to authorities of the Ministry of Justice aimed at addressing those issues identified during the visitations and the monitoring exercises,” he explained.

The report recalled that on November 10, 2014, several persons sustained various degrees of injuries when a group of protesters, mainly partisans and supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), stormed the MCP compound to demand the release of one their colleagues who was imprisoned on the orders of the Monrovia City Court after being charged by the police with “aggravated assault and kidnapping.”

The CDC partisan was sent to court for prosecution after he was linked to an alleged flogging and kidnapping of another partisan at the party’s headquarters in Sinkor, Monrovia.

During the incident, the document said, a woman named, Gladys Washington, resident of Clara Town, allegedly sustained a head injury after she was severely beaten by the police.

According to the report, on November 12, 2014, a 20 year old man identified as Papa Walker was allegedly found hanged in the New Kru Town Police Station in Monrovia.  Police authorities claimed that Papa hanged himself, an act his family members are calling foul play.

His body has been buried by government without the consent of the family the report alleges adding that the family has been denied the findings of the investigation intended to establish the cause of his death.

Citing another incident, RAL alleges that on Saturday, November 15, a pregnant woman (not named) was flogged by the police commander at the Metro One Police Station on Center Street.

She was mistreated for reportedly refusing to allow police to take away her generator in the absence of her husband who was accused of being a thief. In the process, she sustained injuries.

The RAL report says the Traffic Division of the police has been accused by drivers, especially commercial drivers, of threatening then with traffic tickets to intimidate and extort money from them.

“Whether you are in the wrong or not, traffic police always threatened to issue you a US$50 ticket or its Liberian dollar equivalent to be paid to the police before letting you go on with your business,” said the report quoting some of the drivers.

The report said that prison authorities blame judges for the increase of pre- trial detainees, which it said is gradually contributing to prison overcrowding.

“They said the failure of judges to fast track cases is creating serious problems for correction officers who have to contend with the rising number of inmates.”

The report emphasized further that prisons and detention centers remain harsh and difficult for human habitation.

“As for the inmates themselves, they are faced with the problems of poor lighting, ventilation and sanitation. They are vulnerable to contracting diseases such as malaria, flu and rashes. Their health in prison is deplorable and there is no preventive supplies, feeding and response to medical emergency,” the document added.

Meanwhile, phone calls to get the reaction of LNP proved futile as Public Relations Officer Sam Collins did not return repeated calls likewise a text message sent for his attention.

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