Just Why Representative Acarous Gray has not faced criminal charges for brutalizing the owner of a sports bar, is a haunting question, answers to which lie in the culture of impunity and fear which has defined the character of successive national leaderships over the years.
The outbreak of civil war in 1990 was in large part driven by resistance to policies of repression and targeted persecution of perceived enemies by the state.
For years on end, access to justice or the lack of it has been of perennial national concern. Numerous national and international human rights reports have cited the lack of access to justice as a major shortcoming of the country’s judicial and criminal justice systems. A UNDP report entitled, “Strengthening the Rule of Law in Liberia: Justice and Security for the Liberian People dated 1 October 2016 – 30 September 2019, observes that despite concerted efforts at reform of this sector a number of obstacles continue to hinder progress in the justice and security sector.
Some of these obstacles amongst others include the following: “institutional capacity deficits and inefficiencies; insufficient oversight of the justice and security sectors, including by civil society; inadequate coordination among principal rule of law actors; the slow speed of judicial decision making; entrenched discriminatory attitudes and behaviors; and endemic corruption which continues to undermine public trust and confidence”.
The report continues “at the same time, legal pluralism and the lack of legal aid and legal literacy remain critical national level issues. For most ordinary Liberians and especially for women and children, informal justice processes remain the dominant, if not the only system realistically available to resolve disputes. This is despite them frequently delivering inequitable results and poor rights protection.”
Regarding the Police, which is a critical element of the justice and security sector, a Police Chief Inspector stated the following in January 2013: “Sometimes you go to work and do your own thing… Everyone is doing the same thing [with corruption]. This is happening and UNMIL [United Nations Mission in Liberia] is here. What do you think will happen when UNMIL leaves? It will be worse.”
More to that, research conducted by Human Rights Watch in Liberia in 2013, found that “the ability of the police to enforce the law and investigate wrongdoing is severely compromised by lawlessness and abuse that police officers themselves inflict on ordinary Liberians, especially those living on the margins. The police force is riddled with corruption and a lack of professionalism and accountability.”
Further, according to the research, “a 2012 survey showed that Liberians perceived the police to be the most corrupt institution in Liberia; the courts were a close second. Even more recently, a Transparency International report, Global Corruption Barometer 2013, noted that the police were perceived to be the most corrupt institution in the country”, noting that interviews conducted with over 220 people, including victims of Police corruption and 35 Police officers from Montserrado, Bong, Lofa and Grand Gedeh Counties, affirmed findings of the research.
Endemic Police corruption and the continued lack of access to justice in the absence of UNMIL confirms the view of the Police Chief Inspector quoted earlier in this editorial. The situation has indeed become worse as predicted by the Police Chief Inspector.
Examples are the cases involving Representatives Yekeh Kolubah and Acarous Gray. In one instance Representative Yekeh Kolubah, a fierce critic of President Weah, has been charged with terroristic threats and aggravated assault based on reports that he allegedly ordered the flogging of an individual who reportedly sustained bodily injuries.
Based on Police accounts, Representative Kolubah, although not physically present on the scene where the individual was flogged, was yet charged based on accusations that he ordered the flogging. Those accused, including Representative Kolubah, who have been criminally charged, were expected in court yesterday for a hearing into the matter. Surprisingly, and contrary to law, the accused did not have their day in court as the presiding Magistrate, at the behest of the prosecution, robbed them of the opportunity to obtain bail by instead sending the case to the Circuit Court for indictment on the charges levied against them.
On the other hand, Representative Acarous Gray, a CDC official and strong supporter of President Weah who is accused of ordering the brutalization of a local sports bar proprietor in his presence, has not even faced Police investigation despite the filing of an official complaint to the Police by the victim on his ordeal. Representative Gray is reported to have left Liberia for an unknown destination.
But this is not the first instance of displayed Police bias, non-professionalism and corruption under what appears to be the weak and ineffectual leadership of Police Inspector-General Patrick Sudue. The disruption of a political rally in Gardinersville in November 2018 and the brutalization of rally attendees by armed thugs led by Monrovia City Mayor has since gone uninvestigated. No arrests have been made even though Grand Bassa Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, who was victimized and had to flee for her life, made an official report to the Police as well as to the Liberian Senate.
Also, the armed attack on a children’s party on the Old road by hooligans acting under the direction of an Assistant Justice Minister has gone with impunity and, likewise, the violent disruption of a MOJA anniversary rally by armed thugs led by the LINSU President has also gone with impunity which conveys a distinct impression that these acts had tacit official approval.
More recently, the cooptation of former ex-rebel fighters and Generals into the ranks of the Police have since more deeply engrained widespread public perceptions of the Police as being untrustworthy and incapable of protecting and serving the interests of the Liberian people.
In this regard, Police Inspector-General Patrick Sudue must provide satisfactory reasons why Representative Acarous Gray should not be criminally charged. The law should be no respecter of persons, else Liberia under George Weah will become a nation of men and not a nation of laws.
Representative Gray must therefore face criminal charges. What’s good for the gander is also good for the goose!