Monrovia – The issue of security officers continuous violation the rights of civilians in Liberia has grasped the attention of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR).
The Acting Chairperson of the INCHR, Rev. Bartholomew Colley, has warned security officers to stop brutalizing and violating the rights of citizens, noting that they ought to be protecting rights of civilians instead.
“You need to stop the violation of human rights as national security officers bearing the flag, everyone needs to be protected under our laws and the security officers are responsible for that and not to violate,” he said.
The INCHR boss at a one-day conference on the protection of civilians (POC) threatened to go after state security officers who are in the constant habit of using state uniform to intimidate civilians.
Rev. Colley said government is made of the national security apparatus that is against human rights violation.
He referenced the West Point shooting in 2014 during the Ebola epidemic that left teenager Shakai Kamara dead.
He also highlighted the April 16, 2015 Red-Light incident between Motorcyclists and Police officers that left a motorcyclist dead.
He also mentioned the famous November 7, 2011 violence between the Congress for Democratic (CDC) and state security officers where another citizen was killed near the CDC headquarters.
The INCHR boss noted that violence against civilians in any form needs to stop, saying, the laws of Liberia provide protection for all of its citizens.
He noted that the INCHR would investigate any state security officer that will misuse their training to violate the rights of the people.
“We are going to investigate you, whether you are an AFL Commander, police boss regardless where you assigned, we will document you, seek remedies to go after you with prosecution,” he said.
For his part, Marcel Akpovo, Chief of UNMIL-Human Rights and Protection Service (HRPS), said the Protection of Civilians is universal rights of every civilian in a country which Liberia is no exception.
He also called on the Legislature to refrain from making laws that are discriminatory.
“Sometimes, when government wants to go after a Civil Society Organizations (CSO), Legislature legislates laws against CSO and other civilians,” he said.
Speaking to journalists after the program, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, General Prince Johnson welcomed the assertion by the INCHR to prosecute and investigate any state security violating the rights of civilian.
He noted that the AFL would not allow any of its officers to violate human rights and go free.
“We are clear on that, at the level of the AFL anyone caught in human rights violation will be investigated and when found guilty we will prosecute you according to our laws,” he said.
Gen. Johnson said the current leadership of the AFL will not allow its members to get involved in acts that will damage the image of the AFL.
“We will not sit and allow anyone in the army because of your flag you violate the rights of civilians who you’re supposed to be protecting; that is why before we even sent our soldiers to Mali, we counter checked and did a report accounting for all of our men to the United Nations that they have never been involved in human rights violation,” he said.
The one-day National Conference on the Protection of Civilians (POC) was aimed at discussing with the relevant government institutions including justice and security actors and review efforts to protect civilians in Liberia.
The forum was built on the February 2017 workshop on POC, organized under the auspices of UNMIL, which brought together approximately 20 national and UNCT actors working in Monrovia.
At the outset of the workshop, it was clear that most participants believed that POC was primarily security personnel’s use of force to protect civilians from acts of violence.
As UNMIL completes its transition in March 2018, a national conference on the UN POC Strategy was proposed so as to provide further understanding of POC and the State’s responsibility going forward.
The overall objective of the project are in line with the provisions of SCR 2333 article 11 (a) (i) which mandates UNMIL to protect the civilian population from threat of physical violence within its capabilities and areas of development, particularly in the event of a deterioration of the security situation that could risk a strategic reversal of peace and stability in the country, without prejudice to primary responsibility of the Liberian authorities for the security and protection of its population.