Monrovia – The Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform has called on the Liberian Government to adopt a national guideline that will specify the role of state securities in the fight against COVID-19 amid the observance of the state of emergency imposed to stop the spread of the virus.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]
The CSO Human Rights Platform’s statement comes in the wake of reports of violence meted against peaceful citizens by state securities in several parts of the country including Bong, Montserrado and Nimba Counties after the Government’s state of emergency came into force last weekend.
The CSO Human Rights Platform said while it welcomes the state of emergency as a normal trend under the circumstances of the Coronavirus, the Government should adhere to the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee regarding the state of emergency declared by the Government of Liberia during the Ebola outbreak.
The state of emergency declared in 2014 to tackle the Ebola crisis were marred by violence perpetrated by state securities against civilians.
In one instance, a skirmish in between civilians and the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) led to the death of a male teenager, Shaki Kamara in the slum community of West Point.
Findings from the Disciplinary Board of the AFL concluded that a Platoon Commander and four enlisted men were guilty of indiscretion and exhibited indiscipline on August 20, 2014.
In the wake of the incident, the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its 125th review session on Liberia’s report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-(ICCPR) held at Geneva in 2018, recommended that during a state of emergency, the Government should take measures to ensure that any process of derogation from the Covenant complies with Article 4, of the ICCPR and to that end develop national guidelines on the implementation of a proclamation of State of Emergency.
ICCPR also called for a thorough investigate of all allegations of human rights violations committed during the state of Emergency of 2014, with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice and providing victims with effective remedies.
The CSO Human Rights Platform in a release said that the national guideline, as recommended by the Treaty Body, should spell out the responsibilities of the government as guarantor of human rights, the role of the International community and the Civil Society Human Rights body in the fight against the Coronavirus in Liberia.
The platform, retrospection on instances from the Ebola crisis said, the government of Liberia is not sufficiently capacitated to address this grave nature of the coronavirus on its own without a well-coordinated plan and collaborating efforts from both national and international fronts.
“To further ensure a professional response by the security forces, the CSO Platform calls on the Government of Liberia to clearly outline in the guidelines to the police, military, and joint security leadership, to strictly adhere to the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials during the State of Emergency to provide protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, to facilitate appropriate response and to avoid social unrest related to basic provisions,” the CSO Human Rights Platform said in a statement signed by its National Secretary General Adama Dempster.
It added that the guideline should further spell out the compliance role citizens would be expected to play in the face of the pandemic to stop the recurrence of the West Point situation in 2014.
“The guideline should further spell out or specify conduct of the central role of state security forces in COVID-19 response to enhanced state of emergency directives. (For example to not have the re-occurrence of state securities and citizens standoff like in West Point 2014 Ebola situation).”
The Platform further noted that the government should ensure that restrictions on public health on public emergency grounds meet requirements of legality, evidence-based necessity, and proportionality.
It added that any restrictions should be clearly defined, well publicized, and subject to monitoring through the use of public hearings before the law makers, national human rights institutions in Liberia, and by independent groups operating without unnecessary restrictions.
“To further ensure a professional response by the security forces, the CSO Platform calls on the Government of Liberia to clearly outline in the guidelines to the police, military, and joint security leadership, to strictly adhere to the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials during the State of Emergency to provide protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, to facilitate appropriate response and to avoid social unrest related to basic provisions.”Adama Dempster, National Secretary General, CSO Human Rights Platform
Role of the International Community
The Platform, citing the observation of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and the UN special rapporteur on the right to health said states should ensure that their actions as members of international organizations take due account of the right to health.
It also mentioned that while the government has made some progress in ensuring respect for human rights, outline in its National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP), there exists serious challenges, among them include the protection for health workers giving care to COVID-19 patients including their benefits.
The group noted that presenting an overly-broad statement, isolations and other rights-abusive measures will undermine efforts to contain COVID-19 pandemic in Liberia.
It called for a more detailed approach to ensure that the general public have greater access to information and care; the role of security forces to restrict liberty or movement only if and when absolutely needed.
And in addition, ensure the role of security forces does not inflict more injuries and cause unnecessary tension and chaos than the COVID-19 itself.
The group also wants that protections outlined under international human rights law should guard the State of Emergency enforcement by the Government of Liberia.