Liberia: National Human Rights Commission Wants State Security Apparatus Be Held Liable for Violation of Rights during State of Emergency

INCHR Acting Commissioner Rev. Bartholomew B. Colley (ATTY) in the center, along with staffs at the press conference

Monrovia – The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) has sounded the clarion that state security personnel should be held liable for any rights violations during this 21-day State of Emergency.

By J.H. Webster Clayeh (0886729972) [email protected]

President George Weah ordered the State of Emergency on Wednesday, April 8, as part of the government’s measure aimed at stopping the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

The rights commission said while it appreciates the call for the military and other para-military personnel to assist in the enforcement of the public health emergency, the Commission states emphatically that “law enforcers” should be held liable for any violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws.

The INCHR’s Act of 2005 provides that, ‘The Commission shall have general competence to protect and promote human rights in the Republic of Liberia according to the provision of the Act, the Constitution of Liberia, and other relevant laws of Liberia.’

Just on day one of the three-week SOE, lots of pictures on social media show that some individuals were mercilessly flogged by state security officers for not being at their homes after the 3 pm, the set time for the closure of all commercial activities.

Among those beaten by state security was the wife of Mr. Theophilus S. Seeton, a Liberian journalist.

According to what her husband had posted on social media, Mrs. Seeton had gone to park her car at the community parking lot, which is a two-minute walk away from her house. On her way walking back, she met some police officers, who beat on her. The picture that circulated on social media, she was bleeding from her mouth.

The Government’s declaration of the state of emergency (SOE) (public health emergency) should uphold the principle of legality and rule of law

INCHR Acting Commissioner Rev. Bartholomew B. Colley

Speaking to journalists at INCHR’s office on 20 Street, Sinkor, on Friday, the Acting Commissioner Rev. Bartholomew B. Colley said despite effort on the part of the Government to call on all citizens and residents alike to respect and abide by all regulations aimed at keeping the population safe, state security officers will be held liable for the violation of human rights.

“The Government’s declaration of the state of emergency (SOE) (public health emergency) should uphold the principle of legality and rule of law,” INCHR Acting Commissioner said.

Atty. Colley had called on the Legislature to make sure the President spells out those rights to be affected before endorsing the State of Emergency.

INCHR Acting Commission further said: “The suspension or derogation of rights under international human rights standards should be expressed and not implied.”

He added: “This will allow INCHR and other human rights groups to monitor and ensure that the enforcement is strictly in line with public health.”

INCHR also cautioned the government to be gender-sensitive when dealing with people with the symptoms of COVID-19.

“Priority for testing pregnant women with COVID-19 symptoms, isolation of pregnancy wards from COVID-19 and extra care for women in delivery should be considered. The protection of the Sexual Reproductive Health Rights of women is critical during this time of the pandemic,” he said. Atty. Colley added: “Access to safe delivery, use of contraception, treatment of STIs should be made available at all times.  Hence, the Government should ensure that there is enough information for women to access hospital maternity facilities without fear and the misconception about the spread of the COVID-19.”