Liberia: Police Rule Out Hate Crime in Murder of John Tubman

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Monrovia – The Liberia National Police has ruled out the death of Mr. John Hilary Tubman as a hate crime until a coroner inquest can be performed, says Police spokesman, H. Moses Carter. 

“The coroner inquest will be conducted to determine whether there was foul play,” he said. “It should have been yesterday. I am sure it will happen today.” 

He further revealed that Police are seeking a person of interest whose name he failed to disclose. “We are looking for a guy who used to be in the house with Mr. Tubman to answer some questions. He has not been seen since the death of Mr. Tubman. I’m on my way to a meeting—I will give you more information when I speak to my bosses.”

The Police spokesperson failed to respond to calls and text messages hours later. 

Tubman, 76, son of former Liberian President of 27 years, William V.S. Tubman, was found murdered in his home in the suburbs of Sinkor on September 22, 2021, with a rope tied to his neck with facial and stab wounds and a spatter of blood. 

Though the Police have not released the name of its “person of interest”, the death of Tubman has sent jitters down the spine of Liberia’s gay community. In the high Liberian society, the son of the former President was one of the few Liberians who was openly gay. 

It remains unclear whether his death is linked to his sexual orientation, but sources closed to the family say it cannot be ruled out. 

The Coordinator of the human rights coalition, Liberia’s Initiative for the Promotion of Rights, Identity, Diversity and Equality (LIPRIDE), Maxwell Monboe, in a statement said the community remains saddened by the death of Tubman as it is a stark reminder that LGBT people are vulnerable, regardless of status. 

“His death reminds us that every member of the LGBTI community in Liberia, whether rich or poor, our lives are in danger,” he said. Monboe added that it is imperative on the government to protect everyone, including those who identify as sexual minorities. 

“We are calling on the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), the United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) to take actions against the government for failing to abide brightsan right treaties they signed up to.”

The death of John Hilary Tubman a week ago comes a year following the disappearance of Dominic Renner and Winston Toe. Renner and Toe’s disappearance has been linked to Cheeseman Cole, an ex-soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia who reportedly used Facebook to “catfish” over 27 men he suspected of being gay. 

LGBTQ Liberians continue to face widespread threats, assault, harassment, and hate speech, according to the 2020 U.S. State Department Human Rights report

Though Cole was arrested and briefly detained at the Monrovia Central Prison, he has been freed on bail awaiting trial. The status of the case continues to remain shrouded in secrecy as the Ministry of Justice appears reluctant to prosecute. Ministry of Justice spokesperson Maude Somah could not be reached for comment. 

LGBTQ Liberians have experienced incessant attacks in the last year. 

Recently, a student of the Trinity United Methodist School was expelled for crossdressing when a viral video on Facebook showed him in a playful but fiery exchange with a female street preacher who had sought to preach damnation upon him.

Two teenagers and a man were beaten in May over suspicion they were gays. The trio claimed they were returning from a wake-keeping ceremony. Though arrests were made, the Ministry of Justice failed to prosecute. They were relocated by human rights organizations for their safety. 

Liberian law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults. Article 14.74, 14.79, and 50.7 [of the Penal Code of 1976] consider voluntary sodomy as a first-degree misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one-year imprisonment.  

Though the country has not defined its stance on the protection of the rights of its LGBT population, Attorney General, F. Musah Dean, during the launch of the UN SOGIE report in November 2020 at a private resort said the Liberian constitution guarantees protection for all. 

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