Liberia: Judge Orders Police Inspector Sudue Arrest for Ignoring Human Rights Commission’s Subpoena
MONROVIA – Circuit Court Judge Nancy Finda Sammy has issued an arrest warrant for the Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP) Patruck Sudue over his refusal to appear before the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INCHR) to testify in the Commission’s ongoing public hearing into the July 26 violence.
The July 26 violence erupted as the result of a counter protest launched by the Coalition for Democratic Change-Council of Patriots (CDC-COP) in front of the U.S. Embassy where members of the Student Unification Party (SUP) of the University of Liberia were staging their anti-government protest, dubbed “Fix the Nation.” Several members of SUP were injured.
The INCHR has launched an investigation to establish the scale, magnitude, and gravity of the situation as it relates to human rights violations, specifically the rights to freedom of assembly, expression, association and the rights to life and dignity,
As part of the inquiry, the INCHR has invited key parties including the CDC-COP, SUP, the LNP and some eyewitnesses.
However, Police Inspector Sudue turned down the INCHR’s invitation on grounds that the LNP is not subject to the Commission’s scrutiny.
The Police have been heavily blamed for not intervening during the build up to the violence and did not rescue student Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivili when he was being mobbed by the pro-government crowd.
In a communication to the INCHR in response to its invitation, Sudue said while the police appreciate the concern of the INCHR over the incident, the LNP, as the highest national security institution in Liberia established by law, has an internal disciplinary review board referred to as the Professional Standard Department (PSD) which is responsible to investigate all professional and ethical issues within the police involving police officers at all levels except for the Inspector General of police and deputies in keeping with the act that created the LNP.
The Police IG based his defiance on Section 22.1(d) of the LNP Act which states that “The Professional Standard Department shall conduct all disciplinary proceedings against all officials below the Deputy Inspector General of Police in accordance of with regulations and administrative instructions made under this act.”
“To subject an officer of the Liberia National Police to investigation by any institution other than the PSD/LNP will be a violation of the LNP unless investigation is sanctioned by a court of competent jurisdiction,” IG Sudue said.
However, the INCHR Chairman Cllr. Dempster Brown stated that the act creating the Human Rights Commission gives it the power of a civil court trying a suit under the Civil Procedure Laws of Liberia while investigating a complaint,, adding the act gives the Commission subpoena powers to bring within its jurisdiction those accused based upon complaints from aggrieved parties.
The act gives the Commission the authority to apply to any civil court for a writ of arrest to compel the accused to appear in case the person refuses as in the case of the Police IG.
Meanwhile, the hearing continued on Wednesday with several witnesses taking the stand. Witness One, a member of SUP (name is not mentioned for fear of reprisal), said she was attacked by members of the CDC-COP while on her way to join her colleagues at the U.S. Embassy. She told the hearing that while on her way, the CDC-COP members signaled to her as though they were members of SUP, and after she responded, they surrounded her and beat on her.
The second witness, a journalist who covered the incident, said before marching on to the US Embassy, the CDC-COP assembled at University of Liberia- Capitol Hill campus, occupied the political palava hut and after several minutes, marched through Broad Street to the U.S. Embassy holding large banners with portraits of President George Weah and some of his officials. According to the witness, he informed the police of a potential violence if the two sides meet – and as such there was a need for their quick intervention to stop the CDC-COP and SUP from clashing. The police promised to intervene but did not until the violence was over.
The witness explained that the CDC-COP members accused SUP of being ungrateful for staging an anti-Weah protest after the President offered the students free tuition and carried out several developments. Some of the CDC-COP leaders, the witness said, lay down in front of SUP, while others pounded their chests to show they are in charge. After several minutes, the violence erupted with the throwing of stones from both sides and the SUP members who were outnumbered by the CDC-COP were soon overpowered, the witness said.
The witness told the hearing that Several minutes later, a member of SUP, Christopher Sisulu Sivili, surrounded by a large group, was brought from a corner on Benson Street in a distressed mood as he begged his tormentors to set him free. He said Sivili could barely stand as he hobbled and held the feet of some CDC-COP leaders who tried to save him from any further harm by the mob.
The CDC-COP appeared on Thursday but did not testify as they were abruptly called to appear before the Court at the Temple of Justice where they are facing trial. The group promised to return.
Earlier, taking the witness stance at the hearing on Monday, the Chairman of SUP, Mustapha Kanneh and the party’s Secretary-general Jusu Kamara, in separate testimonies said Sisilu is currently seeking treatment at an undisclosed health facility but his condition has not improved.
“He cannot talk, sit and stand. He is in severe pain and his condition is getting worse. We ask that you keep him in your prayers,” said SUP Chairman Kanneh.
Kanneh told the hearing that 14 members of SUP were brutalized and sustained major injuries, adding that one of them was kidnapped while on his way to the protest ground. The kidnapped student, he added, was beaten and torture and was discovered two days later after he went missing.
Kanneh said the CDC-COP was heavily supported by the Government to disrupt their peaceful protest and harm them. According to him, the pro-government group stormed the University of Liberia campus early July 26, ransacked SUP headquarters, stoned, beat and chased away some of the party’s members who had assembled on the campus before attacking the others at the U.S. Embassy.
Speaking earlier, Kamara, displaying several photographs of victims of the violence, called on the INCHR to conduct an independent investigation as SUP does not trust the government to justly prosecute the alleged perpetrators.