The Acting Chairperson of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR,) Rev. Bartholomew Colley has warned against violation of civilians rights in Liberia, and threatened to go after State security actors who are in the constant habit of using State’s uniform to intimidate civilians in Liberia .
Addressing high power delegations of National Security at program marking One Day National Conference on the ‘Protection of Civilians’ (POC), in the Capital Monrovia, Rev. Colley said it is disdainful for State Security apparatus who are components of government to be entrenched in the violation of civilians rights in Liberia.
He said the Rights commission has observed for decades that State Security forces who are obligated by law to safeguard the rights of people are instead the one violating their rights and in some instances killing civilians without justice accorded.
He named WestPoint Ebola event where the late Shakai Kamara was allegedly killed by AFL officer, the April 16, 2017 Red Light event between Motorcyclists and Police officers in which a civilian Alfred Tanue was killed, as well as famous November 7, 2011 when a protestors Mohammed Kamara was gun down in cold blood at the headquarters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).
“We are going to investigate you, whether you are an AFL Commander, police Boss, regardless where you assigned, we will document you if you are accused of violating human rights. We will seek remedies for prosecution,” he said.
For his part, Marcel Akpovo, Chief of UNMIL-Human Rights and Protection Service (HRPS) called on Liberia’s security organs to consider the protection of civilians as paramount in Liberia.
He said armless civilians should not be seen as enemies but rather should be seen as ones to be protected whether in conflict.
According to him, when government wants to go after CSOs, “ Legislature enacts law to go after Civil Society Organizations (CSO). “That need to be stopped” He urged the Legislature to avoid laws that are discriminatory.
The One Day National Conference on the Protection of Civilians (POC) aims to discuss with the relevant government institutions including justice and security actors efforts to protect civilians in Liberia.
The overall objective of the project is in line with the provisions of UN security Council Resolution 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.
Forum builds 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 is being proposed so as to provide further understanding of POC and the State’s responsibility going forward. It is organized also with the understanding that various justice and security Actors invited do have in place their own strategies regarding POC and thus the forum will allow for a reflection on these POC, and to think of ways to strengthen existing programs and policies.
It is hoped that as the discussion will help identify new strategies to protect civilians threatened by violence and human rights violations.
The key focus topics that were discussed at the workshop included, the protection of civilians, legal constraints, UN POC strategy roles and responsibilities and the threats and response mechanism amongst others.
Writes Alex Yomah