CPP Condemns Police Brutalization of Anti-rape Campaigners -Wants Int’l Partners Prevail on Pres. Weah to End Violence
In the wake of the brutalization and arrest of peaceful anti-rape protesters on Thursday, August 27 by the Liberian National Police, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) is calling on ECOWAS, the AU, and all of Liberia’s International partners to prevail on the Weah Administration to ensure that this menace is killed before it further degenerates to serious civil unrest. “Signs that Liberians are becoming increasingly enraged over the poor performance of the Weah Administration and the growing political tension in neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast provide sufficient reasons to bring pressure to bear on the Weah Administration to end police brutality and all forms of injustices against our people,” the CPP said.
The CPP statement delivered Friday by spokesperson Orishall Gould comes against the backdrop of a nationwide anti-rape protest march staged by a group of civil society organization to create awareness on the ever-surging wave of rape and other forms of gender-based violence cases across the country and petition the Government of President George Weah to rise from its slumber and decisively address the situation. On Tuesday, August 25, 2020, the protest which is said to have been catalyzed by a recent report indicating that approximately one thousand women, girls, and babies have been raped since January 2020, got underway. Among these latest victims of rape is a three-year-old baby whose vagina was allegedly ripped apart with a razor blade by her attacker before executing his demonic act.
According to the CPP, before the march, there were widespread rumors about plans by some unscrupulous individuals to infiltrate the campaigners; demoralize their efforts by giving the campaign a negative political cloud and cause disruptions.
“Although the campaigners were resilient and determined in overcoming this plot, the rumors became a reality on Day One of the march when well-known regime apologists and thugs visibly infiltrated the campaigners and began causing confusion. They started to hatch their plans by trying to dictate whom to participate in a march they (the thugs) didn’t organize. On day two of the campaign, these very thugs forcefully made their way through the crowd and threw stones at the campaigners, thereby injuring several persons. On yesterday, the early hours of the last day of the march, police officers were unusually seen deployed in large numbers at various parts of the city in what many thought was preparation by the police to protect the anti-rape campaigners against their unprovoked attackers. As it turned out to be, the policed was deployed to prevent the campaigners from exercising their constitutional rights to assemble and petition their government as enshrined in Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution. Media reports have shown that the police acted unlawfully by arresting and brutalizing the campaigners; in some instances, seizing their personal effects and randomly molesting anyone who wore black, the announced dress code of the campaigners,” the CPP stated.
The CPP noted that the foregoing circumstances are indicative of continuous, well-orchestrated plans by the Weah Administration to violate the constitutional rights of peaceful Liberians and patronize lawlessness as has always been the trademark of his government.
“What is further noteworthy and sad, but perhaps not surprising, is the blatant refusal of our President and self-proclaimed Feminist-in-Chief to receive the petition of the campaigners despite frantic efforts to meet with him during the first two days of the campaign. This is evidence of the government’s complicity and lack of commitment to ending the widespread abuse of women, girls, and children in our country,” the opposition bloc stated.
During the late afternoon hours of yesterday, Liberians from all walks of life were glued to their radio when the government announced that President Weah had scheduled a 5 P.M radio address on ELBC to respond to the concerns of the campaigners. Liberians had also anticipated that he would have dealt with the unprofessional actions of the Liberian National Police against the campaigners.
“As it has always been, the president disappointed Liberians by his usual blame-shifting and shaky justifications of the conspicuous failure of his government to demonstrate leadership during very critical moments. That the president would assert that procuring two DNA machines is already a sufficient step by his government towards ending rape is quite frustrating. We would like to have President Weah understand that the procurement of two DNA Machines is inconsequential to ensuring that the volume of rape cases on the dockets of our courts are expeditiously adjudicated to ensure that the rod of deterrence is stricken against perpetrators of rape. Although the purchasing of two DNA machines for a country of approximately 4.5 million people is a necessary but insufficient step to proving cases of rape, it is in no way a substitute for the lack of the extension of the specialized court for rape in the fifteen political sub-divisions of our country. It does not also make up for the failure of the government through the Gender, Education, Internal Affairs Ministries, etcetera, to engage in a national crusade educating our people to stand up against rape,” the CPP asserted.
The opposition group said President Weah also implicitly gave support to the brutal and unprofessional actions of the Liberian National Police against the anti-rape campaigners and prejudiced any future investigation into the conduct of the police when he indicated that there were people among the protesters bent on causing trouble.
“This action of the president can be viewed as a reason why no investigation has been conducted into continuous acts of lawlessness against peaceful Liberians by some elements of the Liberian National Police whom themselves have had people accused of rape in their ranks. Not only do these continuous violent actions of the Liberian National Police against peaceful Liberians violate provisions of the Liberian Constitution, but they also violate provisions of several International Human Rights Instruments that Liberia is a signatory to; including but not limited to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966 which commits states parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly; the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights ( also known as the Banjul Charter); the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance; etcetera,” the CPP asserted, adding that President Weah also indicated during his radio address that continuous protests by Liberian under his watch are evidence that his government upholds the tenets of Democracy.
“Mr. President, this is flawed reasoning. As the word implies, and in most cases, protests are held to express resentment against societal ills. Rightfully so, all the protests that have been held since you became president have been against the excesses of your regime. And the conduct of your police force during these protests also defeats your argument about upholding the good tenets of democracy,” the CPP lamented.
“As we move closer to the December 8, 2020, Special Senatorial Elections, the events of yesterday bring a sad memory of previous acts of police brutality against Liberians which are yet to be investigated. We like to recount the electoral violence in the Montserrado County Districts 13 and 15 By-elections which resulted to the destruction of properties and injured several peaceful Liberians; the killing of a baby in West Point by an Officer of the LNP during the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown; the shooting to death of a young man by Officers of the LNP in 2019; the attack on peaceful protesters of the Council of Patriots (COP), etcetera,” the CPP said.
These cases of Human Rights Violations and Injustice, the CPP said, are reminiscent of those giving rise to previous civil unrest in our country. “As our country prepares for the Special Senatorial Elections on December 8, 2020, we call on ECOWAS, the AU, and all of our International partners to prevail on the Weah Administration to ensure that this menace is killed before it further degenerates to serious civil unrest. Signs that Liberians are becoming increasingly enraged over the poor performance of the Weah Administration and the growing political tension in neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast provide sufficient reasons to bring pressure to bear on the Weah Administration to end police brutality and all forms of injustices against our people.”
On the issue of tackling the continuous surge in cases of rape across the country, the CPP requests for President Weah to put aside his pride and meet with the organizers of yesterday’s protest who are entirely Liberians and hear their propositions on ways of addressing the situation.
“We also urge the president to establish a Special Non-Partisan Based National Task force on rape; ensure the decentralization of the Specialized Court for Rape in all parts of the country; create rehabilitation and reintegration opportunities for victims of rape, and facilitate a National Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on tackling rape. As a people, we must also begin to teach our children those values which discourage the culture of rape and impunity, promote responsible citizenship and support all reasonable and legal efforts to end the rape epidemic in our country. We acknowledge the efforts of those anti-rape campaigners. We applaud their efforts to stand up against rape in the face of threats and harassment and assure them of the unflinching support of the CPP in this regard.”