Lawyers Want Justice For Gbarpolu Violence Victims -For Clear Message Against Traditional Interference In Elections

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The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA), strongly condemned the acts of torture and electoral violence that were recently perpetrated in Gbarpolu County during the December 8, 2020 midterm senatorial elections in that county, and is calling on Government to bring to justice those responsible for these reprehensible acts.

A statement by the lawyers’ association said reprimanding perpetrators of the Gbarpolu election violence will send a clear message to the mischief by the traditional society and others associated with the violence in the county.

The LNBA, in a press statement dated December 23, 2020, especially condemns, in no uncertain terms, the public manhandling and torturing of two Liberian lawyers, Cllr. Boakai Kanneh and Atty. Aloysius Toe by residents who reportedly acted on the orders of a local paramount chief and state security personnel in the area.

The LNBA says that it is strange, illegal and unacceptable for a local official to interfere with and to attempt to disrupt an electioneering process which purely involves the exercise of the democratic rights guaranteed under Chapter Three of the 1986 constitution of Liberia and under international human rights instruments to which Liberia is a state party.

The LNBA states that while it respects rights of the people to associate in any manner, form or shape, including being members of the poro, it very strongly denounces, deprecates and condemns the use of any authority or power available to any organization, including the poro to abuse the rights of other citizens and to violate the Penal Law of Liberia as was recently done in Gbarpolu County.

The LNBA further maintains that the account of the ordeal as revealed by Cllr. Boakai Kanneh, a citizen of Gbarpolu, and Atty. Toe who is an official of the party whose candidate is Botoe Kanneh was prevented from entering Normor Datando Town  the date the elections were rescheduled to take place in Norman Town on December 15, 2020.

The Liberian National Bar Association says the account as mentioned is replete with graphic images of torture, incarceration and abuse of power at the hands of a local paramount chief, who ordered the country devil to appear and obstruct the scheduled re-run of the election in Normor Datando Town , Gbarpolu County.

The LNBA asserted that said this was so because that the poro tradition prohibits men who are non-poro members and women from being outdoors when the country devil appears in town, and noted that  no election under such atmosphere can be considered free and fair by any parity of reasoning.

The LNBA calls upon the Government of Liberia to investigate the local paramount chief and all persons associated with the torturing and incarceration of Cllr. Kanneh and Atty. Toe in Gbarpolu County, and requests that the findings be made public and the appropriate disciplinary actions instituted.

“When this is done,” the LNBA observes, “it will send out a clear message that never again should such action be condoned, for a local chief to seize ballot boxes as it is said to have happened in the instant case in Gbarpolu County,” the LNBA statement said.

“Failure on the part of the Weah Government to conduct an investigation and to institute the appropriate disciplinary actions in this matter, … would be construed as an act that was sanctioned and instigated by the Liberian Government, particularly the ruling CDC …” the LNBA statement indicated.

The statement said such could become a pattern that could undermine the free and fair conduct of the 2023 elections in the country, something which could disrupt the peace and stability of Liberia.

The LNBA says it is further concerned that if lawyers who are regarded by ordinary people  as superior citizens of the country can be subjected to such torture and mayhem by the state actors and their associates in such a demeaning manner with a conspicuous silence of the government, then it suggests that the country is fast sinking into lawlessness, jungle justice and thereby igniting a harsh reminder of the dark days in Liberia when gruesome murder and the killing of innocent citizens at the hands of state actors were perpetrated with impunity.

The LNBA reminding President Weah that any government associated with such wanton human rights violation is creating the necessary conditions for its own rejection, the LNBA therefore calls upon the CDC Government to act swiftly to hold accountable all local government, traditional leaders and other persons for the acts of electoral violence and torture committed recently in Gbarpolu County, against the two Liberian lawyers.

The lawyers’ organization doing so would create public confidence that the Government is capable of defending every Liberian, regardless of status or political affiliation, amongst other things, especially in connection with free and fair elections.

The Government should take note that if nothing is done to those who perpetrated torture and violence against the two lawyers, it will be sending a clear signal that government lacks the political will to protect the rights of ordinary citizens and foreign residents, the statement signed by the Secretary General of the group, Bobby Livingstone concluded.

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