In ‘Kinjor Police Murder’: STAND Wants Commanders Prosecuted -Urges Bea Mountain to Pay Reparations to Victims

MONROVIA: STAND, a prominent civil society organization fighting for justice and accountability in Liberia, today released investigative reports detailing police brutality against protesters and the gross violation of workers’ rights by the management of Bea Mountain Company in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County.

The STAND report, impartially and meticulously compiled by a team of professional investigators, alleges bad labor practices by Bea Mountain, based on their fact finding mission to Kinjor.

The STAND report established discriminatory pay benefits between ordinary Liberians and low level non-Liberian workers, high levels of inequalities and huge disparities among the general workforce resulting in poverty wage earnings among ordinary Liberian workers.

Despite Bea Mountain  huge profit margins accumulated from the extraction of the county’s mineral resources, Grand Cape Mount county remains underserved and  woefully scarred by the trappings of poverty,  the lack of good healthcare and poor or no  sanitary facilities.

Except for expatriates and foreigners who live in separate, better housing units, ordinary Liberian workers live in makeshift homes without access to safe drinking water or hybrid toilet facilities.

These debilitating conditions, workplace prejudices and intimidation faced by the affected workers, created an atmosphere of dissatisfaction and dissent among workers, leading to the Kinjor protest of 29 February 2024.

While STAND acknowledges that the tensed atmosphere between protesters and management may have necessitated the deployment of members of the Liberia National Police, the protest being legitimate, was largely peaceful until the police use of tear gas canisters and batons. Hence, on 28 February 2024, day-one of the planned peaceful protest, police dispersed protesters, chasing them from their homes, into bushes till nightfall.

On day two, 29 February 2024, protesters attempted to reassemble at the entrance of the township of Kinjor, but was met with sporadic discharge of gun fire from officers of the Liberia National Police under the command of Mr. George Fahnbulleh, a Police Support Unit commander dispatched at Kinjor during the outbreak. According to multiple witnesses, Commander Fahnbulleh, who is said to be a Bea Mountain’s monthly compensation beneficiary,  apart from his regular Police salary, shot and killed a protester identified as Abraham.

The STAND’s report verified eyewitness accounts that the significant escalation of violence and bloodshed was driven by the unwarranted use of excessive force by the Police against protesters, which was authorized by Grand Cape Mount County Police Commander Joseph Soko Mulbah.

Commander Mulbah, allegedly shot at point blank range and killed a school-age boy gruesomely. This boy had bravely and selflessly attempted a rescue of a dying colleague left bleeding to death from police’s bullet wounds.

With the death of three protesters, and fifteen others injured, things quickly escalated out of control leaving the Kinjor police sub-office completely burnt down to ashes.

STAND categorically condemns all forms of violence, and demands that perpetrators be held accountable, especially lawless and violent elements of the Liberia National Police who must bear the brunt of the provocation of violence in Kinjor.

STAND’s assessment of the initial protest as being peaceful is further corroborated by a commissioned report of the National Legislature, which highlights the peaceful nature of the protest and renders it as a legitimate protesters’ grievances.

Furthermore, the legislature’s report on the Kinjor incident echoes STAND’s findings, emphasizing the need for justice and accountability for the victims.

In the same Legislative report, it  recognizes the importance of addressing the underlying socio-economic issues and ensuring adherence to international labor laws and agreements, a position STAND endorses.

In the face of mounting evidence pointing to police responsibility for the violence, the Liberia National Police, in its attempt to evade blame for its officers reckless actions leading to the inhumane murder of protesters, published a dark prejudiced police report downplaying the severity of the situation.

The Liberia National Police’s report evidenced the exact behavior of the Police’s action at Kinjor, a mockery of justice. The weight of the evidence from Kinjor is too grave to be ignored, and cannot be whitewashed into history by decoys designed to exonerate those responsible for the brutal use of force.

Therefore,   STAND categorically rejects this biased portrayal from the LNP, and calls for the immediate arrest and prosecution of PSU Commander George Fahnbulleh, Grand Cape Mount County Police Commander Joseph Soko Mulbah, and anyone that may have been linked to the violent escalation in Kinjor.

Amidst the government’s apparent inaction and lack of support for aggrieved workers, STAND is taking decisive action to ensure justice is served. Amongst several options, STAND has retained legal representation to defend and advocate for the rights of all Kinjor workers.

Additionally, STAND is dismayed to learn that individuals operating under the influence of BEA Mountain’s deep pockets have resorted to intimidation and harassment designed to silence dissent and suppress legitimate workers’ grievances by unjustly targeting and threatening job loss and other forms of witch-hunt.

While condemning this witch-hunt, STAND also urges Bea Mountain to pay reparations to families of victims, since its actions or inactions are tacit endorsements of violence against peaceful protest.

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