Liberia: CDC-COP Accuses Liberia National Police of Biased Investigation, Violation of Members’ Rights

Monrovia — The Liberian National Police (LNP) have found themselves in a double-edged sword after the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC-Council of Patriots) became the latest party of the July 26 violence to accuse them of being biased in the investigation.

The CDC-COP also accused the police of bogus charges against them and blatantly violating their human rights.

“They were bogus charges from the Liberian National Police. We were kept behind bars for more than 42 to 48 hours,” said Ben Believe Togba, the head of the CDC-COP at the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) public hearing on Friday.

Togba added: “We were treated like common criminals; we were denied food for the first night. There were meals coming in and we asked the police to show us the faces of those who were bringing the food for security reasons since other inmates were allowed to see their family but we were denied.”

The INCHR is headed by renowned lawyer Cllr. Dempster Brown is conducting an inquiry into the July 26 violence to establish the scale, magnitude, and gravity of the incident 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, the campus-based vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP), LNP, and some eyewitnesses.

Appearing earlier, SUP accused the Police of working at the behest of the government and ruling Coalition for Democratic Change to clamp on their peaceful assembly. It also accused the CDC-COP of being heavily supported by the CDC through Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee and others to counter every protest it stages against the government.

It added that the July 26 fateful incidents were just one of several scenarios that pro-a government group has disrupted their peaceful gathering and injured some of their members.

However, taking the witness stand at the hearing, Mr. Togba said the CDC-COP is a peaceful movement dedicated to promoting and appreciating the Weah-led government for its numerous developmental programs that are impacting the lives of Liberians.

The CDC-COP came under heavy condemnation for its ‘reckless’ counter-protest to SUP anti-government protest held in front of the U.S. Embassy that led to a violent clash that left several of SUP members including Christopher Water Sisulu Sivili severely injured.

But Togba said their gathering was not a counter-protest, but rather a show of support for the Liberian Government for its numerous pro-poor programs and policies including declaring all public institutions of higher learning tuition-free and construction of roads and housing units, among others.

“There is absolutely no identifiable members of the CDC-COP in that videos perpetrating violence. At no point in time as Chairman of the CDC-COP that I instructed any member of my institution to perpetrate violence. We are peaceful people and violence is not in our DNA,” he stated.

He further told the hearing that the violence erupted owing to the police’s inability to perform its duties to protect lives and properties; nothing had the police responded, would have prevented the two sides from clashing.

“If the Police’s presence had been felt at the U.S. Embassy, what happened would not have happened. I think we are victims of the Police’s inability to protect lives and properties.”

According to him, since the incident happened, he and his colleagues have been cooperating with the police investigation. Although they had honored the police invitation earlier, they were not arrested until the President condemned the violence and authorized the police to investigate the incident, he said.

After the President’s pronouncement, he revealed that he and his colleagues, again voluntarily honored the police invitation and went to its headquarters at Central. There, they were asked to separately fill in questionnaires on flying sheets with their particulars including name, age, and sex.

As were interacting with the LNP and filling the forms, he explained that everything was being captured on Facebook, and thereafter, the police told them they were under arrest and placed them behind bar for more than 48 hours.

The Police action, he noted, was more political than ethical. He said since the incident, no SUP members have been arrested as they were involved in violence and public disorder by throwing stones that injured some of CDC-COP supporters and burned tires on the Japan Freeway.

He said SUP has been the constant causing chaos and violence on any of the campuses of the University of Liberia, disrupting classes and destroying properties, with SUP getting away freely. He called on the INCHR, CSO and the LNP to start checkmating the student movement, instead of wrongly implicating the CDC-COP.

Meanwhile, the hearing continues this week with the imminent appearance of its high-profile witness, Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue, who has an arrest warrant from Circuit Court Judge Nancy Finda Sammy hanging over him for his refusal to honor the INCHR’s subpoena.

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