Counsellor Jerome J. Verdier, Sr., former chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Liberia
Reminders of April 12 and Wartime Executions
Recent public notices from the Government of President George M. Weah through airport authorities that trespassers and suspected looters caught at the secured parameters of the airport will be “shot on sight” is a grim reminder of our despotic and evil past, many Liberians prefer never to relive again.
As we approach another anniversary of the Military Coup of April 12, 1980, the spectacle of several Liberians shot, execution style in the Executive Mansion and around the Capitol City of Monrovia and 13 very prominent Officials of Government lined up and publically executed on a Monrovia beach, looms large in our minds with fears of history being repeated.
We are also reminded of war-time executions when many hungry and desperate youths were executed for “looting”, “failure to follow orders” or for some other trivial, heartless and baseless reasons that bear no parity to the value of lives that were lost on the war theatre without regards to the sanctity of life, the rule of law or the rights of individual victims without just cause or excuse.
Condemnation of Order
We vehemently condemn this barbaric ‘shoot to kill’ order and emphasize that such orders embody a “jungle justice” mentality, unhealthy for a fledgling democracy in Liberia. This order is a threat to the civil life Liberians voted for in the last October elections and reflects the shifting policy of the Weah Government from a stable, orderly, anti-war and human rights-based, democratic society to the “rule of the jungle” policy, evidenced by the obviously suspicious composition of President Weah’s Government including the unconstitutional and illegal creation of the office of the prime minister, a super minister without calling it that way.
Utilizing the military in peace times to enforce laws or regulations with brutality against civilians absent an emergency is illegal, unconstitutional and a violation of the elementary principles of human decency, democracy and controlling international norms, principles, conventions and the rule of laws all civil societies worldwide have sworn to observe.
We, assume, without fear of contradiction that those orders were issued under the commanding authority of President Weah who is the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. If not, how did civilian authorities at the airport assume those powers to command elements of the armed forces into action against civilians?
If President Weah chooses to villainously shred his powers and authority, he must be compassionately cautious to do so with care and foresight under existing laws and policies, not compromising the due process standards of our laws or sacrificing the rights of Liberian citizens in such a fundamental manner.
Notwithstanding, the power of Commander – In – Chief is a constitutionally vested power and authority that may not be legally delegated under prevailing circumstances and conditions and Mr. President must assume his full authority in that capacity and exercise same as under the Constitution of Liberia.
A shoot to kill order questions our commitment to democracy, human rights and the highest premium attached to the value of life. It also raises questions of accountability as to how the order was derived; why was it issued in the first place; and whether it was a measure of last resort, having exhausted all other probable alternatives. The President or his Government owes us, the people, a measure of explanation and accountability on this matter by giving us answers to the questions above, we demand!
We can safely assume the President assented and issued this order, but public accountability demands a public explanation under the framework of transparency under the framework of a government accountable to its people.
President Weah is the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia and we cast responsibility for the issuance of this “shoot-to-kill order” at the feet of President Weah and therefore encourage the President to rescind, abrogate, countermand the order or cause it to be rescinded because, under such order, the victim will be dead before he or she is given an opportunity to vindicate his name or defend herself as the “rule of law” principle demands.
Creeping Tendencies of Totalitarianism and SLAPP Suits
- Taylor’s Agenda Since the beginning of the political season that saw the ascendancy of President Weah to power, we have heard much talk about giving life to the “Taylor Agenda”. The Taylor Agenda can be nothing more than a return to brute rule, disorganized society and “kakistocracy”.
- Attacking the Media We are witnessing the much-unwarranted attacks against the media. Free speech, free media and freedom of association, we remind the government, are major pillars for the maintenance of our stable society, and progressive march to building a strong democracy centered on human rights and the rule of law. We hasten to say that the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) identified violations and disrespect of these rights were amongst the root causes of the violent conflicts that led to the useless and destructive Charles Taylor and subsequent wars recently experienced in Liberia.
- SLAPP SUIT Recent attacks and lawsuit against FrontPage Africa is symptomatic of a government policy intolerant of criticism and critical review of its programs, policies and political actions. This we also vehemently condemn and urge President Weah to please work for a free society and free press and urged the President also to develop a coherent policy on how his Government operatives deal with or handle the press to ensure that the cherished freedom the press now enjoys through much historical pains, toil, sweat, and suffering is never a subject of the slightest encroachment from Government or society at large.
The ongoing lawsuit against FrontPage Africa is what civil society activist describes as a SLAPP suit. It is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation “intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition”
- Security Harassment Recently, an armed member of the security forces, claiming to be a police officer walked up to a civilian citizen and told him he was under arrest and should follow him to the police station. The concerned citizen asked the “police officer” to identify himself since he was fully attired in civilian clothing and tell him while he is been arrested in the first place. The so-called police officer refused to neither identify himself nor explain the reason for his so-called arrest. The disguised officer then proceeded to effect a forceful arrest the civilian by fo. He pointed his gun at the civilian in “shoot to kill” which prompted the concerned citizen into action to save his precious life and a fight in the public ensued. I heard it was reported to proper authorities but no account/information on that incident is public, to the best of my knowledge and information.
- Lawmaker enforcing City Ordinance Also recently, an honorable member of the Honorable House of Representatives was seen on the Old Road in the public market attempting to enforce “no selling on Sunday” ordinance or policy of the City Government of Monrovia. That was an unconstitutional act which forbids a member of one branch of government from exercising the powers, authority or functions of another branch of government. The honorable man, being a member of the legislative branch could not legally exercise the powers, functions, authority of the city government of the Executive Branch of Government.
- House of Representative Acting without Authority to sell Liberia The Honorable House of Representatives has acted with haste to implement President Weah’s top priority policy to change the Liberian constitution to make our brothers and sisters of non-negro descent citizens of Liberia and by extension the right to buy Liberian land resources. This move is done without the indicia of consultation with the people who elected them, their constituencies. Our representative form of government makes public officials, elected or appointed, servants and employees of the people – not Lords over them!
Elected representatives are elected to represent and foster the wishes, preferred actions and desires of their people and not to project views of their own. How then is it that they have preceded with personal agendas, actions and plans short of consultations with their bosses, the people? This is autocratic and illegal – beware ladies and gentlemen!
- Military/Civilian Governance The government’s desire to posture dictatorial tendencies so early in its rule can be more aptly defined in the conduct of the Superintendent of Sinoe County to go to work in full military uniform spreading the fear and intimidation tactics applied around the country to journalists and other peaceful citizens. It is my information that not only the BBC Journalist has fled the Country but Dr. Wiles of CARI has also fled for fear of his life due to intimidating and threatening actions of Task Force and vigilantes allied with the Government and the ruling Coalition Political Party. The Honorable Superintendent of Sinoe County is telling Liberians and the World that Liberia is now a semi-military/civilian state.
- The Government The Government will have to rein these Task Force elements, have them fully regimented and controlled within set policy guidelines that do not infringe fundamental rights and freedoms of peaceful citizens and curb all these “creeping tendencies” of dictatorship and authoritarianism that detract from reconciliation and threaten our democratic aspirations and way of life.
ISSUED BY AUTHORITY THIS 12TH DAY OF APRIL 2018
Jerome J. Verdier, Sr (Cllr)
FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN
Jerome J. Verdier, Sr (Cllr)
FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN
“TRUE PEACE IS NOT MERELY THE ABSENCE OF WAR, IT IS THE PRESENCE OF JUSTICE”