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Liberia’s judiciary faces a test of time in dealing with ‘brutal police force’ vs. protesters

MONROVIA, Liberia – The Liberian judiciary which has had a daunting reputation and has been previously branded as corrupt, incompetent and compromised prior to rebranding itself in recent period as a transparent, independent and fair institution, now faces a serious test of time in dealing with legal issues involving the Liberia National Police and the January 6, 2020, Council of Patriots’ protesters that were arrested for engaging in peaceful and constitutionally acceptable protest in the Liberian capital Monrovia.

The Liberian police, after tear-gassing and wasting hot waters on the protesters, an action which caused chaos and wrecked injuries on the protesting citizens, arrested and detained Aaron Kennedy, Emmanuel Johnson, Josiah Tarpeh, Willie O. Flomo, and Alexander Sampson.

On Thursday, the police sent the defendants to the Monrovia City Court headed by Jomah Jallah, who after preliminary inquiries, transferred the defendants to the notorious and crowded Monrovia Central Prison popularly known as South Beach.

A peaceful protester being manhandled and arrested

According to Court’s sources, the Liberian government charged defendants Aaron Kennedy, Emmanuel Johnson, Josiah Tarpeh, Willie O. Flomo with rioting, reckless endangerment of other citizens, failure to disperse, and disorderly conduct.

 The government also charged another defendant, Alexander Sampson, with possession and sale of a physical object for lethal use.

The Liberian police and the Ministry of Justice maintained in its charged sheet that all of the defendants engaged in active and aggressive activities.

What is of concern to several local and international human rights and civil liberties groups is that the Liberian judiciary which is now trying to repair its integrity and reputation had previously lack judicial legitimacy because it always sided with the dictates of the government and frequently ruled in cases in favor of the government based on the involvement of the Liberian presidency, particularly in matters in which a Liberian president had interest.

Judicial legitimacy derives from the belief that judges are impartial and that their decisions are grounded in law, not ideology and politics or presidential dictates which necessarily means pleasing the president.

The chief justice and justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, often make reference to legitimacy as one of the institution’s most precious (and perhaps most volatile) resources.

In Liberia and in most African countries, this does not seem to be the case.  Citizens are often locked up and have no just redress or trial because the courts and judges frequently side with and do what the government wants.

There are also unconfirmed reports that some human rights and civil liberties activists in Europe, Canada, and the United States are mobilizing to brand the Liberia National Police as a brutal and uncontrollable lethal force.

These groups want to use their report on Liberia and especially against the Liberia National Police to pressure foreign donors to halt or reduce development and relief aid to the country.

According to some credible sources, the action of the Liberia National Police is expected to feature in the upcoming U.S. State Department’s reports on Liberia.

Members of the Liberian Supreme Court with President George Weah. VP Jewel Howard Taylor, Senate President Albert Chie and House Speaker Bhofal Chambers
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Blama G. Konuwah

Blama G. Konuwah resides in Vancouver, Canada. He is a public issues analyst and senior contributor to Globe Afrique.
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