Journalists Association Calls For Release Of Human Rights Lawyer In Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted April 29, 2002

We, the Officers and Members of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) strongly condemn the arrest of respected Liberian human rights lawyer Tiawon Gongloe, who reportedly was stripped nude and brutalized following his detention on April 24, 2002, and is hospitalized as a result.

We call on the brutal and barbaric regime of Mr. Charles Taylor in Liberia to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Gongloe from further detention. We also call on the regime to lift the ban on the independent Analyst newspaper, which was closed on April 25, for publishing a speech Gongloe delivered at a March 2002 conference in neighboring Guinea on peace in the Mano River Union. Following his arrest, Gongloe was reportedly interrogated about his speech in Guinea.

The detention and torture of Mr. Gongloe manifest a flagrant violation of the Liberian constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions and treaties on human rights to which Liberia is signatory. Equally so, the closure of the Analyst newspaper constitutes a violation of freedom of speech and of the press.

We find unlawful and unacceptable, the widespread clampdown on dissent since the imposition of a state of emergency last February in Liberia, which has also resulted to armed police reportedly storming the offices of the National Human Rights Center, and the arrests of human rights and political activists and journalists.

These appalling developments are the latest glaring examples of the systematic abuse of human rights by Taylor's autocratic regime since it came to power in 1997. With an unending trail of secret disappearance and murder of perceived enemies, Taylor is widely seen to have placed himself in the category of some of the world's most brutal and evil leaders in recent history, such as Idi Amin of Uganda, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Jean Claude Duvallier of Haiti, and Joseph Stalin of the then Soviet Union. There can be no question that the regime is bent on exterminating the Liberian people. The campaign of death and destruction Taylor has waged in Liberia for power and to plunder resources amount to a process of extermination. It is, therefore, imperative that his destructive influence in Liberia and the West African sub-region is ended.

ALJA calls on Mr. Taylor to demonstrate respect for the Liberian constitution, the rule of law and human rights. We reiterate our call to the regime to institute meaningful reforms by taking measures toward improved conditions of security and civil liberties in the country.

As the United Nations Security Council meet in May to review sanctions imposed on Liberia for Taylor's reported gunrunning and arms smuggling with Sierra Leonean rebels, we appeal to the Council not to lift the sanctions until the regime has taken concrete measures to bring stability to Liberia. There can be no lasting peace in the West African sub-region as long as Taylor continues to smuggle arms, as a U.N. panel recently reported, while his infrastructure of terror remains in place. We appeal particularly to the United States and Great Britain to ensure that sanctions on Liberia are not lifted prematurely, while Taylor's terror infrastructure are not destroyed to the extent that he would not continue to destabilize neighboring countries in order to loot diamonds and other resources.

We reiterate our call for the Security Council to also place a ban on Liberian timber and freeze funds from Liberia's maritime program. The UN could also put into place a mechanism to administer Liberia's maritime funds. Our call is against the background that Taylor's brazenly corrupt, incompetent and morally bankrupt regime has been unable to show how the funds are being used, since basic social services such as electricity, health and education remain dilapidated or are almost non-existent. Considering the role the UN is playing in prosecuting those suspected of slaughtering defenseless people in the former Yugoslavia, we equally hold the UN responsible to bring Taylor and others to book for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In another development, ALJA is pleased to announce that U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Robert C. Perry, will deliver the keynote address at the two-day international conference on the Liberian media on May 24, at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C.

Signed: Gabriel I.H. Williams, ALJA Secretary General - (916) 362-9551;

Approved: Isaac D.E. Bantu, Acting President - (781) 581-8018; email:

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