CEDE Condemns the Arrest, Detention and Torture of Counselor Tiawan S. Gongloe
(A Statement Issued on April 25, 2002)
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Posted April 28, 2002
The Regional Office of the Center for Democratic Empowerment (CEDE) wishes to add its voice to CEDE’s Liberian Program Office in expressing shock and unreserved condemnation of the criminal arrest, detention and torture of Counselor Tiawan S. Gongloe, Member of the Board of Directors and Legal Counsel of CEDE, and of the unrelated closure of the Analyst newspaper by the Liberian Government.
Counselor Gongloe was arrested by one of the dreaded units of the Liberia National Police Force at about 5 p.m. GMT in the Old Road District of Monrovia on April 24, 2002. He was taken to the National Police Headquarters and thrown into a cell in which there were already hardened criminals and other men known to be cruel police officers.
These “detained” policemen, clearly acting under orders, proceeded to strip Mr. Gongloe nude and carry out an ordeal of brutal physical assaults and various forms of torture throughout the night. By the morning, Counselor Gongloe could not walk on his legs, his face swollen, his left eye badly bruised, and he had lost hearing in one ear. Under pressure by his colleagues of the National Bar, family members and other sympathizers, the Police took Mr. Gongloe to the SDA-Cooper Clinic in Monrovia where he has been hospitalized in critical condition, but still under armed police guard.
The Director of Police, in his usual cavalier manner, announced that the Counselor was arrested for his statement found to be “inimical to state security”. This was a reference to Mr. Gongloe’s speech to a sub-regional civil society meeting held recently in Conakry, Guinea in search for peace in the Mano River Union.
Counselor Gongloe is a highly respected and principled lawyer who has distinguished himself in defense of victims of human rights abuses including human rights defenders, journalists, students and other promoters and advocates of democracy in the Country.
He helped manage and revitalize CEDE when the Chairman of the Board and Former President of the Interim Government of Liberia, Dr. Amos Sawyer and the Executive Director of CEDE, Mr. Conmany Wesseh fled the country in December, 2000 following a brutal broad daylight life-threatening attack on their persons and offices on November 28, 2000. In spite of Mr. Gongloe’s efforts and although some of the attackers boasted their actions before the very eyes of Police Director Mulbah, none of the real criminals was ever arrested or prosecuted.
Before this and ever since those attacks, the Taylor regime has been waging a war against the forces of democracy. Newspapers and radio stations have been arbitrarily closed down, journalists, students, human rights advocates and other civic leaders are detained and/or physically assaulted. Many have been forced to flee the country into exile. The most recent cases of the attacks on the human rights community, the detention of the Acting Chairman of the New Deal Movement, and the perennial suffocation of free expression are chilling evidences.
The arrest and torture of the good lawyer must therefore be seen as part of a pattern in the rule of Mr. Taylor. It is a rule that is intolerant of alternative opinion. It pursues a multi- track policy that revolves around impunity and conquest. His agents commit any abominable act in broad daylight, get rewarded and go free. They become more daring as a result. At the same time, the policy induces fear into the victims or their survivors and society at large. That is impunity resulting into brute conquest.
As in all previous cases, Mr. Taylor has no intention to prosecute Counselor Gongloe. He wants to persecute and crush his will to stand up for justice. He and his regime never really have a credible prosecutable case against those they accuse, arrest, physically brutalize or even charge under any guise. Any real, imaginary or potential opposition is meant to be cowed into submission, or forced into exile, or killed.
Unfortunately, by this policy and practice, Mr. Taylor has continuously become the principal supporter of those who have chosen the violent option to resist his rule. He undermines every effort for peaceful pursuit of change. He exposes the sham of his so-called national reconciliation drive, including the much talked about July Reconciliation Conference. What better way could he have ensured the successful derailment of his Conference than torturing one of the Conference Advisors in the Police cell?
As in the past, CEDE wishes to appeal to the Liberian people to hold together and confront evil wherever it may raise its head. The Liberian people must work together to save what is left of the destroyed country. Mr. Taylor must not be allowed to hold Counselor Gongloe as another hostage for an indefinite period or to hurt him or anyone else again. The harassment of other civic leaders and human rights advocates must not be allowed to continue. The government must re-open the Analyst newspaper. The regime must not be allowed to push our country into further bloodshed.
CEDE wishes to appeal to ECOWAS and the international community for concrete support to, and solidarity with the Liberian people. Be not deceived by Mr. Taylor’s gimmicks like the release of political hostages and the so-called reconciliation conference. Now is the time to hold him rigidly to every norm of civilized behavior, particularly those that have to do with protecting life and liberty in Liberia.
Free Tiawan Gongloe, un-ban the Analyst and save Liberia!!
Conmany B. Wesseh
Center for Democratic Empowerment
Rue des Jardins 91, II Plateaux - Cocody
06 BP 397, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; Tel: (225) 22 411 421