Liberian Democracy Groups Want Charge Drop Against Human Rights Activist

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted June 23, 2003

A pro-democracy advocacy organization, Liberia Democracy Watch is calling on the Liberian Government to drop all charges against human rights activist J. Aloysius Toe. This, the pro-democracy group says, would further enhance reconciliation, national unity and promote the ongoing peace process.

In a press release issued yesterday, the group pointed out that others who were arrested for alleged link with LURD rebels have been ordered released while Aloysius Toe continues to be detained on treason charges.

Mr. Aloysius Toe was arrested on November 4, 2002 and has since been held in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison.

Meanwhile, Liberia Democracy Watch has welcomed as a positive move by the parties to the Liberian conflict to sign the cease-fire agreement and calls on them to uphold it.

The release added that a cease-fire indicates that Liberians are prepared to end the four years of bloodbath.

At the same time, Liberia Democracy Watch says it is deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis created as a result of the recent fighting around the suburb of Monrovia. LDW observed that the humanitarian crisis would worsen if relief organizations were not quickly given access to the embattled areas. The release quotes the pro democracy group as saying that it is important for NGO’s to go into areas that sheltered displaced people so as to rescue them from starvation.

LDW also wants the fighting forces to guarantee the rights of entrapped civilians and ensure that they benefit from relief assistance.

Meanwhile, the West Point Youth Development Association is expressing concern about the life and safety of its president emeritus and Liberia’s leading human rights activist comrade J. Aloysius Toe who since November, 2002 has been languishing in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison on Government charge of treason.

Amidst the recent intractable military attack of the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) forces which brought to an instantaneous halt the normal operation of Government functionaries including the courts and under which pretext the 14-man trial jurors were disbanded, and the obvious threats of insecurity which persists as a consequence, coupled with the lack of assurances from parties at the Accra talks that agreements emanating therefrom will be respected, WYDA condemns government and prosecution demand for retrial of the Aloysius Toe case as wishful and in bad fate.

"We call the final arguments into the human rights defender’s case which was scheduled for Thursday, June 5, 2003 but was later re-assigned for Friday, June 6, 2003 at the request of Government Prosecutors at which date and time they deliberately boycotted the trial.

"WYDA sees the boycott by the prosecution and the subsequent disbanding of the trial jurors under the pretext of insecurity as a shrewd attempt to further prolong the Aloysius Toe’s detention. We contend that it is the responsibility of the prosecution (the Liberian Government), and not the defense, to provide the necessary security for the jurors who would allow for an uninterrupted free and fair dispensation of justice. We further contend that the argument of insecurity cannot hold since the same condition under which the detention of comrade Toe was secured existed for the security of the jurors at the same time. Hence, the disbanding of the jurors is a negligence of the Liberian Government for which defendant Toe must not suffer", the WYDA release added.

Meanwhile, WYDA is calling on the Liberian Government and the judiciary to establish a laudable precedence by concluding Toe’s case in the most legally expedient manner. It would only be prudent that the Government releases, by means available to it, the human rights defender from further detention and restore all of his rights and dignity as a recent law abiding citizen.

© 2003: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.