An Open Communication to a Detained Journalist

By Musue N. Haddad

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted July 25, 2002

Hassan Bility, it is over a month (June 24th) since you were taken away from your desk at the Analyst Newspaper and held in incommunicado detention along with Mohammed Kamara and Ansumana Kamara on suspicion of operating a rebel terrorist cell in Monrovia.

Since you were taken away by plain-clothes officers from the Criminal Investigation Division of the police, several national and international groups have issued statements condemning your continued unlawful detention.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The World Association of Newspapers and World Editors Forum, The United States government, Reporters Without Borders including Liberian groups in the country and Diaspora have issued statements condemning the government's failure to adhere to the rule of law. As usual the calls from these organizations and the U.S governments have been like 'wasting water on Duck's back'!

In addition to ignoring calls from these organizations and upholding your rights guaranteed by the universal declaration of Human Rights and the Liberian constitution, the Criminal Court "B" was intimidated and rescinded its earlier order after President Charles Taylor declared that you, Ansumana, and Mohammed would be tried by a Military court.

Following your arrest and subsequent detention for allegedly operating a LURD Terrorist Cell in Monrovia with the intent to assassinate President Taylor and create havoc, the Liberia National Human Rights Center in collaboration with the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Center for the Protection of Human Rights and the Legal Consultant Incorporated jointly filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus against the government to produce you. Judge Wynston Henries of Criminal Court "B" ordered the government to produce you and the others in court on at least two occasions.

During your third week of detention, Judge Henries gave a 24-hour ultimatum to government to make available you and the others but the Judge order did not yield any result. Judge Henries in his earlier ruling described government's repeated failure to produce you and the other as "repugnant to good governance."

President Charles Taylor on July 8th reinforced government's earlier allegation declaring that you, Mohammed and Ansumana are 'illegal combatants " and would be tried by a military court.

"If one of these terrorists is found in somebody's house or home, we will deal with anyone in that particular house as a terrorist", President Taylor warned in a BBC interview.

After President Taylor's statement, Judge Henries told the court the following day that the matter was above him. He told the court that the state had established that you and the others are militiamen who were engaged in warfare against the country, as was declared by President Charles Taylor.

Bility, since you were taken to an unknown detention center and detained without charge, several weird situations have taken place in the full glare of the public with impunity.

Security officers recently searched the home of opposition leader Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh for weapons. Although no arm was found, the officers wandered the home of Tipoteh endlessly.

Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation at 4: AM on July 3rd searched the residence of Conmany Wesseh on suspicion that his brother Suku Wesseh had stockpile of arms and ammunition at the residence. In their searched, the agents dug deeply in the yard. Although no weapon was found, Suku Wesseh was arrested and taken away for investigation. You are aware that until he fled into exile, Conmany Wesseh's wife, Mrs. Medina Wesseh and their children were attacked and brutalized by armed thugs forcing her into exile. On November 28, 2000, Mr. Wesseh himself was also brutalized and almost killed. Like his wife, the attack forced him into exile.

While Suku Wesseh was still being investigated, Monrovians converged near the Center street grave to see the body of a once healthy man, Kesselly Kennedy. Eyewitnesses said the body of Kennedy was taken from the Matadi Estate Area and brought to the spot by an agent of the Criminal Investigation Division for secret burial'. Kennedy's death according to sources is linked to a video club business competition between him and an agent of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Liberia National Police. Police said Kesselly was killed in an "armed robbery".

The corpse of 19 year-old girl, Benetta Jelly was also found in Monrovia with her hands tied on her back and her "underpants" stuffed in her mouth.

It will not be a surprise for you to know that because the police saw the publication of the deaths as unfavorable", they took in the editor and reporter of The NEWS newspaper for questioning.

In recent times, in spite of pronouncement that it lacks funds to rehabilitate and restore basic social services, government continuously flood the market place with newspapers and tightens its hold on businesses thus strangulating the economic environment as well as rigorously distorting information.

Information Minister, Reginald Goodridge told Allafrica in an interview that you were arrested as a ringleader of a plot to assassinate the President of Liberia.

"This man is being held as an unlawful combatant and it was you guys [the U.S. government] who coined the phrase. We are using the phrase you coined."

While the United States government gives "unlawful combatants" their day in court, the Liberian government applies jungle justice as you have witnessed and now you are one of its many victims.

You will recall the arrest and detention of William Jarbee in 1999. Jarbee was secretly taken, detained and tortured for several days until a writ of Habeas corpus was petitioned against the government.

Sources said Jarbee was held at the Gbartala Base, a military Base secretly set up. At this notorious camp, Jarbee was held in a hole filled with water while the top of the hole was cover with a wired screen.

Is that the same treatment meted against you? Old automobile tires were regularly burnt over the wire screen while Jarbee and the others were held in a hole of water. Are you and the others also in such a hole with blazing fire over you?

Are you tied hanging for several days as others who succeeded in fleeing to tell a part of their ordeal?

Are you sodomized brutally and consistently as Nathaniel Koah and others who were held without charge or warrant?

We may keep guessing but can never imagine the situation you are faced with. You are aware that frequent and brutal human rights abuses are carried out in Liberia on a regular basis and about every moment similar to yours. While some of these cases are unknown, many go unreported because of fear" of attack and reprisal from the government.

You are a witness that the environment for the operation of free expression and freedom of the press is illusive. Although laws exist that push for the complete and unhindered access by media practitioners to information and the discharge of their function, they are only attempts by the government to be seen as tolerant of the independent media.

The Liberian situation is obvious: Government's attack against free expression and freedom of the press comes from two fronts: the forum to express and the medium to report what has been said. While freedom of the press continuous to be limited, attacks on human rights organizations, political analysts and freedom of expression is reaching its ceasing point. It is clear that the government intends to exhaust efforts by individuals and groups who are keen on pointing at ills in the Liberian society.

The great Philosopher, Socrate said, 'I am viewing where your naked eyes can not reach because I stand on the shoulders of geat men". In this case, information may be distorted, freedom of expression may be supressed, time may seem painfully endless but Truth as always will glow even when thrown in a dustbin.

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