Human Rights Defenders Decry Rep. Johnson's Statement Against Archbishop Francis

(A Statement Issued by the National Human Rights Center of Liberia)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 16, 2002

Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis
MONROVIA, NOVEMBER 15, 2002: The National Human Rights Center of Liberia, a consortium of nine local human rights organizations, says Representative Sando Johnson's statement that the murder of five Catholic Nuns and other massacres during the civil war were masterminded by Archbishop Michael Francis and others, is tantamount to BREACH OF THE PEACE.

This, the Center says, warrants the lawmaker being stripped off his legislative immunities to face justice as provided for under Article 42 of the Liberian constitution.

Article 42 stipulates that "No member of the Senate or House of Representative shall be arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried as a result of opinion expressed or votes cast in the exercise of the functions of his office. Members shall be privileged from arrest while attending, going to or returning from sessions of the Legislature, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace. All official acts done or performed and all statements made in the chambers of the legislature shall be privileged and no legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefor."

The Center in a release observes that the lawmaker's statement was made outside of his official functions and thus cannot be protected by Article 42 of the Liberian Constitution.

The human rights center says the effects of such an inflammatory statement coming from a lawmaker not only render the Bishop vulnerable to heartless, ill-guided and anti-democratic forces in society but also have the propensity to derail the current efforts by peace loving citizens to reconcile our war-ravaged society.

Moreover, the center says representative Johnson's utterances remind it of a previous accusation he once made against Cllrs. Tiawan Gongloe and Benedict Sannoh, which led to the eventful and infamous arrest and torture of Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe early this year.

Meanwhile, considering the growing controversy over the cause of death of the five Catholic Nuns, the Center sees it befitting that an independent commission of inquiry be set up to determine not only the killers of these servants of God, but also all other massacres that were meted out against unarmed and innocent people during the seven-year armed conflict.

Signed: _____________________

A. Blamoh Sieh
Acting National Coordinator, NHRCL
Milton & Richards Building
Carey Street
P.O. Box 3822
Monrovia, Liberia
Tel: (00-231)-227-334
Fax: (00-231)-226-723

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