Enforcing Health Protocol Amid COVID-19 Epidemic Surge, Police Accused Of Brutalities

Residents of Monrovia and its environs are complaining of the constant alleged harassment and intimidation by some officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) mostly at night under the disguise of enforcing ‘Health Protocols’ brutalizing peaceful citizens.

According to sources closed to the GNN, a midnight swap across Monrovia on Friday, August 6, 2021, some officers of the LNP reportedly confiscated chairs and tables of several businesses in violation of the 9:00P.M.closures deadline set by the government of Liberia in June amidst surge in COVID-19 cases.

Some of the victims, mostly business owners speaking on a local midnight show ‘crime Watch’, on Freedom FM, expressed continuous harassment and intimidation by officers of the Liberia National Police, especially Police officers onboard SUV Marked RL 208,took away chairs and other furniture from the business centers even though their businesses were closed in keeping with the deadline.

The callers expressed surprised that Liberian businesses would be harassed and intimidated when Lebanese businesses are opened at night hours with the sale of alcoholic drinks at the disadvantage of Liberian businesses that are constantly harassed and intimidated to closed in keeping with the government of Liberia COVID-19 health regulations.

Liberian businesses involved in the police night swap were the famous ‘Right Curve’, between UN Drive and Benson Streets,  Club Brazil, on Peary Street, and the popular ROXX club at the Old road junction adjacent the car wash, among others.

Also around the Sinkor belt, IPNEWS camera captured the popular Oporto and Creamy owned by Lebanese’s merchants opened with alcoholic drinks on sale and huge gatherings on display yet there was no Police presence.

President George Weah during his inauguration promised to remove “unnecessary restraints” on business in a country that ranks near bottom as a place of doing business rankings despite abundant natural resources. “To the private sector, I say to you, Liberia is open for business,” he said in his address.

“We will do all that is within our power to provide an environment that will be conducive for the conduct of honest and transparent business.”

However, he said he no longer wanted Liberians to be “spectators” in their economy, as Indian and Lebanese immigrants dominate retail and services while Western and Asian firms own the vast majority of rubber, palm oil and iron ore operations.

On June 17, 2021, amidst surge in COVID-19 Cases, President George Manneh Weah, instructed the Ministry of Health (Incident Management System), and the Ministry of Justice to designed new health regulations.

Liberian leader stated that he acknowledged that Liberia has been faced with many dangers and challenges in the past decade, yet with resilience Liberians will over all prevail.

The Liberian leader states that: ” gather the will and courage to confront and overcome these dangers and threats. I am of the strong conviction that, united in a concerted and collective approach, and backed by the full resources of Government, we will once again prevail over this new pestilence.”

There are unsubstantiated claims by some Liberian Businesses that Police demand USD 500- 1500 USD before items and personnel are released, a clamed authorities of the Liberian National Police are yet to respond to.

Recently the LNP Warned Officers against Inhumane Treatment of Violators of Covid-19 Health Protocols; Cautions Citizens Not to Pay Fines to Police

The Liberia National Police (LNP) issued the stern warning against its officers who are in the constant habit of receiving monies from Liberians and foreign nationals as fine for violating protocols or measures instituted by authorities of the Ministry of Health to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus across the country.

Photos and videos of extra-judicial punishments being given to citizens and foreign nationals by unidentified LNP officers wearing uniforms for allegedly violating the wearing of nose masks, refusing to close entertainment centers by 9 PM, among others, went viral on social media last week.

Some citizens, including females, were made to “pump tyre” for several minutes for either improperly wearing nose masks, or not wearing it at all.

‘Pumping tyre’ is a punishment in which individual places two fingers on both hands into his/her ears and go up and down consistently.

The compulsory wearing of nose mask is one of the protocols put in place by health authorities to contain the spread of the virus.

The government mandated that the amount of L$1500 should be paid as fine by anyone caught in the public wearing a nose mask improperly, or seen without a nose mask.

But there are reports that some officers are in the constant habit of receiving the fine from violators, instead of it (fine) being deposited in the account of the Liberia government.

According to Police Spokesman Moses Carter, the LNP will not hesitate to take punitive actions against any of its officers who receive money from violators or solicit bribe to relax on the full implementation of the measures issues to combat against the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia.

Cater pointed out that authorities of the LNP have done sufficient awareness on the proper wearing of a masks, and as such, officers should not relent to arrest and further detain or incarcerate anyone who is caught without wearing a nose mask, or is wearing mask improperly.

Mr. Carter noted that no police officer should flog or beat on citizens or other foreign nationals for violating the health protocols.

He maintained that any officer caught will be investigated at the Professional Standard Division (PSD) of the LNP and prosecuted in keeping with the laws of the country.

“Anyone who is caught wearing nose mask half-way or you are not wearing nose mask at all, you will be arrested and you will pay a fine of L$1500 in government revenue. No police officer is to subject any of our citizens to extra judicial punishment like pumping tyre or flogging them. Any officer caught will be forwarded to Professional Standards. We have said to our officers that no one is supposed to be flogged anyhow for not wearing nose mask; that is very clear”.

Mr. Carter further clarified that officers holding rattan or “cane” on the streets to exercise extra judicial punishment are doing so at their own risk.

According to him, officers who are in the constant habit of using cane to flog violators for committing petty crimes did not receive any mandate from their bosses to do so, and as such, citizens, including journalists should document those human right abuses and actions will be taken against the officers involved.

“Flogging violators with cane is not in place and it is not part of our instruction to them. Anyone who does it is doing it on his or her own. But what we are asking is for you members of the press to be able to help give us information-any officer that is on the streets chasing citizens with rattan to flog them, we ask you to document actions and we will definitely take actions”.

“Any officer found extorting or receiving this fine (L$1500) said officer will face the full weight of the law because, the money is to be paid in government’s coffers and not in officers’ pockets. Any officer asks ‘pay the money to me’ that mean you are doing it on your own”.

Mr. Carter added that citizens who have paid fines to officers should also make sure or establish that those fines were paid into government’s coffers by these officers.

He further disclosed that no citizens or foreign national is to be kept in further detention by any police officer at various depots across the country, after he or she has paid the fine for violating the health protocols, including the compulsory wearing of nose mask in the public.

He stated that though the fine appears to be small, it may be increased by the LNP to generate more revenue for the government when the number of violators continues to increase on a daily basis.

Mr. Carter pointed out that the police will not vacillate to increase the fine if individuals take advantage of the small amount to consistently engage into violation.

Sometimes ago, the Government of Liberia (GOL) shut down two funeral homes, including the St. Moses Funeral Parlour and the Stryker Funeral Home on the Somalia Drive and Sinkor respectively for violating the health protocols.

The government claimed that social distancing and the gathering of only 20 persons per funeral service were not observed by the two entities when they held funeral services at their respective entities recently.

Following the payment of US$200 each, the both funeral homes were re-opened by the government.

According to Mr. Carter, the timely payment of the fines by the funeral homes compelled the LNP to increase the amount from US$200 to US$1500.

He observed that since the increment of the amount, funeral homes across the country are “cooperating”, adding that, “we will not hesitate to continue our regular routine to any of the places that we need to visit”.

Meanwhile, the LNP Spokesman has disclosed that the lack of adequate support to the police makes it difficult for the body to execute its assigned tasks and responsibilities in an effective and efficient manner in the wake of the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

He added that LNP officers continue to experience constraints in commuting from one place to another due to the lack of sufficient vehicles.

“We have lot of challenges and one is mobility. The government has done its best to give us few vehicles or pickups but we need more to be able to enhance our patrol”.

Source: IP

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