LIBERIA: CSO Officials Want Immediate Dismissal Of INHRC Commissioner For Alleged Rape
By: Julius Konton
Five Major Civil Society actors are calling for the immediate dismissal of Attorney Mohammed Fahnbulleh, one of the Commissioners of the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) for his alleged involvement of rape.
The five civil society actors who opting for the dismissal of the INHRC include Cllr. Margaret Nigba; Executive Director of Her Voice Liberia, Loretta Pope Kai, Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Lawrence Yealue Executive Director of Accountability Lab, Danieletta Sleyon, Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy and Amb.George Kingsley, Coordinator of Montserrado , National Civil Society Council of Liberia jointly made the call to President George Weah on Wednesday February 8, 2023 at the grounds of the Temple Of Justice after a court ruling.
Following hours of legal discussions at the Civil Law Court on Wednesday February 8, 2023, judge Ousman F. Feika ruled and branded the petition for judicial review as premature.
According to the judge , the subject matter out of which the petition for judicial review grows is an administrative hearing .
Administrative hearing is normally done in Ministries and Agencies of Government and as well as private institutions as an internal mechanism to resolve internal and as well as external dispute related to the function and or employees on the one hand and or employer’s employee relationship.
At the same time, the court ordered Atty. Fahnbulleh to exhaust all of the internal remedies of the Human Rights Commission.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, the five Civil Society actors who are also part of the independent investigation committee, welcomed the decision by the judge and termed it as a good day for the Human Rights community of Liberia.
The committee members argued that you can have a Human Rights Commissioner who should be protecting the Rights of people be seen allegedly violating the rights of others especially innocent females.
“Atty Fahnbulleh does not deserve to be at the Human Rights Commission and if President Weah says he is really a feminist in chief then he needs to have Commissioner Mohammed Fahnbulleh removed from the Human Rights Commission of Liberia “, they maintained.
According to one of the Members, Lawrence Yealue, they did an independent and transparent job void of interferences.
He said it is about time that the legal system protect the innocent and vulnerable people in the society noting that gone at the days where people will use their education to suppress the innocent class.
“Fahnbulleh has opened a campaign against himself and we will push this to the core and President Weah needs to do the needful especially when another female in his words has fallen.
As for Chairperson Loretta Pope Kai,she alleged that Fahnbulleh is not qualify to be one of the Commissioners at the Independent Human Rights Commission and needs to leave now.
“I am doing a written communication to President Weah to this effect to show our serious on this issue ” Fahnbulleh needs to go in order to avoid using his position allegedly to stop abusing women”, Madam Kai reemphasized.
She used the occasion to call on the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Liberia to see the need to do more training for Commissioners at the Human Rights Commission.
The National Civil Society Council of Liberia Chairperson also commended the victim with name withheld for braving the storm in exposing acts of sexual harassment and abuse at a commission that should be speaking against such issue or human Rights violation.
Both Ambassador George Kingsley , Coordinator of the National Human Rights Civil Society Council of Liberia, Montserrado chapter and Madam Danieletta Sleyon, Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy said they were surprised in the action by Atty. Fahnbulleh.
According to them, their committee does not have the power to render verdict on anyone as such, what they submitted to the Independent National Commission on Human Rights was just findings and recommendations from their independent investigation.
” He should have known better as Atty. At Law but all praises goes to the court today, we Welcomed their decision”, they added.
Ambassador Kingsley stated that the Human Rights Commission needs to be commended for setting up an independent investigation body to investigate one of their commissioners and this is a good step in the right direction and he hopes that other pubic offices can follow suit”, he added.
The issue of violence especially against women has to stop and we are ready and prepared to come down on would be violators in line with the law, Amb. Kingsley blasted.
The committee which is chaired by Cllr. Margaret Nigba started its work in September of 2022, conducted hearings with all parties involved into the case and submitted findings and recommendations to the Independent National Human Rights Commission on December 19, 2022.
In some of its findings submitted to the Human Rights Commission according to Cllr. Nigba established that Atty. Fahnbulleh had interaction with the victim and he admitted to them before even though he denied such on Wednesday during an interview with reporters.
The report also calls for the the establishment of a gender desk at the Human Rights Commission office which among other things will help ensure that people are free and safe to report such issues when they happened.
Moreover, it calls on President George Weah to visit the Commission’s office and do proper investigation because according to her, there is serious internal crisis among commissioners and it needs to be addressed in the wake of the crucial 2023 elections.
The victim , the report also recommended psycho social council for her because, they stated that her mental safety is key.
Speaking on the case, Cllr. Nigba stressed that her committee did a very good work in face of distraction and intimidation but she was not deter but rather use her professional skills and expertise to get the job done void of sentiments.
She also commended the Human Rights Commission for reposing confidence in her to chair such independent committee especially with her vice background in legal and human rights issues in Liberia.
“I joined my colleagues to call on President Weah to dismissed Atty. Fahnbulleh because he allegedly does not have what it takes to be a commissioner, imagine , he can not allegedly distinguish Sexual Exploitation and Abuse from offensive touching”, she noted.
The Executive Director of Her Voice Liberia claimed that Atty. Fahnbulleh opted for offensive touching as his charge on the victim order then Sexual harassment.
“Can anyone in the public tell me any unwanted touch without the person’s concern, how is it call”, this is laughable, she added.
Meanwhile the accused Atty. Mohammed Fahnbulleh also welcomed the decision by the judge to describe his petition as premature.
He said it is even more welcoming by the judge to send him back to exhaust all other administration issues relative to the case, something he stated also means that all of the findings and recommendations presented to the Human Rights Commission by the committee will not take effect until all of the commissioners can meet to look into them.
Atty. Fahnbuleh described the call by the Human Rights actors especially those from the independent investigation committee to have him dismissed by President George Weah as political bragging that such thing, does not work like that.
He also alleged that the Chair of the Committee was conflicted while the rest of the committee’s members were handpicked , a claimed that Cllr. Nigba and her team refuted to the core.
The embattled commissioner also claimed that he never had the time to come face to face with his accused to the committee even though he admitted that he had previous acquaintance meeting with the committee.
” I did not bring witnesses to testify on my behave but I submitted statements and video of the incident which shows that I did not even touch the victim but the report indicated that I had interaction with her”, he narrated.
Meanwhile, Judge Ousman F. Feika has ordered the both parties to return to status quo anti,