FEBRUARY 9, 2015: In every society, especially those emerging from conflict, respect for the rule of law and the maintenance of law and order are critical pillars in the architecture for peace, stability and economic development.
Building a culture of Respect for the rule of law and human rights will also help to sustain all the democratic gains we continue to make with the support of the United Nations and other multilateral and bilateral partners.
It is against this background that I have come to speak to you this morning.
The Constitution of Liberia recognizes and re-affirms certain rights as inherent and inalienable. However, in clear and unequivocal terms, the same Constitution establishes that the rights so recognized are subject to the safeguarding of public security, public order, morals and the rights of others.
The Government has consistently respected the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, and has demonstrated considerable restraint, often in the interest of reconciliation, even where the exercise of these rights have transgressed permissible bounds within the contemplation of the Constitution and statutory laws of this country.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that over time, the failure or reluctance on the part of the Ministry of Justice to enforce the laws as made and provided, has emboldened some to believe that they are above the law and that they can challenge the constituted authorities of this country with impunity.
Some of these individuals are taking recourse to violence, threats of violence, and public disturbances to address perceived grievances, in obvious disregard to established channels and procedures including the courts and other administrative bodies to address their concerns.
Law enforcement officers especially, Police officers are disrespected and often attacked verbally and physically. This bad behavior must stop now.
Some citizens, failing to realize that the use of the airwaves is not an inherent and inalienable constitutional right but one that is subject to the control of the Government through an objective licensing regime, are using radio stations to incite the population to insurrection and violence, undermine public security and public order and challenge the authority of the Government to carry out its constitutional functions.
Notice is hereby served. The Ministry of Justice advises all our citizens and residents within our borders, irrespective ethnic, political or social status, to respect the law and all constituted authorities; to use legitimate channels for addressing their grievances; and to refrain from deliberate acts such as inciting the public to actions that will compromise public order, the security of the state, and the peace and stability that we enjoy today.
Moving forward, there will be a fundamental change in how the Ministry of Justice handles deliberate violations of the law. The Ministry will mete out even handed justice with deliberate speed. We do this to maintain peace and stability.
Accordingly, I have directed the Liberia National Police, and all law enforcement agencies, that in all cases where they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, or a law has been violated, to have the person or persons so involved, regardless of their status except so exempted by law, arrested, detained, investigated and turned over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.
Those who attack police officers or deliberately obstruct the work of Police officers will be arrested and prosecuted.
I have also challenged all Bureaus and Agencies of the Ministry including Prosecution to keep themselves free from any improper conduct. Law enforcement officers who violate the law that they are required to enforce, will themselves be removed from the Ministry and prosecuted so as to vindicate the integrity of the Ministry and of the law.
In our ongoing drive to enable peaceful democratic coexistence, I encourage all our citizens and residents to respect the law, and to cooperate fully with the institutions of Justice including the Courts. Especially in this regard, let me be clear that no one will again be permitted to show disrespect for the law and nor will anyone, for whatever reason, be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh
MINISTER OF JUSTICE & ATTORNEY GENERAL, R.L.