Global Witness is profoundly concerned by the recent persecution by Liberian government officials of staff working for the NGO Green Advocates, including threats of arrest, harassment at staff members’ homes, the closure of the NGO’s office, and the arrest of a family member. Such actions should cease immediately.
Last week, on 28 October, an arrest warrant was issued for Alfred Brownell, the President of Green Advocates. It is our understanding that this warrant violated Liberian criminal procedure and thus should not have been issued. Following this, government agents reportedly began visiting the houses of Green Advocates staff members at night and briefly arrested Alfred’s uncle, solely based on his familial relationship with Alfred. Four staff members that we know of have now gone into hiding while the NGO’s office has been shut down.
Since the end of the country’s civil war in 2003 the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has made efforts to improve the professionalism of the judiciary and security services. However, this is not the first time that civil society independence has come under threat. In 2013 leading journalist Rodney Sieh was jailed for reporting on government corruption and only last year community members protesting against palm oil giant Golden Veroleum were assaulted and arrested by armed police.
Global Witness has written to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf expressing our concerns and stating that the intimidation of Green Advocates staff should stop. We continue to monitor the situation closely.
Simon Taylor, Co-founder, Director
+44 (0) 7957 142 121
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