Joint Statement of the Ambassadors of ECOWAS, the European Union, the United States, and the UN Resident Coordinator in Liberia Regarding Liberia’s National Discourse in the New Year
At the dawn of a new decade, we share with all stakeholders a hope for Liberia’s promising future. The new year will afford opportunities for substantive engagement, respectful dialogue, and reflection by those committed to improving Liberia’s economic situation and strengthening political stability. To that end, we encourage all actors to recommit themselves to constructive consultations at the community, regional, and national level. It is only through such engagement that challenges can be understood and that durable progress can be made. As committed international partners, we and other friends of Liberia will continue to support efforts that yield meaningful results.
Multiple recent requests by large citizen groups seeking to demonstrate in central Monrovia underscore the need for the Government of Liberia urgently to clarify a comprehensive notification or application process for large demonstrations, to include what qualifies as individual, small, or large group protests, timelines, permissible locations, restrictions on what can be brought to events, etc. Transparent notification or application procedures for permits to hold large demonstrations, coupled with apolitical and content-neutral adjudications of said applications, can ensure that future events, which are normal and healthy in a democracy, efficiently allow protestors to gather, express grievances, and present petitions to the government. Any restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly should be consistent with Liberia’s constitution as well as Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than that imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health, or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
We note with regret for all present on Capitol Hill on 6 January, that a protest ended abruptly after a day in which approximately 2,000 demonstrators had peacefully assembled and security forces had displayed commendable professionalism in executing their duties. While it is understandable why the Liberian government would find it untenable for a large group of demonstrators to block the primary route through the government quarter endlessly, to disperse the crowd without reasonable audible warning increased the risk of harm to citizens.
It is important for individuals in all democracies to be able to exercise their freedoms of expression, petition, and peaceful assembly. We note that, if individuals in Liberia believe that their rights have been abridged, there are possible judicial remedies accessible under Liberian law. Review of administrative decisions by the courts can serve as an important mechanism in a democratic society to refine and clarify the interpretation of domestic laws and Constitutional rights. Citizens should also feel that their concerns can be heard and deliberated through their elected representatives in the legislature.
The government and opposition political parties in Liberia have expressed a shared desire to build a democratic and civil society based on the rule of law and the welfare of all. We in the international community will continue to stand by Liberian citizens, and the government as they work together to strengthen core institutions, protect universal human rights, and endeavour to create opportunities for all Liberians to provide a better life for their families and communities.