Inquiry Report Links Nelson Freeman To Opening Fire But…

33

Last week, the main opposition CDC of former President George Manneh Weah called on the Liberian Senate to reject  President Joseph Nyuma Boakai’s nomination of Nelson Freeman as Deputy Police Inspector General for Operations (102), accusing him of being involved in human rights abuses including the 2011 shooting at the CDC’s headquarters which left one person dead.

“Driven by an excessive zeal to further political agendas, Mr. J. Nelson Freeman, on separate occasions, notably on November 7, 2011, led a brutal special unit of the Liberia National Police. This unit trespassed onto the premises of the Congress for Democratic Change in Congo Town, where they subjected unarmed civilians to brutalization and point-blank shootings, resulting in fatalities. Despite these egregious human rights violations, Mr. Freeman evaded accountability,” said the CDC press statement, which was signed by its Secretary General, Jefferson Koijee, who was himself placed on US government sanctions for alleged human rights abuse.

However, a Special Independent Commission of Inquiry Reports on the November 7, 2011 Violence in and around the vicinity of the CCDC submitted by then Justice Minister, Cllr. Christiana P. Tah, on August 10, 20211 did not find the former Deputy Police Commissioner, Freeman liable for shooting any civilian, although findings showed that he opened fire.

Count 1 of the finding of the investigative panel said:

“LNP Deputy Commissioner, J. Nelson Freeman: The investigation established that Deputy Commissioner J. Nelson Freeman on November 7, 2011, did enter the CDC Compound during the rioting and had an altercation with UNMIL officers, who tried to disarm him. DCP Freeman discharged his service weapon in an attempt to resist disarmament by the UNMIL officers.”

It further said:

“THE PANEL THEREFORE CONCLUDES THAT OFFICER FREEMAN’S DISCHARGE OF HIS FIREARM WAS IN VIOLATION OF LNP FIREARM POLICY, BUT SAID ACTION CANNOT BE CONSTRUED AS CRIMINAL IN THAT HIS WEAPON WAS NOT TARGETED AT CIVILIANS OR UNMIL PERSONNEL BUT WAS DIRECTED TO THE GROUND, AND NO ONE GOT INJURED AS A RESULT.”

According to the Pane’s findings, “when questioned further as to why he discharged his weapon, DCP Freeman indicated that he was constrained to fire because he was afraid his disarmament would expose him to greater danger while in the compound of the CDC headquarters.”

Besides bullets being discharged by DCP Freeman in and around the CDC headquarters, the investigation catalogued a number of other rounds of bullets fired by police officers on that day, but couldn’t say which one caused the fatality.

“HOWEVER, THE VIDEO FOOTAGE DID NOT CLEARLY REVEAL THE IDENTITY OT THE PERSON WHO DID THE TIRING; NEITHER DID THE PANEL IDENTITY FAHNBULLEH AS THE PERSON WHO WAS DOING THE FIRING,” THE PANEL REPORT NOTED.

Before the situation could be brought under control, the then Unity Party government of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the time admitted that “one person was killed and several others wounded, including six police officers and eight protesters. About seventy five protesters were arrested.”

SEE FULL TEXT OF THE INVESTIGATIVE COMMISSION’S REPORT BELOW:

Special Independent Commission of Inquiry Reports

On the November 7, 2011

Violence in and around the vicinity of the Congress of Democratic Change Headquarters

SUBMITTED TO:

CUR. CHRISTIANA P. TAH, MINISTER OF JUSTICE & ATTORNEY GENERAL, R. L.

BY THE INDEPEDENT REVIEW PANEL

AUGUST 10, 2012

INTRODUCTION

On November 7, 2011, thousands of partisans and sympathizers of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) assembled at their party headquarters and other locations in and around Monrovia, in response to a call from the party leadership for a rally in support of a planned boycott of the November 8, 2011 Presidential run-off between the Unity Party (UP) and the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).

The CDC partisans and sympathizers left their headquarters and occupied portions of Tubman Boulevard between the Kailondo, Old Road Intersection and Catholic Hospital Junction, the Old Road – Joe Bar and other locations, setting up roadblocks with tree stumps, burning tires and other barricades to prevent traffic from moving towards the Catholic Hospital Junction.

Efforts through negotiations to persuade the crowd of demonstrators to return to the headquarters of the CDC failed, and as some of the protesters attempted to by-pass the barricade the Police had set up, the Police Support Unit (PSU) began using tear gas to disperse the crowd. The situation then became very violent with the protesters throwing stones and other objects at the Police. Vehicles belonging to the government, UNMIL, and citizens were damaged, and some business establishments vandalized. The Police Emergency Response Unit (ERU) was deployed to assist the PSU to contain the situation. As an additional measure to disperse the crowd members of the Liberia National Police fired live bullets.

Before the situation could be brought under control, one person was killed and several others wounded, including six police officers and eight protesters. About seventy five protesters were arrested.

In response to the incident, the President of Liberia, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf constituted a Special Independent Commission of Inquiry (SICI) hereinafter referred to as the Commission, to investigate the disturbances and acts of violence on November 7, 2011, and causes and circumstances leading to the violence.

Two reports were generated as a result of the Commission’s inquiry, the first dated November 25, 2011, and a supplemental report dated March 8, 2012.

In its first report the Commission made several recommendations, two of which focused on the need to investigate the instigators of the electoral violence and members of the LNP who discharged their service weapons, as outlined below:

That the Government of Liberia ensures the investigation of electoral violence and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice”, and

That officers and members of the I-NP who discharged their service weapons on that day be suspended from the LNP for disobeying a lawful order and investigated in an effort to determine who fired the fatal shot and those which caused injuries to demonstrators on November 7, 2011′.

Predicated upon these recommendations and knowledge or discovery of new, relevant, and significant evidence which gave cause for more specific findings and conclusions on the facts and circumstances surrounding the events of November 7, 2011, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, subsequent to Commission’s issuance of its official report mandated it to reopen its investigation.

Upon completion of its final investigation, the Commission submitted a supplemental report which made several recommendations including referral of two Liberia National Police officers and one Special Security Service (SSS) officer to the Ministry of Justice for fuñer investigation and possible prosecution. The Commission indicated that based on its inquiry, it found that there was probable cause to believe that on November 7, 2011, the below officers committed criminal violations including but not limited to attempted aggravated assault and reckless endangering another person, in violation of Liberia Penal Law and 14.23:

PSU Deputy Commander for Administration, Gayflor Lake

ERU General Commander, Alexander B. Saye

SS Officer Desmond Fahnbulleh

Owing to the fact that the Ministry of Justice has supervisory authority over the Liberia National Police, it was the considered opinion of the Attorney General, Cllr. Christiana P. Tah that justice will properly be served if the investigative component was undertaken by this independent panel of professional criminal investigators, including a representative of civil society.

Accordingly, on April 12, 2012, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of

Liberia, Cllr. Christiana P. Tah, constituted a Three-man Independent Panel to

Official report of the Special Independent Commission of Inquiry, November 7, 2011 on the Acts of Violence and

Official report of the Special Independent Commission of Inquiry, November 7, 2011 on the Acts of Violence and Civil Disturbances, dated November 25, 2011, pg. 18, count 8.1.9

review the reports released by the Special Independent Commission of Inquiry from the perspective of criminal investigators.

The panel was composed of Hon. Victor E. Helb, then Minister of National Security, as Chair, Mr. Edwin Barquoi of the General Auditing Commission (GAO, and Cecil B. Griffiths of the Liberia National Law Enforcement Association (UNLEA), all of them with criminal Investigation background.

This report reflects the findings and recommendations of the three-man Independent Panel regarding the probability of successful prosecution of the officers referred to the Ministry for further investigation, and measures to be taken to enhance police response to similar incidents in the future.

  1. METHODOLOGY

In an effort to determine whether the State has sufficient evidence to proceed with the prosecutions of the officers referred to the Ministry of Justice, the panel did a comprehensive review of the two reports generated by the Special Independent Commission of Inquiry which were provided by the Minister of Justice.

Additionally, the panel reviewed and analyzed four different video footages of the November 7, 2011 incident provided by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the National Security Agency (NSA), a member of the Liberia National Police and a media practitioner. Three of these videos were similar in content.

The panel also interviewed the three officers referred to the Ministry of Justice for further investigation and two others who either discharged their weapons or could not account for ammunitions issued them. The two additional officers investigated were:

I-NP Deputy Commissioner, J. Nelson Freeman

ERU Officer Lexington Kleyne

  1. Constraints

The panel was unable to interview persons who appeared before the Commission of Inquiry because the listing of such persons was not available to the panel. Further, although UNMIL provided a copy of the video footage, they did not favorably respond to the Panel’s request for it to interview UNMIL personnel who were present when the incident occurred.

Also, the Panel was unable to secure the video footages and photographs which were submitted by the Special Independent Commission of Inquiry to the Ministry of State as its official record of its inquiry. All efforts to secure these evidential materials proved futile.

  1. Findings

The following are the findings ot the Panel in relation to the concerned officer mentioned above:

I-NP Deputy Commissioner, J. Nelson Freeman: The investigation established that Deputy Commissioner J. Nelson Freeman on November 7, 2011, did enter the CDC Compound during the rioting and had an altercation with UNMIL officers, who tried to disarm him. DCP Freeman discharged his service weapon in an attempt to resist disarmament by the UNMIL officers.

When questioned further as to why he discharged his weapon, DCP Freeman indicated that he was constrained to fire because he was afraid his disarmament would expose him to greater danger while in the compound of the CDC headquarters.

The Panel therefore concludes that Officer Freeman’s discharge ot his firearm was in violation ot I-NP Firearm Policy, but said action can not be construed as criminal in that his weapon was not targeted at civilians or UNMIL personnel but was directed to the ground, and no one got injured as a result.

PSU Deputy Commander Gaynor Lake: The Commission’s report indicated that PSU Deputy Commander tor Administration, Gayflor Lake fired his pistol tour to five times from the Tubman Boulevard into a narrow road across from and in close proximity to the CDC compound.

Our review ot the videos could not identify PSU Deputy Commander Lake firing his weapon. In criminal prosecution ot an accused, the

State must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The evidence available in this case may not be sufficient to successfully prosecute the accused.

ERU Commander Alexander Saye: The Commission’s report indicated that ERU Commander Alexander Saye tired his weapon tour to five timers from the Tubman Boulevard into a narrow road across from and in close proximity to the CDC compound.

Our review of the videos could not identity ERU Commander Saye tiring his weapon. The evidence available in this case may not be sufficient to successfully prosecute the accused.

ERU officer Lexington Kleyne: The Commission’s report indicated that officer Kleyne fired seven rounds of cal. 5.56 mm ammunition from his M-4 riffle. However no evidence concerning this shooting was documented neither was the shooting captured by any ot the videos that we watched. It was noted that officer Kleyne could not account tor the seven rounds ot ammunition, but how he expended the seven rounds was not established.

SSS Officer Desmond Fahnbulleh: The Special Independent Commission ot Inquiry report indicates that Officer Desmond Fahnbulleh in the company ot ERU/PSU officers entered the CDC Compound and discharged his firearm.

A review of the video footage did reveal that an individual, not in LNP uniform, but in a jacket, and in the company of ERU/PSU officers entered the CDC Compound and did fire his weapon several times towards the CDC Headquarters building.

However, the video footage did not clearly reveal the identity ot the person who did the tiring; neither did the Panel identity Fahnbulleh as the person who was doing the firing.

Although the SICI report indicated that Fahnbulleh was identified by his colleagues who matched the wearing ot the individual who tired the shots to that ot those worn by SSS Officer Fahnbulleh while at the JR Gas Station. Officer Fahnbulleh categorically denied entering the CDC Compound, but admitted that he was at the JR Gas Station.

In the absence of concrete evidence, particularly so, when the possibiliö,’ exists that there may have been a case of mistaken identity as another individual may have worn similar clothing, it is the opinion of the Panel that prosecution against SSS Officer Desmond Fahnbulleh may not be successful.

  1. Panel’s comments about the Episode and Police Response

The Special Independent Commission ot Inquiry in its reports concluded that the CDC leadership provoked the violent confrontation that resulted to the death ot one person and injury to several others and should bear the greatest responsibility tor the climate ot tear, anxiety and insecurity which existed on November 7, 2011.

The Commission did not however recommend any action against the leadership ot the CDC or against the 76 rioters who were apprehended by the Police.

Predicated upon statements from the CDC leadership and intelligence received prior to the incident, it was evident that the CDC was bent on disrupting the elections of November 8, 2011. Law enforcement action was therefore necessary to prevent partisans and sympathizers of the CDC from spreading the climate of fear and intimidation among the residents of Monrovia, and perpetuating further acts of violence.

Notwithstanding, police action would have been more professional and coordinated it the leadership ot the Liberia National Police had established an incident command post to direct the activities ot the officers engaged in policing the demonstration.

The Commission’s report indicated that several I-NP officers had violated official order. The Panel could not confirm what the lawful order was, who gave the order and when the order was given. The rule ot command is that the one who gives a command must ensure that the command is carried out. It the senior managers ot the LNP had played a sound leadership and coordination role, the action of police officers during the incident could have been more professional.

  1. Recommendations

In view of the fact that there is insufficient evidence to successfully prosecute the officers, the Panel recommends that administrative punitive measures be taken against the officers, instead ot criminal prosecutions.

In the case of SSS officer Desmond Fahnbulleh the Panel supports his dismissal from the SSS/EPS tor leaving his assigned post without authorization, and neglect ot duty at a time when an emergency was occurring which could have resulted to the SSS requiring his services as the chief of Armory, and was not available to provide the services.

Training of senior officers of the I-NP on how to respond to similar in the future.

Continued training tor ERU and PSU officers in riot and crowd control, and the use of deadly force.

Police should employ photographers and videographers to cover such events.

That Government should provide non-lethal equipment for the Police to use in crowd and riot control.

The I-NP should review its policy on Policing Demonstrations and Violent Assemblies, which particular attention on the command and coordination structure tor personnel who will be involved in managing these events.

Source: newspublictrust.com

Comments are closed.