11 April Press Briefing Notes

Monday, 11th April 2011

• The President, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is closely monitoring rapidly unfolding events in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, with the arrest on Monday, April 11, of former President Laurent Gbagbo. We know the nightmare that the political impasse of the stand-off has had on the people of Côte d’Ivoire, and the threat it has posed to the peace and stability of the sub-region.  The President’s position on the political situation is consistent with that of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN).

• The events of 22 March 2011, sparked by attempts by the police to end demonstrations by a group of students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), are of grave concern to all of us in Liberia. Material appearing to show a heavy-handed police reaction to activities of the protesters has been published and the images are very disturbing. There have been several conflicting accounts of the day’s events, and the time has come to establish the facts clearly and impartially.
This Government will not condone any action by the police or any law enforcement agency that would threaten the free expression of people or serve as an intimidation of peaceful protests by Liberians. As someone who has been victimized by police brutality, the President knows the value of a citizen’s right to protest. However, we all recognize that this right must be balanced with other citizens’ rights to safety under the law, and the police responsibility to maintain order, protect the public and themselves.

Before Her Excellency makes any judgment on this issue, she wants to have all the facts and examine the actions of everyone involved in this unfortunate action.
Therefore, the President is setting up immediately an independent inquiry into the events, to be headed by a notable lawyer to be announced shortly, once confirmed. It is mandated to investigate actions on both sides and make recommendations. Any persons found to have broken the law, including the police, will face the full weight of the law. Other members of the independent inquiry are: the Liberia Council of Churches, the Liberia National Students Union (LINSU), the Association of  Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL), the National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL), and the Civil Servants Association of Liberia (CSAL).
As the President has said on many occasions, this Administration will never be part of any attempt to curtail the freedom of speech and the free expression of the people's will.

At the same time, the Government will also ensure that all Liberians and those living in Liberia are protected by the laws of the land.