The Case Of Hassan Bility - Hello Ambassador Blaney!
By James W. Harris
October 22, 2002
With drums rolling and a few former drugged combatants of the erstwhile National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) now transformed into some sort of marching band doling out familiar tunes, the lawless government in Monrovia is reported to have put up quite a magnificent show for the newly accredited American Ambassador who recently took up residence there.
The show, a well-orchestrated gimmick, is said to have been worthy only of a visiting head of state. But as far as the brutal Taylor regime was concerned, this was also a clever way to cajole the Americans into rekindling, what the government there likes to call, the longstanding friendship between the two nations, following obvious strain in recent years due mainly to the Liberian ruler's bad behavior towards his own people and neighbors.
In what has become apparently typical of the miserably failed National Patriotic Party (NPP) government, Taylor also lived up to his reputation of eloquently delivering flowery speeches so as to impress Ambassador John W. Blaney, or for that matter, anyone that's willing to lend him an ear.
As if to say that continuing with such a charade would do anything meaningful in terms of helping the war-ravaged country to immediately get back on its feet, the despotic President continued with his same old rhetoric that he has now become so (in) famous for.
For a regime that has actually grown more repressive and lawless over the last few years with absolutely no regards for the nation's existing CONSTITUTION, Taylor shamelessly said the following when he welcomed Ambassador Blaney, who replaces veteran diplomat, Bismarck Myrick, the outgoing United States Ambassador to that war-ruined country.
"Mr. Ambassador, I am pleased to state herewith that it is the sincere determination of our government to work closely with you in assuring that you have a successful tenure in [war-wrecked] Liberia. It is our hope that together we will endeavor to further cement the cordial ties subsisting between our two nations."
Of course, it certainly would be in Taylor's as well as the NPP's best interests to work closely with the Ambassador to finally begin salvaging their rotten collective image, but "sincerely"? I really doubt it!
But the most laughable part of the President's rhetoric were these as reported by his mouthpiece, allaboutliberia.com, the notorious government's website. In effect, he said that: "Liberia remains committed to the fundamental principles for the advancement of human and political rights, freedom of the press and freedom of expression." Oh really? Yes right!
"Even at a time when this country [war-weary Liberia] is faced with a threat to its very existence, care is being taken to protect and uphold the civil liberties of our people", the propaganda website boldly quoted him as saying.
Excuse me because I really want to get this straight! The ruthless Taylor government "taking care to protect and uphold the civil liberties of [Liberians]?" Give me a break - try telling that to kidnapped journalist Hassan Bility; the veteran human rights lawyer, Taiwon Gongloe; former Chief Justice and prominent local counselor, Frances Johnson-Morris; and scores of others, who can tell you "first hand" just how "careful" this regime has been in upholding their rights.
But no matter how hard the NPP government tries to make itself accommodating, Ambassador Blaney surely will learn sooner or later, just as Ambassador Myrick did, what this regime is all about: RAW POWER and ABSOLUTE GREED even to the total detriment of the entire nation and people, who, incidentally, are already traumatized by Taylor's wars of avarice.
Obviously, as the US struggles relentlessly to deal with its own problems, particularly, those relating to world-wide terrorism, and lately, an elusive sniper in the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia metro areas, the NPP government would hope for nothing more than to see the Ambassador turn a blind eye to the ongoing and widespread abuses being committed daily in the battle-scarred country abuses carried out mainly by members of the President's highly untrained security apparatus.
Tragically, this apparatus or network also includes Taylor's own son, Charles, Jr. or "Chuckie", who it is alleged, recently ordered his personal bodyguards [members of his dad's dreaded Anti-Terrorists Unit (ATU)] to flog his ("Chuckie's") driver to death for, guest what - accidentally killing a dog and allowing its blood to spill on his boss' well maintained SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). Can you imagine that someone could be so heartless as to order the brutal beating of another human causing his untimely death? May God save Liberia!
But the most irritating part of this story is that no one, including, "Chuckie", has been held accountable for the man's (named as one Isaac Saye Gono) unfortunate death. And to add insult to injury, the government has since forbidden anyone from talking about this horrible crime so much so for being "committed to the principles of human and political rights and the rule of law" in Taylor's Liberia!
Not surprisingly, the President's remarks [rhetoric] were followed strategically by an editorial that included some rather harsh words for outgoing Ambassador Myrick, who, it wrongly blamed for some of the dead nation's menacing as well as lingering problems.
Here is partly what the editorial had to say about the Ambassador in a piece captioned "Embracing America's Renewed Friendship": "It was during Myrick's ambassadorial tour of duty in [war-torn] Liberia that the United States, in league with Britain, accused [the rogue government of] Liberia of guns for gems trade with the [spineless] rebel group, [the ironically named], Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the fueling of the now ended [?] Civil war in [neighboring] Sierra Leone." Give me a break please - how pathetic!
It concluded: "Now that [war-torn] Liberia's grandeur foreign policy posture is being reciprocated, it is hoped that Liberians at home and in the Diaspora [would] join hands with the new American Ambassador in making sure that the senseless Liberian war is brought to a complete end, thereby paving the way for continuance of the democratic process (sic) that culminated in the successful holding of free and fair democratic (sic) elections in 1997." There we go again - "democratic elections"? Where? In Liberia? No, not yet, but it's pending inevitably!
To the contrary, of course, many patriotic Liberians honestly view Ambassador Myrick's tour of duty to their now war-ruined country as very successful as he did not play the usual diplomatic role of being deceitful - something the NPP regime should have appreciated if it were really serious about ending our long nightmare and moving the country forward. But you see, this government has no integrity - none!
Furthermore, Liberians of all shades have come to also admire the outgoing US Ambassador for his frankness and identifying personally with the nation's downtrodden masses who have been severely traumatized by this very government for years; his engagement in and contribution to many worthwhile charitable projects that were intended to benefit the people directly; and most significantly, for speaking out constantly in regards to the ruthless conduct of the tyrannical Taylor government.
As expected with the caliber of people that are running the regime's propaganda arm, the editorial deliberately failed to even give Ambassador Myrick the credit for, among other things, giving away many academic scholarships to deserving Liberians, including, 93 to female students at the now run-down state sponsored, University of Liberia and another 142 [did you get that - one hundred forty-two] to primary and secondary school girls in the rural parts of the war-damaged country.
The good thing about the former Ambassador's kind gesture towards the Liberian people, however, is that his exceptional deeds were reported by the same old government's ugly mouthpiece. I guess, they really had no choice, did they! Additionally, this somehow contradicts the NPP regime's negative and one-sided portrayal of him as standing in the way of improving relationship between the US and Liberia.
Actually, what Taylor and his collaborators badly need to do at this stage in their deadly game of "divide and rule", pitting one group against the other, is simply to grow up and begin to take full responsibility for the mess that they have deliberately put us [Liberians] as well as others in throughout the West African sub-region due to their collective personal greed and very strong urge to control people. Foolish excuses and trying to pin the blame on others, therefore, just wouldn't do. They ought to start thinking seriously about their end game at this point, really!
And so, the fact of the matter is that Liberians know better. That's exactly why Ambassador Blaney should take Charles Taylor's words for only what they're worth - NOTHING. If the newly accredited Ambassador truthfully intends to be successful in fulfilling his mission to war-weary Liberia of, how he puts it, "being of greater service" to both nations (the US and Liberia respectively), then I'd suggest strongly that he start with the FUNDAMENTAL issues of human rights and security in the war-ravaged nation, two vital areas in which both countries (the US and Liberia) are miles apart.
Honestly, he could start by calling on the morally and ethically bankrupt government in Monrovia to release journalist Hassan Bility and others, or bring formal charges against them according to the existing Constitution. We would like to remind Ambassador Blaney that Hassan was basically kidnapped by the "rogue" government more than five months ago and placed incommunicado in the President's dungeons and has not been seen since then despite numerous calls for his immediate release. We would also like to note the fact that Bility's wife too is living under tremendous threat as she was once said to have been picked up by thugs of Taylor's feared security forces for questioning expectedly in relation to her husband's activities.
Besides denying Hassan his constitutional rights by refusing stubbornly to bring charges against him or even produce his "living body" in court as demanded in a Writ of Habeas Corpus as the present constitution clearly provides and filed by a coalition of human rights organization there, the NPP government continues to commit atrocities against the Liberian people, going unpunished as usual. For example, it is no secret that members of Taylor's various security outfits are "law unto themselves", thereby causing the people to live constantly in fear and degradation.
I mean, if the President is really "sincere" as he says about turning things around and for his own sake, then he should have no problem releasing Bility and the others right now, as it would be THE best way to prove to the Ambassador and finally the world that he's dealing in good faith this time around. Anything short of this should certainly be unacceptable!
But as our recent sad history shows, Charles Taylor just isn't the kind of person that can be trusted - not one bit - even under the tightest pressure as demonstrated by the latest reports of him breaking the United Nations (UN) sanction regime that was slammed on his government for its alleged criminal involvement in neighboring Sierra Leone, especially those pertaining to the importation of arms into the war-damaged country and region.
Moreover, there would be nothing for him to be "sincere" about if only he would go by the nation's present CONSTITUTION that he swore to uphold and protect. But he won't! In Taylor's sick mind, he owns Liberia - absolutely - or else why would he continue to hold the already devastated country and its people hostage? Can someone please explain this to me because I just don't get it!
If even he "owns" the now pariah state called Liberia, it still doesn't mean that he should continue to abuse the rights of people living there with impunity - of course not! That's why it is very important that the case of Hassan Bility be resolved immediately without further delay. I'm not saying that the government may not have the required evidence against him for whatever, but it must follow the law religiously and bring him and that evidence to court, period. It's clear that this government just can't go on holding people in detention indefinitely without charge and Ambassador Blarney knows it too!
In this regard, Hassan's whereabouts and his inevitable fate as well as his physical condition must be made public, although my personal fear is that he could be dead by now - again, giving Taylor's brutal record. Something just isn't right here, when a citizen is detained on the basis of mere suspicion and denied visitation by even his immediate family members; his legal attorney; or members of the local Red Cross. This is hardly how a so-called "democratically elected" government operates!
As the foremost defender of human rights worldwide, the highly credible Amnesty International (AI) said this about the brave journalist's arrest. "Hassan Bility, an independent journalist and human rights defender, has been detained incommunicado since he was arrested [on June 24 this year]. On five separate occasions, government authorities have failed to produce him in court as required [I repeat, REQUIRED] by a Writ of Habeas Corpus [that was] served on them by the non-governmental National Human Rights Centre of Liberia. He is being detained WITHOUT [emphasis mine] charge by the [repressive] government, in violation of many of his basic human rights and outside any legal process." Need I say more!
Personally, I strongly challenge the Taylor government to prove me wrong in this bizarre case of Hassan Bility by immediately producing him and the others in court as the law [constitution] requires. After all, such a move could only help the government as opposed to hurting it.
And so, I say, HELLO Ambassador Blaney. Would you please find out what has really happened to Hassan Bility and the others, Sir? Thanks in advance and may God bless!
Perhaps it would take a person of the Ambassador's status to talk some sense into the Liberian ruler's head in regards to doing the right thing, particularly, in this case. The government's handling of the Bility issue up to this junction has been very disappointing to say the least. But with an opposition as fragile and disconnected from the people as the current group, both at home and in the Diaspora, Taylor can literally do anything that he wants and then get away with it.
One would think that our so-called opposition leaders would have taken the Hassan Bility case and run with it, especially so, as it involves the fundamental issue of human rights in Liberia - something that pertains to every single Liberian regardless of his or her station in life. Now, did you see any of them (our so-called opposition leaders) at the march recently in Washington, DC, near the Liberian Embassy right off 16th Street in support of Bility and the others? I didn't, but that's how much they really care!
Another thing. For all the folks on the ground in Liberia who are saying that the country is safe for everyone, and feel that they are more Liberians than others who were fortunate by fate to escape Taylor's repression, then why haven't they questioned the government's trampling of our Constitution by denying Bility and others their rights? Do they know something that the rest of us don't? Or, are they afraid to speak up on an incident like this, knowing fully well what the consequence could be? Come on patriots! Show what you're made of as we did in Washington, DC, on behalf of Hassan and other Liberians detained illegally by this ruthless government.
Meanwhile, Mr. President, all eyes are definitely on YOU as we anxiously await your next move in this troublesome case. As it is often said: "JUSTICE CAN BE DELAYED, BUT IT SURELY CAN'T BE DENIED!" The world is watching and waiting.