Tortured Liberian Journalist Explains Ordeal

A presentation By Throble K. Suah

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 23, 2003

On 14 December, 2002, I was arrested and Tortured (Beaten) severely by five (5) members of the Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU), a Presidential Elite force, which is the most accused of innumerable human rights abuses in the country, especially on journalists, rights activists and political leaders who are perceived as "troublemakers" because of their contrary views, analysis and reports on the excesses of the Government of President Charles Taylor. Therefore, the Government embarked on a campaign to "Get Even" with us; hence, my ordeal while returning from work at 8pm (20 hours) GMT. As a result of the gruesome flogging meted on me, I became unconscious for three (3) days before I was revived by teams of doctors and Nurses then on duty at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Monrovia, where I was initially admitted. The tortured left me unable to neither stand, walk nor sit unaided.

The shock wave from the beating, severely affected my nerve systems thus practically leaving some of my veins inactive. Because of the affected nerves, I became shortsighted (blind) for weeks before I could re-gained my sight following thirteen (13 hours) of operation in Accra, Ghana.

Because of the degree of damage done to my body by the beating, coupled with the limitations of the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital to handled my deteriorating health condition during the crucial moment, compounded further by the insecurity I faced, doctors recommended I be transfer outside Liberia to seek advanced medical treatment. Based on the Doctors’ recommendation, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) issued an appealed on my behalf. The appeal prompted the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA, an Accra based Media NGO to come to my rescue by transferring me to Accra, Ghana on 11 January 2003.

One of my reports "Over 200,000 Liberians hiding in the forest"- says UNHCR officials was a banner headline of the independent Inquirer Newspaper on 19 July 2002. This story drew the immediate attention of President Charles Taylor in a lived Press briefing on 22 July 2002. The President accused UNHCR officials from Guinea and I of "Playing with the Lives of Liberians." President Taylor said UNHCR officials’ assessment and my reports were "slanted to downplay the five years old LURD rebellion against his government by enemies. He particularly accused me of siding with enemies (Rebels) of his government.

Following President Taylor’ comments, State security officials began their surveillance on my home and office. As a result of these visits, I was coerced to abandon my home from July to December 2002. I spent nights with friends and love ones for this period until I rescinded my decision of abandoning my home.

Even after the December 14, 2002 attacked which left me unable to function as a normal human being, my home was still under constant surveillance why I was on admission at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Monrovia. I was flown to Accra on Saturday, 11 January 2003 as a blind and paralysis. Immediately, I was admitted at the Rabito clinic (A clinic specialized in the treatment of tortured victims) under the initiative of the Media Foundation. Because of the direct threat on my life from the Government of Liberia, doctors advised that I could not be treated in the clinic. This was to avoid people coming into contact with me. Therefore, I was transferred to an unknown location outside Accra.

Arrested and Torture
I had been an active journalist working with the Independent Inquirer Newspaper, a local daily in Monrovia. As a roving and an investigative reporter, I traveled extensively within the sub-region where I reported on wide range of issues. The trip, which preceded my tortured, was the coverage of the July Ouagadougou, Liberian Leadership forum that was geared towards restoring democracy and peace in Liberia. My reports from the conference were considered crucial and detailed by the government of president Charles Taylor.

Following the conference, I traveled to the Republic of Guinea where I did extensive coverage of the condition of Liberian refugees and the impact of the Liberian ongoing crisis on Guinea and the International humanitarian organizations.

This was one of many experiences with Mr. Charles Taylor; the first being 1994 when I was arrested and jailed in Accra for two weeks. I had written a story concerning Charles Taylor, Jr. (Chukie) who was arrested by Ghanaian police for illegal possession of firearm. The article published in the Inquirer Newspaper in Monrovia, annoyed Mr. Taylor who apparently communicated with his Ghanaian friends to have me arrested and detained.

Returning to Liberia
There are several reasons why I cannot go back to Liberia now; some of which are as follows: according to doctors’ reports, my lower limb is hampering my medical improvement because of the effects of the beatings to my nerves systems. My veins are inactive because of the shock wave the torture inflicted on me. The doctors have recommended that I be transfer to a developed country for advanced treatment, possibly for a spinal cord operation.

The threat to my life is directly from the Presidency. At the moment the Government of Liberia sees me as one of its many victims who is exposing its evil vices to the outside world.

Recently, the Chairman of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr. Cyril Allen said that his Government was aware that there are diplomats visiting me daily at my hospital. Therefore, he said such diplomats should also come to Liberia and prevail on the LURD rebels to stop the rebellion. Mr. Allen commands a formidable voice in the government.

Also, why I was on my hospital bed in Monrovia, there were calls for my arrest from pro Taylor organizations citing that I was in possession of classifies state information.

Under these existing hurdles, for me to go back to Liberia is not advisable.

About the Author: Journalist Throble K. Suah is a Roving Reporter of The INQUIRER Newspaper, Monrovia, Liberia. He was arrested on December 14, 2002, and subsequently tortured by members of Charles Taylor's dreaded ATU. He was flown to Ghana on January 11, 2003, for medical treatment.