30 March 2015

Liberia: 'Account for Allison's Blood'

"NO! Mr. Minister of Justice, this matter is not considered closed. As dutiful citizens of this Republic, we intend to demand answers to questions you have provoked. As our public servant, you are under a duty to provide credible answers. If you are not careful, this matter will define your tenure as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia," these were the words of a renowned human rights advocate and lawyer Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods, II, Legal Consultant, Liberia Law Society.

He said the "Liberian government will account for every drop of the dead man's blood" because it has provoked more questions to several raised in a recent autopsy report read by Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, Minister of Justice, who was formerly a human rights lawyer during the perilous era of convicted ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Atty. Woods made the statement when he met with friends and relatives of the late Attorney Michael Allison during which they agreed to join their legal team on a pro bono basis.

The Liberian Lawyer said he is motivated by the fact that Allison was a human being and had the right to life which is inviolate as enshrined in all international and domestic legal documents.

Atty. Woods revealed that he had an encounter with Allison on the morning of January 29th this year, at which time, he [Allison] expressed fears about his safety, and even intimated that such trepidation had precipitated his action to temporarily relocate to Ghana. Due to the fact that he had received several threats relative to his involvement in the corruption saga with the Speaker and other members of the Legislature, the decision, Atty. Woods believes, stood to reason.

"Subsequently, Allison telephoned me on Monday, February 10, 2015 the same week of his death, to convey his request for my intervention in the matter involving the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), and I accordingly consented. News of his death was therefore inexplicably shocking," Woods explained. He said that he informed the police of his encounter with Allison but no one sought to document his encounter.

Regarding the issue of his nationality, Attorney Woods remains adamant that it was, and remains, an attempt to deflect the interest of the public as to whether or not the investigation was comprehensive and therefore conclusive regarding the actual cause of death.

He firmly stated that "it does not matter if he was Chinese, American, Liberian or Japanese; it does not matter to me if he is Allison, Nkrumah or John. What matters in this instance, is that Michael Allison was a human being and we are under both moral and legal obligations to ensure that justice is done and that his rights are protected as enshrined in our laws." Notwithstanding the foregone, Atty. Woods avers that the question of the victim's identity will be entertained in due course.

Attorney Woods also said that, "the Minister of Justice indicted several government agencies and other institutions without proposing the relevant remedies. He did not state whether or not such omission or commission contributed to the death or were either the remote or proximate cause of Allison's death. We need legal redress not mere questions," Woods intoned.

The Minister of Justice revealed recently that the conduct of the police was reckless and negligent in the handling of the body. He also admitted that the police arrived on the scene about 7:45 p.m., but decided to leave the body of the late Attorney until the next morning, "due to the Ebola Protocol!"

Strangely, he did not give any concrete reason for this decision. As a consequence, it is imperative for him to address this tragic and unprofessional error. "Indeed," declared Attorney Woods, "he needs to inform us about the so-called Protocol and whether or not it was followed. If so, how and if not, why?" he concluded.

Attorney Woods also took issue with the fact that the Justice Minister referred to a lady he concluded was "Allison's Fiancée," which carries a legal connotation. Thus, he wants to know all details about how she came to be identified as his "fiancée," since no one, including the friends, family members and/or house helpers knew anything about her.

Continuing, Attorney Woods asserts: "We now expect the Minister to speak to issues of Law and not engage in tactics to divert attention from the real issue of concern... . the actual and factual circumstances surrounding the death of Allison. An autopsy cannot therefore constitute the only evidence before us."

"One would ask why the Minister was more interested in impeaching the character of a key witness involved in an on-going corruption case? Could this be an attempt to validate his earlier position during his confirmation hearings, when he questioned the approach and motive of various integrity institutions?" Woods affirms that, "There are several other issues related to the criminal procedure law of our Republic regarding autopsies and suspicious deaths, which were not addressed by the Minister of Justice."

He called on the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Independent Human Rights Commission and various organizations to join this fight for justice. Atty. Woods exclaimed: "One man stood up against the odds, the raging 'vampire', and has fallen. We need answers! We must defend him in his grave! We need to know whether or not vampires are on the rampage or this was a result of natural causes. Any of us could be its next victim! We will join our colleagues in search for justice and will go to every length to pursue the truth within the confines of the LAW!"


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