Sierra Leone: CSOs Urge Govt to Release Liberian Rights Activist

Civil Society leaders in Sierra Leone yesterday urged President Julius Maada Bio government to release Liberian rights activist, Henry P. Costa, who was arrested at the country's Lungi International Airport in the early hours of yesterday (15th January) whilst traveling to the United States of America.

"... we urge the government of Sierra Leone to immediately release Mr. Costa and allow him to travel to the United States of America or his preferred destination. We further urged the government of Sierra Leone to reject any extradition request from the Liberian Government," the release notes.

Speaking to newsmen at the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) office on Circular Road in Freetown, the group said if the rights activist is repatriated to Liberia, he would be 'severely tortured' by the Weah led administration.

According to a press statement which was signed by seven rights groups and read by the Executive Director of Campaign for Good Governance, Marcella Samba Sesay, the Sierra Leone government has not issued any public statement on the reasons for the arrest of Mr. Costa, but they have been reliably informed that he was arrested reportedly on the orders of the Liberian government.

The group noted that they were not aware of any charges been pressed by the Liberian government against Mr. Costa and that they believed the only reason the Gorge Weah led administration is pursuing him was his leadership role in the country's nationwide protest last December.

"We believe that Mr. Costa's right to demonstrate is guaranteed under both Liberian and international law, and we strongly condemn the Liberian government's attempt to punish him for exercising his right," the statement reads.

The civil society leaders reminded Sierra Leone Government of its obligation under the laws to protect human rights and it shouldn't be seeing facilitating the abuse or violation of such rights.

The statement said the country would equally share the blame for any human rights violations or abuse which Mr. Costa may be subjected to if the government decided to extradite him to Liberia.

"This will certainly have a far reaching implication for Sierra Leone's human rights credentials and its international image," the release states.

Mr. Costa's lawyer, Demba Barrie, said his client was safe and sound, but expressed fears as the Government of Sierra Leone was yet to make any official statement on his release.

Earlier, CARL's Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy said they would continue to campaign for the release of their colleague without expedition to Liberia.

However, Mr. Costa, leader of Council of Patriots was the lead campaigner of the December 30, 2019 nationwide protest in Liberia that was popularly known as the "Weah Step Down Campaign".

Meanwhile, the All Liberian Party's (ALP) in a press statement warned the Government of Sierra Leone against extraditing Henry P. Costa to the Republic of Liberia for fear of being torture to death.

Henry P. Costa is a political activist in Liberia who has been asking tough questions about President George Weah's administration. He was arrested by the authorities in the Freetown International Air Port while trying to onboard a plan to America. According to his layers in Sierra Leone, Costa was arrested on the grounds that, he committed fraudulence activity by forging his passport from Accra to Morovia.

The press statement noted that the arrest action might have been initiated by authorities of the Liberia Immigration Services (LIS) who up to date have yet to conclude an investigation surrounding the Lissez passé saga with Mr.Henry P. Costa.

"We are calling on the Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone to honour its obligations under international Laws and Protocols that guarantee the safety and security of Mr. Henry P. Costa who is fleeing for his life and safety. We note with keen interest, that Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon informed the nation via social media that "Henry Costa will soon die.Since the issuance of this threat, coupled with the intrusion of former notorious generals of the Liberian civil war among peaceful protesters on January 6, 2020, the Government of Liberia has taken no action to ensure the safety of Mr. Henry P. Costa, Chairman of the Council of Patriots (COP)," the release stated.

It further noted that the investigation into his lasses passez was ongoing when the Liberian Government declared him a wanted man in an instance he failed to turn out for the investigation by 0900 hour on Wednesday, January 15, 2020.

"As far as we are concerned, and we wish to inform and remind authorities of the Republic of Sierra Leone that Mr. Costa has so far not been charged for any crime(s) under Liberian Law. Declaring him therefore as "a wanted man" has also posed fear and danger for his life and safety," it stated.

A member of Costa's lawyer who stood up for his case in Freetown, Abdul Koroma, said there was an allegation that their client forged his passport from Acra to Monrovia and that he has some questions to answer to the Monrovia AirPort authorities.

He added that he had challenged the government of Sierra Leone on the grounds that the arrest was controversial and illegal, adding that under no account should the Sierra Leone government attempt to extradite his client to Liberia because his client's life might be in danger.

"I have also spoken to the authorities that as a country we should respect our International Laws. We cannot send someone into a country where his life will be in danger," he said.

The Minister of Information, Mohamed Swarray, said Costa was taken to police custody due to a call the airport management received from its Liberian counter parts in order to cross check a few things.

He said even though Costa is in custody but that he was in open detention, and that he was granted the full privilege of his fundamental human rights, adding that Sierra Leone is a sovereign democratic state that takes no authority from other country.

He added that Costa even posted on Facebook about the respect he was enjoying during his detention.

"My Government is reputed for democratic credentials. As such, we cannot do anything to him that is contrary to our international laws. His safety is guaranteed. As soon as we go through the processes we will do the needful," he said.

Also, the Council of Patriot (COP) in Liberia condemns in the strongest terms the continual intimidation, harassment and threats on the lives of members of the COP, particularly its chairman, Henry Pedro Costa and Hon.Yekeh Kolubah.

"Therefore COP is asking the government and people of Sierra Leone not to tarnish their enviable democratic credentials by serving as an accomplice in facilitating, aiding and abeting the Government of Liberia in its malicious plan to eliminate critical voices who are speaking out against the wanton abuse of power and rampant corruption by the Government of Liberia," a press statement from the council states.

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