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Government Security Policy

When the young soldiers of the PRC took over the government, they faced a daunting, confused security situation. They had no estimate of how many Tolbert loyalists were at large or whether they were capable of mounting a counter-coup. Moreover, Monrovia and its environs were paralyzed by a complete breakdown of public order. Young soldiers told by radio broadcasts to ignore the orders of their officers, roamed the streets armed with rifles, arresting and dispensing revolutionary justice to True Whig supporters, settling personal scores, and requisitioning property in the name of the revolution. Students likewise rebelled against authorities on Liberian campuses, and looting by soldiers and unemployed Monrovians was widespread. It was estimated that more than 200 people were killed in the violence of the first three days titer the coup.

As they established their control, Doe and the PRC decree, suspending the constitution and dissolving the executive and legislative branches of government. Martial law was de dared, and the protective tradition of habeas corpus was suspended. The Supreme Military Tribunal, composed of five military officers, was appointed to hear cases in which treason was charged and those involving corruption or misconduct among se rarity personnel. The PRC also imposed a ban on all political activity that lasted until mid?1984 and a dusk-to-dawn curfew which was soon shortened but remained in effect for over two years. In short, according to the United States Department o State's human rights report published in 1981, "with the suspension of the Constitution, civil and political rights are exercised a the grace of the government." In the space of a few days, Doe tins the PRC had established the institutional framework that they would continue to use for the next several years to still opposition and to control domestic order.

In these first few days, the PRC also used its power over the national security apparatus so ruthlessly that it acquired a reputes tion for brutality that continued to burden the regime in 1984 Five days after the coup, Doe ordered the public execution of foiu looters-three soldiers and a civilian `as an example" to other criminals. On April 22, after 14 former True Whig officials has been tried before the Supreme Military Tribunal on charges o treason, corruption, and human rights abuses, the PRC had 13 0 them executed, even though the tribunal had recommended th< death sentence in only four cases. These televised executions which were undertaken in spite of pleas for clemency from the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the United States, mos other Western nations, and United Nations secretary genera Kurt Waldheim, became the yardstick against which all of the government's subsequent security policies have since been measured.

Partly in response to the international outcry that follower the killings, Doe announced that former government official would no longer be executed, although the Supreme Military Tri banal would continue hearings on their alleged offenses. "The executions so far," according to Doe, "are now enough to set as example about what happens to those who commit high treason. No further executions of former True Whig officials were carries out, although the government later admitted that the former director of the national police, Varney Dempster, and Tolbert's son, A. B. Tolbert, had been taken from prison and killed

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