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Liberia National Police (LNP)

The regular security forces include the Liberia National Police (LNP), which has primary responsibility for internal security. An estimated 7,000 UNMIL peacekeepers and 1,300 UN police officers (UNPOL) had significant responsibility for maintaining security as of 2012, although the LNP took on increasing responsibility. Approximately 460 UNPOL advisors and 844 officers in the UN Formed Police Units (FPU) assisted with monitoring, advising, and mentoring the LNP. Approximately 1,200 UNMIL troops withdrew during the year; there were plans to reduce the number of foreign peacekeeping troops to 3,700 by the end of 2015. Three additional FPUs were expected to be deployed to bolster security while local civilian law enforcement capacity was being built.

UNMIL's mandate did not include executive policing authority. The LNP's capacity and motivation to deal effectively with crime is inadequate. The 3,800 [as of 2009] police force was poorly equipped and insufficient to cope with the demand for officers across the country. Lack of confidence in the police and judicial system has sometimes resulted in mob violence, vigilantism, and trial by ordeal, especially in rural areas. The shortage of police officers has placed a strain on the limited resources of the LNP. Members of the LNP and the judiciary have at times refused assignments to rural counties because of inadequate infrastructure and living conditions and difficulty receiving pay on a regular and timely basis.

The LNP operated independently and retained arrest authority. UNPOL advisors regularly accompanied LNP officers on joint patrols. In addition to its regular force, the LNP comprised a Police Support Unit (PSU) that received additional training in crowd and riot control, with the 20 highest-rated officers in each training class selected for weapons training. The ERU received specialized training and was charged with conducting special police operations in antiterrorism, hostage rescue, internal security, tactical anticrime, and search-and-rescue situations. The PSU and ERU were better trained and equipped than the regular LNP force.

Regular LNP officers remained poorly equipped, ineffective, and slow to respond to criminal activity, although the foot patrol program continued to show improvement in strategic areas. Police had limited transportation, logistics, communication, and forensic capabilities, and they did not have the capacity to investigate adequately many crimes, including murders. The lack of a crime laboratory and other investigative tools hampered police investigations and evidence gathering, which, in turn, hampered prosecutors’ cases. Training and assistance by international donors supported some improvements within the LNP.

Police must have warrants to make arrests. The law provides that detainees either be charged or released within 48 hours; however, arrests often were made without warrants, or warrants were sometimes issued without sufficient evidence. Detainees, particularly the majority without the means to hire a lawyer, often were held for more than 48 hours without charge. Detainees generally were informed of the charges against them upon arrest. Detainees have the right to prompt determination of the legality of their arrest, but this did not always occur. The law provides for bail for all offenses except first-degree rape, murder, armed robbery, and treason. Detainees have the right to prompt access to counsel, visits from family members, and if indigent, an attorney provided by the state in criminal and civil cases, but the government did not always observe such rights.

President Sirleaf warned officers of the LNP to cease arbitrary arrest and detention of peaceful citizens based on the orders of government officials. She added that warrants must be issued by a competent court of jurisdiction at all times before an arrest is made. Despite the president’s warning, there were reports throughout the year of arbitrary arrests.

As of late 2002 National Police Director Paul Mulbah headed the police force; however, former National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) officials within the police service wielded considerable power. President Taylor's cousin Joe Tate, the national police chief, was accused of having led gangs of looters and a political death squad during the civil war.

On 24 April 2002, lawyer and critic of the Government, Tiawan Gongole, was arrested under the terms of the state of emergency after the independent newspaper The Analyst published a speech in which Gongole exhorted civil society to work for peace and criticized the Liberian Marketing Association for being a "cheerleader" for the Government. Police stripped naked and severely beat Gongole while he was in detention at the Central Police Station; he had to be hospitalized after his release. His request for habeas corpus was denied repeatedly, past the 48 hour constitutional limit. On May 6, the Government dropped the case against Gongole. Members of the security forces, David Moore and James Kollie, were charged with assault in the case of Gongole, and their trial was pending at year's end.

Special Operations Division (SOD)

In rural areas, particularly in remote parts of Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties, armed security forces illegally entered homes, most often to steal food, money, or other property. Members of the security forces in rural areas generally were paid and provisioned inadequately and often extorted money and goods from citizens. Local communities were compelled to provide food, shelter, and labor for members of the security forces stationed in their villages. Human Rights Watch reported that President Taylor's security services, the SSS and the SOD, both mobilized to combat LURD rebels, consisted of former NPFL rebels who were paid a one-time fee of $150 (8,200 ld) and were expected to loot and pillage thereafter to support themselves. On 29 October 2002, SOD police raided the home of human rights activist Aloysius Toe after Toe announced a week of solidarity for Hassan Bility and other detainees. Government officials said that e-mail documents were found in Toe's home that linked him with LURD rebels.

On 22 September 2002, Special Operations Division (SOD) policemen killed John B. Toe after he allegedly had been involved in an armed robbery. There were no reports of an investigation, and none of the responsible members of the security forces were disciplined or charged by year's end. There were no developments during 2002 in the July 2001 case of three SOD officers arrested and detained for killing an immigration officer in Bong County; the July 2001 case of the commander of the Kakata town police and another man arrested and detained for murder and armed robbery; and the August 2001 case of the killing by unknown persons of the Chief Financial Officer of the Police Training Academy outside of Monrovia.

Clan chieftains continue to use the traditional practice of trial-by-ordeal to resolve criminal cases in rural areas. The Supreme Court ruled that trial-by-ordeal -- commonly the placement of a heated metal object on a suspect's body in an attempt to determine whether the defendant is telling the truth -- is unconstitutional; however, the practice continues under an executive order. A domestic human rights group urged that trial-by-ordeal be abolished throughout the country; however, no action was taken by the end of 2002.

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Page last modified: 07-10-2013 19:05:54 ZULU