Liberian Civil Rights Activist Left Off the Hook

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Henry Costa

By Amin Kef Sesay

The vibrant Liberian Civil Rights Activist and Talk Show host, Henry Costa, who was apprehended at the Lungi International Airport by immigration officers and later transported to the Criminal Investigation Department in Freetown for questioning has  reportedly departed Freetown Sierra Leone via Royal Air Maroc yesterday 16 Januray 2020 despite a late official request Wednesday by the George Manneh-led government to have him extradited to Liberia.

Civil and Human Rights activists in Freetown confirmed that Mr. Costa was allowed to leave without further provocation of his right under the international human rights convention, which forbids countries from sending anyone to a country where he thinks his life would be in imminent danger.

The convention protocol relating to refugees under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees subscribes to the core principle of international refugee law, which provides that no one shall expel or return against his or her will, in any manner whatsoever, to a territory where he or she fears threats to life or freedom. The Convention is both a status and rights-based instrument and is underpinned by a number of fundamental principles, most notably non-discrimination, non-penalization and non-refoulement.

It was reported that President Maada Bio had ordered the leader of the Council of Patriot released but Sierra Leone authorities had reportedly delayed his departure due to the late official request from Liberia.

Mr. Mohammed Swaray, appearing on the popular BBC Focus on Africa program Wednesday, said the Bio administration will not take dictation from any government regarding the ongoing saga involving the head of the COP leader. “We just want to ensure that we fulfil his rights, he himself can attest to that, he’s been very well treated, we cannot take dictation from any other government, we’re a democracy, we value that. We have struggled far too long for democracy and this government is noted for its very strong democratic credential so we will not do anything on toward. So, as soon as we have gone through the process, we will do what we have to do.”

Mr. Swaray explained that immigration authorities in Sierra Leone received a call from its Liberia counterparts to cross check a few things regarding Mr. Costa. But the Minister made it clear: “Henry is not in detention, he is enjoying the full human rights, we are a sovereign democracy, we don’t take instructions from other people. I can assure you that Henry’s human rights and basic freedoms will be respected. In fact, he posted something on Facebook that he’s being well-treated, he’s not been coerced, he’s very well protected even though he’s in confinement. So, as a government we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that we don’t interfere with his basic rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The decision to hold Mr. Costa was reportedly not done at the highest-level of the Sierra Leonean government, evidence by the late push by the Weah administration to officially make the case to its next-door neighbors.

In Liberia, the government’s chief spokesman, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, said the push was still on as the government was pressing Sierra Leone to fulfill its international obligations to extradite Mr. Costa on the basis of what Minister Nagbe described as his “criminal activities and not his political activities” in Liberia.

The diplomatic note submitted late Wednesday, Minister Nagbe told the VOA’s Daybreak Africa, in an interview now airing, was trying to make the case for Mr. Costa’s extradition. “The legal paperwork that will include the charges will be forwarded to Sierra Leone. “We want him to come back to face the full weight of the law and we are requesting Sierra Leone to cooperate in keeping with the treaty we have with that friendly country. We are not trying to control the government of Sierra Leone. Why would we want to control the government of Sierra Leone? We don’t want any country to control Liberia so why would we choose to control Sierra Leone. The minister is right. So, we have urged Sierra Leone, in keeping with this treaty to perform its international responsibility to expedite and repatriate Mr. Costa.”

Mr. Costa’s departure early Thursday suggest that the Bio Government did not take the Liberia request seriously.

 

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