Staff of Green Advocates, SOMO’s partner organisation in Liberia has been facing threats, intimidation and harassment from the Liberian authorities. Green Advocates works closely together with other human rights defenders advocating for the rights of indigenous communities impacted by large-scale oil palm and rubber production in Liberia.
Since last week, Mr. Alfred Lahai Brownell, the founder and lead campaigner of Green Advocates, is facing a warrant for his arrest for contempt of court after he allegedly failed to respond to a subpoena requiring him to provide testimony in connection with a war crimes case involving a Dutch citizen, Gus van Kouwenhoven. The warrant also mentions Mr. Brownell’s “office assistant,” who remains unnamed.
The organisation has informed us that on Friday, October 30, plain clothed police officers came to their office while under the influence of alcohol, to deliver a writ of arrest for contempt of court by Alfred Brownell, the founder and lead campaigner of Green Advocates, for allegedly failing to respond to a subpoena requiring him to provide testimony in connection with a war crimes case involving a Dutch citizen, Gus Kouwenhoven. The warrant also mentions Mr. Brownell’s “office assistant,” who remains unnamed.
Since that time, Green Advocates reports that the Liberian police have surrounded the office, invaded the home of Mr. Brownell and also briefly arrested Mr. Brownell’s uncle. Currently, the Green Advocates staff members are in hiding, due to the imminent threat of their arrest. These latest developments must be seen in the context of a wider range of threats and intimidation, directed at Green Advocates and the communities they work with on the issue of land rights and natural resources in Liberia.
ESCR-Net – a network of over 270 social movements, NGOs and advocates – started a petition to request Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia, to:
- Take all necessary steps to put an end to all further acts of surveillance, harassment and intimidation against the staff of Green Advocates, including Alfred Brownell, and guarantee their freedom from arbitrary detention.
- Immediately drop all outstanding arrest warrants against Alfred Brownell, who was never served a subpoena, members of his family, Green Advocates staff and members of the Butaw and Wealla communities of Sinoe and Margibi Counties, which have been filed in an apparent reprisal for their activities to defend and promote human rights;
- Launch independent, impartial investigations into the incidents mentioned in the above, including the attack on Green Advocates staff on June 16, 2014 in Sonouh town, Tarjuwon district, the death of Fred Friday Thompson on July 15, 2015, and the illegal entry of the offices of Green Advocates on July 27, 2015, to clarify responsible parties and ensure justice;
- Provide adequate protection for the staff of Green Advocates and the members of the community of Butaw and their partners, against threats, reprisals and harassment against them by individuals with ties to Golden Veroleum, and
- Promote a model of development that upholds human rights and environmental sustainability, including the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent, and allows people to sustain their livelihoods and live in dignity.
Read more on ESCR-Net and sign the petition!