Liberia rights watchdog: Probe teen's death

2014-08-27 17:50
Liberia security forces blockade an area around the West Point Ebola centre as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in the city of Monrovia. (Abbas Dulleh, AP)

Liberia security forces blockade an area around the West Point Ebola centre as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in the city of Monrovia. (Abbas Dulleh, AP)

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Monrovia - The head of Liberia's human rights watchdog called on Wednesday for an investigation into the death of a teenager in clashes with soldiers in the capital of the Ebola-hit country.

Siafa Kamara, 16, was one of four residents wounded as violence flared on Wednesday last week in Monrovia's West Point slum, which had been quarantined as part of security measures aimed at containing the deadly virus.

His family announced on Sunday that he had died in hospital after sustaining bullet wounds in the riot, although the government has denied he was shot, saying he injured his legs on barbed wire.

"There is a need to set up an independent body to investigate the death of the boy. You cannot fight Ebola with the army," Gladys Johnson, head of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) said on national radio.

The West Point crackdown came with authorities around the world scrambling to stem the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola, which has killed more than 1 400 people across west Africa this year.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf quarantined the slum, as well as Dolo Town, to the east of the capital, and imposed a night-time curfew as part of new drastic measures to stem the contagion.

Residents of West Point, where club-wielding youths had stormed an Ebola medical facility a few days earlier, reacted with fury to the crackdown, hurling stones and shouting at the troops.

Information minister Lewis Brown confirmed Kamara's death and said the president had asked defence minister Brownie Samukai to investigate.

Samukai has denied that troops opened fire on the protesters, however, saying they only aimed warning shots into the air, and the INCHR said he was not suitable to lead the inquiry.

"The army is being accused and the minister is the head of the army. You can't tell him to be the one investigate. There should be an independent investigation," Johnson said.

Karin Landgren, the United Nations chief in Liberia, said on Friday she "welcomed the statement by the president today that under no circumstances will deadly force be used again".

Read more on:    liberia  |  ebola  |  west africa

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