Military court demands that journalist be brought to hearing

New York, July 26, 2002—The Court Martial Board, Liberia’s military court, yesterday gave the government an August 7 deadline to produce Hassan Bility, a prominent newspaper editor who has been detained incommunicado since June 24.

Bility, editor of the weekly Analyst newspaper, was arrested with two other individuals—Ansumana Kamara and Mohammed Kamara—and charged with collaborating with the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). The three have been held incommunicado since then and have not been formally charged. The rebel group has denied any connection with the detained men.

On June 26, Minister of Information Reginald Goodridge told a press conference in the capital, Monrovia, that Bility and the two other people were in government custody. However, even though Judge Winston O. Henries ordered the government to produce the accused individuals in court by July 1 and granted the government a two-day extension to comply, Bility and the others have yet to be tried or presented in a court of law.

On July 9, Judge Henries ruled that the court had no jurisdiction over the accused since they are “unlawful combatants” and said they should be tried before a military court.

The Monrovia-based Analyst has been highly critical of Liberian president Charles Taylor’s regime and has been closed twice this year on government orders.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed fears, based on human rights reports, that Bility may have died or been killed while in custody. CPJ has demanded that President Taylor do everything within his power to see that Bility’s whereabouts are made public.