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Panel to Probe Security Forces Brutality
At University Campus

Panafrican News Agency (Dakar), 27 March 2001

Monrovia, Liberia - Authorities at the state-run University of Liberia have appointed an eight-member committee to probe brutality by security forces who flogged students and professors on the Monrovia campus of the institution last week.

Prof. Momolu Getaweh of the university heads the panel, which comprises academics, lawyers and students, the University of Liberia senate announced following a tense but cordial meeting on Monday.

The committee has two weeks to complete the probe and make its report.

Police and other elite armed security forces entered the university campus in Monrovia on 21 March and brutalised students who were rallying financial contribution to help pay legal fees for four local independent journalists, currently detained and charged with espionage.

The president of the University, Dr Ben Roberts later admitted inviting the police to protect the students during the rally, but regretted that the security forces acted beyond expectations by injuring those they went to protect.

At their meeting on Monday, faculty members demanded a public apology from the police and members of the elite presidential guard, the Anti-terrorist Unit (ATU), for brutalising students and professors during their drive to disperse a rally organised by the student government to solicit financial aid for the detained journalists.

The faculty also demanded an apology from Roberts for unilaterally inviting security forces on the campus. He promptly complied and expressed regrets at the manner in which the police and their accomplices conducted themselves.

Meanwhile, the University Student Union Tuesday said in a statement that 15 students are still being detained at the Executive Mansion (state house).

It also alleged that two students were feared dead and that during the violence on the university campus, several female students were raped.

The security apparatus has not reacted to the claims. Meanwhile, the students are calling on the university's administration to lift the suspension on their leaders in order to avoid what the union called confusion in the country.

They further called on the government and the University's Board of Trustees to replace Roberts.

The campus remained occupied by state security forces for a few days after they violently broke up the rally.

But the institution's private security guards were back on duty Tuesday.

Observers believe that the school, which was scheduled to reopen Wednesday, may remain temporarily closed until the investigations are over.