By Bill W. Cooper
The Foundation for Human Rights Defense International (FOHRD) has released its first human rights report on Liberia.
Key among areas of concern are, freedom of expression, allegations of corruption, pretrial detention and lack of fair trial as well as inadequate health service delivery, excessive use of force, police brutality, prison conditions and the rights of inmates.
Addressing a news conference yesterday at his office in Paynesville, the FOHRD’s Country Director, Peter N. Wonokay, stated that one of the key functions of democracy and human rights is freedom of expression and that the Liberian Constitution provides in Article 15 (b) and (c) that the government is supposed to tolerate opposing views, including critical voices of the media and political oppositions.
Mr. Wonokay pointed out that it has been observed by his institution that he Government of President George Weah is struggling to embrace freedom of expression thus citing the July, 2018 saga between the Liberian Government and the Voice FM Radio Station.
According to him, May 21, 2021 the government threatened to revoke the operating permits of Sky FM and D -15 radio stations for agreeing to broadcast Henry Costa’s interviews with Dr. Alan White, which according to him, is totally against the freedom of expression as per the Constitution.
FOHRD also frowned on the Weah-led administration for allowing the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) Vice Chairperson, Kanio Bai Gbala, to ascend as acting Chairperson having been accused of corruption by a staff of the same institution.
He intoned further that the allegations against Cllr. Gbala were of serious public interest due to his position in LACC, yet the government continuously turned a blind eye and did nothing to address said concerns.
“These allegations and other ongoing issues including the President and his officials’ persistent refusal to declare their assets reflect the gloomy state of Liberia’s democracy,” FOHRD reported.
“Article 8 of the Liberian Constitution provides that, “The Republic shall direct its policy towards ensuring that all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihoods under just and humane conditions and towards promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment,” but Wonokay stated that despite this provision, most parts of Liberia, especially in the rural areas, citizens still lack health facilities while the areas that have health facilities lack adequate medication and necessary health supplies pointing out that one of those facilities is the only hospital in Grand Kru County, which has a population of about 200,000 inhabitants.
Meanwhile, the FOHRD is calling on the government to act upon the key recommendations emanating from its investigation in order to protect human rights and improve the nation’s image.
Key amongst those recommendations are that the government establishes a transparent independent commission to investigate unlawful detentions, police brutality, and corruption in public offices as well as take immediate pro-active steps to provide better healthcare for its people in keeping with the Constitution and other international instruments.
Others are, that the interference by the Executive into the functions of the Judiciary be ceased and that media institutions must be left to perform their duties without fear of censorship from authorities including law enforcement agents and must be provided the needed resources including human rights education and other tools to support their work.
FOHRD also wants public officials to declare their assets before taking office, and routine audits must be conducted to combat corruption and that the government must conduct a swift, independent, and credible investigation into allegation of corruption at the LACC to ensure that the State agency charged with the responsibility to combat corruption is not itself infested with corruption.
FOHRD is a non-profit organization that monitors, documents, and publishes on cases of human rights and democratic governance and in areas where the government ignores the plight of its peoples and international laws, FOHRD speaks out and reminds the possessors of powers of their moral and ethical duties.
FOHRD Releases 1st Human Rights Report On Liberia
By Bill W. Cooper