Presenting Liberia’s third human rights report recently before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group, the Justice Minister, Frank Musa Dean praised gov’t efforts as he recounted some achievements made in the implementation of the UPR recommendations.
The Minister clearly pointed out that as a country emerging out of brutal armed conflicts and striving at post-conflict national renewal and reconciliation, Liberia has not and cannot afford to lose sight of its moral and political commitments in meeting its international human-rights obligations and sustainable development goals.
“Following our appearance here in 2015, Liberia conducted a peaceful presidential and general elections, characterized by the international community as free, fair and transparent, which led to the smooth transition of authority, the first since 1980, from Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the incumbent President George Manneh Weah,” he stated.
(2nd) from left gov’t head of delegation Cllr. Dean
According to him, Liberia remains calm and peaceful with no reports of persistent patterns of human rights violation with impunity. Every incident bordering on abuse or violation of human rights, under the laws of Liberia and international instruments to which Liberia is signatory, is routinely investigated, those responsible charged, prosecuted and punished consistent with law. There are no political prisoners in Liberia.
He added that through the National Human Rights Action Plan adopted to implement the UPR recommendations, Liberia has made significant progress in terms of the implementation of the recommendations of the Council, as set forth and contained in the Report that the gov’t submitted to the council.
Some observers during the presentation
“Over the past several years the Government, in close collaboration with non-state actors, has engaged in sustained public education and awareness of the harmful effects of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other harmful traditional practices, with the view to laying the foundation for attitudinal change and paving the way for law reform. Notwithstanding, these harmful traditional practices that border on human rights violations, such as “Trial by Ordeal” have been criminalized,” he added.
Minister Dean further stated that in compliance with the “Table Mountain Declaration,” the Government of Liberia in 2018 repealed Chapter 11 of the Penal Law of 1978 on criminal libel against the President; Section 11.12 on Sedition and 11.14 on Criminal Malevolence, which led to the passage into law of the Kamara Abdullai Kamara (KAK) Act of 2019 for Press Freedom, to promote free speech, expression, independence and safety of the Liberian press which have paved the way for an unfettered promotion and protection of press freedom, freedom of expression and a more wholesome media environment in Liberia.
Some Civil Society groups during the presentation
But some civil society groups have criticized the government human rights report presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) as insincere, half-truth or exaggerated.
The secretary general of Civil Society and Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, Adama K. Dempster said: “we came here hoping to hear the government give a true account of human rights situation on ground, but unfortunately the gov’t presentation did not admit to the uncounted human rights violations occurring in the country.”
Dempster also mentioned a couple of very important recommendations from the second UPR that the gov’t either slanted or did not discussion at all; such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and the truth and reconciliation’s (TRC) report.
According to him, the UPR second circle in 2015 recommended that gov’t. Criminalize FGM; but up to now and contrary to the head of gov’t delegation Cllr. Dean’s speech FGM has not been criminalized.
“I remembered we had a clause in the domestic violence Act that addresses FGM but it was removed at the legislature, so again that falls flat because we have not been able to address that identical recommendation,” he said.
Another recommendation he mentioned was addressing passed crimes which has to do with implementing the TRC report to establish a war crimes court; “have we done that,” he asked before adding “if you listen to the head of delegation’s speech he did not even give the slightest attention to the TRC, which means this regime is brushing over everything that has to do with the TRC.”
Dempster further pointed to the wave of mysterious and ritualistic deaths that are not properly investigated which are causing panic and insecurity as a violation of citizens’ right to protect.