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Steps Needed To Enhance Human Rights In Liberia

Further Steps Needed To Enhance Human Rights In Liberia, UN Report Says

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) today called on the country’s Government to ensure urgently a fully functioning independent human rights commission, warning that serious rights concerns persist, ranging from the death penalty to the prevalence of rape, despite some recent progress.

In its bi-annual report covering the period from November 2007 to June this year, UNMIL recognized that steps have been taken to address human rights concerns, such as the building or refurbishment of detention facilities, the establishment of a judicial institute to train judicial officers, and the introduction of programmes aimed at combating rape and sexual violence.

But the mission remained concerned over the application of the death penalty in the West African country, which the UN is helping to recover from a devastating decade-long civil war, as the law permitting capital punishment has not been formally repealed and has received support from the Government with regard to armed robbery, terrorism and hijacking.

The report added that the justice sector remains weak due to the absence of key personnel and inadequate resources for essential institutions such as the judiciary, police and corrections services.

It noted that while the act setting up the Independent National Commission on Human Rights came into force in 2005, the Commission is not operating due to continued Government delays in appointing its commissioners, and it called for urgent action to rectify this.

Meanwhile, as mentioned in the last rights report, rape and gender-based violence remain prevalent, especially involving minors both as victims and alleged perpetrators. Many delays and cases being settled out of court were observed. Harmful traditional practices including trials by ordeal, ritual killings and female genital mutilation continue to be practiced almost with impunity, the report added.

Its recommendations included a call to ensure that judicial officials, defence counsels and prosecutors assigned to courts outside Monrovia remain in their assigned areas, and the taking of disciplinary measures against those who absent themselves.

It also called for continued technical assistance from the international community to strengthen the criminal justice system, and comprehensive rehabilitation programmes for prisoners in detention centres.

Other recommendations include re-activating the administrative board responsible for ensuring the closure of orphanages that do not meet minimum standards, initiating a nationwide awareness campaign against harmful traditional practices, specifically female genital mutilation, trials by ordeal, ritual killings and witchcraft, and the amendment or repeal of various provisions of legislation which infringe on human rights.

ENDS

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