“Don’t Use COVID-19 as an Excuse”

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Secretary-General of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, Adama K. Dempster

–Human rights community tells gov’t as they launch accountability, reparations and reconciliation posters

On the occasion of the celebration of International Justice Day (IJD), the human rights community in Liberia has called on the government not to use COVID-19 as an excuse for not meeting up with its national and international human rights obligations, with reference to the increase in sexual gender-based violence and the implementation of the United Nations Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations of Liberia.

Speaking at an occasion marking the observance of the IJD on Friday, July 17, Secretary-General of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia Adama K. Dempster said in July 2018 the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in its Concluding Observations in Geneva made some recommendations, setting a two-year deadline, which ends 2020, that the Liberian government must meet.

In the recommendations, Dempster disclosed to the gathering that the state party (Liberia) should as a matter of priority establish a process of accountability for past gross human rights violations and war crimes that conform to international standards, including the independence and expertise of the judiciary, victims’ access to justice, due process and fair trial guarantees, and witness protection.

He further explained that the state party (Liberia) should in particular ensure that all alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes are impartially prosecuted and, “If found guilty, convicted and punished in accordance with the gravity of the acts committed, regardless of their status or any domestics legislation on immunities, and remove any persons who have been proven to be involved in gross human rights violations and war crimes from official positions; take all measures necessary to implement the TRC recommendations and consider establishing a well-resourced body comprising government representatives, the National Independent Commission on Human Rights and civil society organizations to monitor the implementation of those recommendations; develop and implement a comprehensive reparations scheme for all victims of gross human rights violations and war crimes; and redouble its efforts aimed at fostering reconciliation and sustaining peace, with the participation of victims and their families as well as civil society organizations active in seeking justice for past crimes.”

Dempster said given the role of civil society in Liberia, the human rights community on treaties related matters participated in these UN sessions and presented shadow reports on Liberia and, as such “We are tasked to follow up with the government on the full implementation of the recommendations.”

“On the basis of our shared role and obligations to regularly report to the United Nations human rights committee, Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the CSO platform and Finn Church Aid with technical support from Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) based in Geneva, officially launch its Accountability, Reparations and Reconciliation posters in follow-up to the UN Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendation in Liberia,” Dempster said.

Speaking on the IJD, the SG of the CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform said July 17 every year is observed as World Day for International Justice.

The aim of the day is to promote international criminal justice and to support the work of the ICC and other justice-related efforts to reflect on the grave crimes suffered by victims at the hands of perpetrators.

Moreover, the day is to unite everyone who wants to support justice as well as promote a victim’s rights. It is to help prevent serious crimes and those that put the peace, security, and well being of the world at risk. It was celebrated in partnership with the Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) based in Geneva.

Earlier in the welcome remark, Rev. Francis S. Kollie, chairman of the Directors-CSO platform, used the occasion to thank their partners for joining them in celebrating such a special day.

Rev. Kollie said the day is a very special day for the world at large because it relates to justice that keeps everyone together.

He said everywhere in the world people are crying for justice, including the marketers, yana boys, women, and children, especially during this time where the entire world is engulfed by stringent measures as a result of COVID-19.

Rev. Kollie said governments around the world have put into place stringent measures where security apparatus – to some extent – are misusing some of these measures that have been put into place.

“Children have been raped, domestic violence is on the increase and all these are justice issues. A lot of people’s rights have been violated in different countries. So, what we are doing here today is to create an awareness that justice is knocking at the windows, the doors of every country. Justice needs to be observed, people’s rights need to be observed,” he indicated.

As a human rights platform, “We want to use this time to call on the Government of Liberia and the international partners that Liberia is in need of justice, social justice as well as human rights resurrection, among others,” Rev. Kollie said.

According to him, people need to be held accountable for crimes or whenever there is a right being violated.

Ebadi Ernestine, Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Liberia, congratulated the organizers for the ‘wonderful’ work that they have been doing in promoting and protecting the rights of citizens in the country.

She said for any country to be developed, there must be peace and accountability which serves as a deterrent to perpetrators of similar crimes.

Ms. Ernestine added, “We also want to commend and applaud the CSO Human Rights Platform for the great job that they are doing. As the office of the Human Rights Commission on Human Rights, we commit to supporting the government and people of Liberia in their quest for reconciliation and accountability for past human rights violations.”

Meanwhile, the occasion was attended by representatives from the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Maxson S. Kpakio of the Justice Forum Liberia, and Madam MacDella Cooper, respectively.

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