— Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie says in response to U.S. Human Rights Report on Liberia
The Government of Liberia has described the country’s poor human rights issues, as raised in the US State Department’s Human Rights Report, as an “age-old problem”. Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie, in defense of the George Weah Administration, said the report does not cast full-scale blame on the current government, but that the issues raised are “age-old problems… due to long years of inaction.”
President George Weah, who took the helm of national leadership in 2018 after winning the presidential election, identified some of these problems in his inaugural speech and promised to eradicate them under his ‘Change’ mantra but, since then, some of the very ills and vices he promised to address have become more pronounced.
Speaking at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing yesterday in Monrovia, Minister Rennie said the human rights report on Liberia released by the U.S. Department of State is largely positive and reflective of the general human rights situation of Liberia.
Minister Rennie said the report rather depicts the ecosystem of the country’s governance structures which predates the current administration.
“The report highlights what we believe are age-old institutional pitfalls and challenges that have bedeviled the country’s governance structures over long years of inaction on these fronts,” said Minister Rennie.
He said that the government of President Weah remains committed to addressing human rights abuses in the country.
The report covers 2020, the third full year of the George Weah Administration. Minister Rennie, in defense of the administration, said looking at the entire report, one would see that areas mentioned about human rights violations are actually not out-rightly tied to the Weah-led Government, though, he did not state which administration(s) might be held responsible.
He said other than the entrenched institutional and eco-systemic governance structures, pitfalls like corruption, legal and judicial weaknesses and excesses, challenges in confronting and breaking away from culture and tradition beliefs and practices that are termed as repugnant to western human rights standards that predate the Weah Administration, majority of the issues raised were mainly centered around individuals working within or for the government whose actions were neither sanctioned by the government.
“On the face of this report, reviewing recent past reports and drawing from where we have transitioned as a country, we can clearly see that progress is slow but steady and continual… as we strive in our efforts as a country to reform and, in some cases, overhaul entire governance machinery,” Minister Rennie said.
The Information Minister concluded that the government has already engaged in a diplomatic conversation with the Government of the United States in key areas of concerns.
Unity Party Secretary-General Mo Ali who was recently arrested and held overnight in custody by the Liberia National Police (LNP) for his Facebook post, described the report as “very damaging and demeaning for the country, something that a government that was elected on a popular mandate needs to take very seriously.”
According to Ali, “we do not expect a government that promised change to continue on the same trend on human rights issues. The violation of the rights of the citizens existed in the past, but it is something that the government must not continue,” he asserted.
Some of the significant human rights issues being reported in the 2020 country report on Liberia include, the arbitrary killings by police; cases of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention by government officials and serious problems with the independence of the judiciary.
Other issues are serious restrictions on freedom of the press, including violence and threats of violence against journalists; official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for violence against women to the existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults and the worst forms of child labor.
Moreover, the report stated that impunity for individuals who committed human rights abuses, including atrocities, during the Liberian civil wars that ended in 2003, remained a serious problem; although the government has cooperated with the war crimes investigations.
Mr. Ali, reemphasizing issues raised in the report against the Judiciary, also noted: “Our justice system is very corrupt. Before people go to court the outcomes are already determined, something this government needs to change. People no longer believe in the justice system of our country. Looking at what is happening in Maryland, it is simply because the people no longer have trust in the police,” he asserted.