INCHR Commissioner Calls on Businesses, Gov’t Institutions to Support Human Rights Initiatives

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Participants of the conference posed at the end.

-Stakeholders end 2-day human rights confab in Buchanan

The deputy commissioner for Oversight and Planning at the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) Wilfred N. Gray-Johnson has called on businesses and government institutions to support human rights activities, to prevent human rights abuses.

Mr. Johnson made the remarks over the weekend at a 2-day high-level forum held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, for relevant government institutions, businesses and partners. Commissioner Johnson indicated that some business owners have been involved in human rights abuses, referencing the incident involving an employee and a manager of GN Bank.

Commissioner Johnson said the role of the Ministry of Justice shows some level of commitment from the national government in handling abuses across the country. The conference was sponsored by the Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR).

He said there is a need for a nationwide survey, to determine the level of human rights violations in the country, including trans-national corporations, businesses, and other institutions, which will set the baseline for monitoring all human rights violations in Liberia.

“We still have a lot to do as a country. But with the political will, Liberia can achieve more. Liberia is a signatory to both international and regional instruments. The government has domesticated some of international documents, and INCHR will continue to push the government to ensure that human rights are protected,” Commissioner Johnson said.

He emphasized the need to eliminate violence against women and children, which remains a priority of the human rights commission in Liberia.

Meo Beyan, Assistant Minister for Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), said plans were currently underway for the formation of a steering committee that supersedes and focuses on human rights issues.

“Stakeholders have come to discuss respecting human rights. We want to see the prevention of human rights violations in the business environment. We want businesses to be able to promote human rights. This initiative brings people from the concession areas, business sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), and government institutions,” Mr. Beyan said.

He said there is a growing quest by the government for the protection of human rights in Liberia. This 2-day forum also depicts how the government and its partners are committed to preventing human rights abuses.

“We intend to protect everyone, those in the private and government sectors. We gathered here to see how the citizens of Liberia’s rights can be protected at every level. We want to ensure that while doing business there is total respect for human rights,” he said.

“We are delighted because there are laws that deal with some of the problems, like assault. We are also looking at a better working environment, and there is a law governing that already, including the decent work law,” Beyan said.

According to him, the issue of health and safety at workplaces remains a serious concern of the Ministry of Justice, adding that, “There are missing processes that the MOJ, INCHR, and partners are working to put together.”

“We want to establish a special committee that will deal with business and human rights. We will at the end of this conference organize this committee and ensure that it’s properly working. We will also ensure that they have a term of reference. This committee is cut across CSOs, businesses and human rights institutions,” he said.

Daniel Melvin Nyanway, a representative of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), lauded the Ministry of Justice for the initiation of the conference to support the prevention of human rights abuses.

“It’s important for the government to take the lead in the prevention of human rights abuses. OHCHR has seen the need to support the government in handling human rights issues in the country, because human rights are very cardinal,” Mr. Nyanway said.

According to him, it is time for Liberia to initiate a proper mechanism to prevent human rights abuses, because delay would put Liberia in a difficult position to address the situation.

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