-Says President Weah treading on a dangerous path
The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) has urged the administration of President George Weah to rethink his decision to put an end to tenured positions at major anti-graft and revenue generating institutions as well as at the Commission itself — warning that such a harsh and undemocratic move would come with dire repercussions.
INCHR Acting Chairman, Bartholomew B. Colley, at a recent press conference, noted that the Commission was purposely established to checkmate government on human rights’ issues in the country as well as promote and protect those pertinent rights.
Colley said absorbing the power and functions of the INCHR and the other affected institutions within the presidency, as President Weah is doing with the willful appointment and dismissal of commissioners, “will be counterproductive to attaining peace and stability.”
President Weah recently proposed a bill to repeal the tenure of heads of some government institutions, including the INCHR, that was passed by the House of Representatives and was awaiting concurrence by the Senate. The proposed legislation seeks to amend Article 15 of the 2005 Act creating the Commission.
Many fear that when this legislation is passed, the INCHR will cease to be an independent Commission with the authority to monitor, protect and promote the rights of Liberians, and all those residing within the jurisdiction of the country.
And like most rights institutions in the world, the Chairman noted,the INCHR is an integral part of the government; however, it is independent in both form and substance, because its role is to objectively bring out issues of human rights violations and hold the government accountable.
The INCHR is vested with the authority to check on governance, the executive, legislature and judiciary with a unique function that involves the protection of various human rights institutions with an exclusive mandate to protect and promote human rights. This core responsibility, Mr. Colley added, places the INCHR in a unique position.
However, President Weah’s decision to bring an end to the independence of the Commission, Mr. Colley said, is raising eyebrows not just internally, but regionally and globally as some fear that the relative gains made in the protection and promotion of human rights in recent years could relapse if the President succeeds in his quest.
He added that attempts to revert the independence of the human rights body by removing the security of tenure will seriously question its autonomy and independence.
“The credibility of the Commission will also be eroded both domestically and internationally as well as cast doubt on Liberia’s commitment to human rights protection and promotion,” he said, adding that such a situation will have adverse consequences on the advancement of peace and stability in the country.
Liberia has acceeded to several international instruments that protect and promote human rights. If the President’s quest comes to fruition, it means the government will be nullifying its commitments to these instruments, Mr. Colley said.
Liberia is a founding member of the UN—a Charter that expresses a strong commitment to the principles of Human Rights; manifested and firmly articulated in the Universal Deceleration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217A(III) of 10 December 948.
In addition, Liberia is also a state party to the constitutive Act establishing the African Union (AU). The Act creating the African Union expresses deep commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
Article 4(m) of the AU constitutive Acts enjoins on a state to have respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance. The establishment of the INCHR, proponents believe, demonstrates the country’s commitment to these human rights and rule of law.
Additionally, national human rights institutions across the globe are established based on the Paris principles adopted by the UNGA Resolution 48/134 (1993)—which emphasizes that these institutions are part of the Global Human Rights protection mechanism that is localized in the independent jurisdictions.
The Paris instrument warned that state parties must never deviate from the standard established by the document as it is, unfortunately, being done by President Weah and his government.
Fundamental among these principles are the following: a founding constitution or legislative statue, a broad mandate to promote and protect human rights, an independent appointment procedure with terms office specified by law, a pluralist and representative composition, regular and effective functioning and independence from the executive branch
Liberia has also committed itself to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a body established under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in its October 2018 session in Banjul, which accentuated the need for support to the National Human Rights Institutions in Africa as well as to maintain that such institutions remain independent and viable in the sustainable protection and promotion of human rights.
At a recent AU Advisory Board and National Human Rights Network in Africa Policy Forum meeting in Addis Ababa in November, the AU Commission enjoined member states to ensure that all integrity institutions, including human rights institutions, are guaranteed security tenures that ensure independence in the attainment of the objectives of human rights protection and promotion.
However, commissioner James Wade of the INCHR also noted at the press conference that the President’s action is counterproductive to good governance as well as peace and stability.
Mr. Wade noted that the INCHR is saddened by the proposed legislation seeking to amend Article 15 of the 2005 Act creating the INCHR. The proposed bill, in the opinion of the commissioner, undermines the spirit and intent of the Paris Principle as well as Liberia’s treaty obligations both regionally and internationally.
The Commission is of the conviction that repealing the tenure provision for the Commission is contra-positive to pillar three of the President’s own development agenda on “sustaining the peace.”
This pillar is anchored on the rule of law, which espouses a respect for both domestic and international human rights law.
In light of the foregoing, the Commission wishes to remind the government that the INCHR has been accredited as status “A,” thus bringing the Commission on par with others globally that place premium on human rights protection and promotion.