By Joaquin M. Sendolo
Liberia will today, November 2, come under scrutiny by the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in terms of how the government has been managing the rights of its citizens, and ahead of this review, several questions have been raised by various countries involved with advocating and supporting activities related to human rights in the country. Topping questions of human rights concerns is the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final recommendations which, among others, recommended the establishment of an extraordinary court to prosecute former warlords and perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Also under consideration for review are prison conditions for inmates, women’s rights, rape, and mysterious deaths of some citizens.
The UN Human Rights Council conducts this activity after every five years. Those countries representing Liberia as rapporteurs for the review of Liberia are Bahrain, Nigeria and Spain.
The following countries have these specific questions to ask about how Liberia is handling its human rights records as a member of the UN and a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court.
United States: “The government has not implemented the majority of the recommendations contained in the 2009 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report. The law creating the commission requires that the president submit quarterly progress reports to the legislature on the implementation of TRC recommendations; however, since January 2018, the government has failed to submit quarterly reports. When will the government resume submitting quarterly reports? What else is the Government of Liberia doing to advance truth and reconciliation in the country?”
United Kingdom: “What action has the Government taken in response to recommendations from the National Economic Dialogue and civil society organizations, calling for accountability for war crimes and related economic crimes, as defined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, committed during Liberia’s civil conflict?” In furtherance, the UK also asked: “What measures are being taken to ensure citizens’ freedom to participate in political processes and to curb violence in the lead up to the Senatorial elections in December, and for future elections?” For Northern Ireland coming alongside Great Britain also has the following questions to ask: “To ensure adequate public resources are available to enable the implementation of human rights commitments, what steps and measures are the Government taking to address impunity for acts of corruption and to ensure that independent judicial processes are followed? What action has the government taken in response to recommendations from the National Economic Dialogue and civil society organizations, calling for accountability for war crimes and related economic crimes, as defined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, committed during Liberia’s civil conflict?”
Germany: “Could the Government of the Republic of Liberia elaborate on the current state and further development of the implementation of the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which were issued in 2009 but remain to be established successfully to date.”
Sweden: “What measures will Liberia be taking to root out discriminatory customary and statutory law that denies Liberian women the same rights afforded to Liberian men, in areas such as land tenure, application of jus sanguinetc? How will Liberia strengthen its work to fulfill all individual’s sexual and reproductive health and rights such as improving information and access to modern methods of contraception; safe and legal abortions, maternal health care, and criminalizing female genital mutilation and other harmful practices, the inclusion of specific budget line item for contraception supplies and services and implementing sexuality education?”
Denmark: “The high number of rape cases in Liberia is of critical concern. Which concrete steps is the Government of Liberia taking to eliminate gender and sexually based violence in the country—in addition to the establishment of the Criminal Court-both with regard to the prevention of these human rights violations as well as with regard to the promotion of redress of victims, as women and children are currently subjected to societal stigmatization and hence are unlikely to address the Court? Which concrete steps is the Government of Liberia taking to ensure the speedy and effective establishment and work of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, including a speedy appointment of Commissioners as well as sufficient allocation of funds for the commission to implement its mandate, which is instrumental for the protection of human rights in Liberia? Which specific initiatives will the Government of Liberia be taking to promote the rule of law in Liberia, especially with regard to eliminating impunity and bringing to justice anyone suspected of having committed extrajudicial executions, torture, ill-treatment, rape or other grave human rights violations?”
Liberia is one of 14 states to be reviewed by the UPR Working Group during the upcoming session taking place in Geneva from November 2 to the 13th, and because of the COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting will reportedly be held using a combination of in-person and remote participation.
The Liberian delegation, comprising six persons, will be headed by Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musah Dean and they will be participating virtually from Liberia.
Documents under consideration that the reviews are based include national report—information provided by the State under review; information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups known as the Special Procedures, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities, and information provided by other stakeholders including national human rights institutions, regional organizations and civil society groups.
On November 6, the UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the recommendations made to Liberia.
The UPR process involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. Since its inaugural meeting was held in April 2008, all 193 UN member States have been reviewed twice within the first and second UPR cycles. During the third UPR cycle, States are expected to enumerate the steps that they have taken to implement recommendations made during the previous reviews as well as highlight recent human rights developments in the country.