…Highlights TRC Report, Death Penalty, FGM, Others
The Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia (CSO-HRAPL) with support from The Center for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) based in Geneva over the weekend launched its report of civil society organizations in reply to a series of concern. Some of the issues the reported highlighted included the reintroduction of death penalty (2008) after having ratified the Second Optional Protocol in 2005.
According to Adama K. Dempster, secretary-general of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, the country signed and acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2005.
“Liberia is the only country in the world that has reintroduced the death penalty (2008) after having ratified the Second Optional Protocol in 2005,” Mr. Dempster told the gathering among them, the Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, Ingrid Wetterquist and John H. Stewart, former commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Dempster said as a country that has acceded to this protocol, Liberia needs to repeal in its criminal laws, specifically the clauses that sanction the death penalty and adopt a new clause that abolishes capital punishment. “Unfortunately,” he said, there has not been the political will to translate this into reality.”
According to Dempster, the reintroduction of the death penalty is in total contradiction to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He said this protocol calls for State parties to place a moratorium on the application of the death penalty and work towards its abolition.
The death penalty, according to the new Penal Code of 2008, may be imposed for armed robbery, terrorism and or hijacking. “It is estimated that around 20 death sentences have been passed since the penalty resurfaced in 2008. The total number of convicts currently on death row is estimated at seven,” Mr. Demspter reported.
FGM/Violence against Women
As regards female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision, Mr. Dempster said the 2011 Education Law provides that no child shall be subjected to harmful cultural practices (including FGM) during school period. However, he said many children of school-going ages continue to undergo FGM.
According to him,the National Working Group against FGM was set up to advocate and create awareness to secure the criminalization of the practice under component 16.21L of the Domestic Violence Act.
However, members of the 53rd Parliament struck out a criminalized clause on FGM in the Domestic Violence Act based on the alleged culturally sensitive nature of the practice. Barely a week to the transition of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government in January,this year, then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf issued an Executive Order No. 92 banning FGM for girls under 18 years for a year.
The Executive Order nonetheless, leaves room for FGM to be performed on consenting adults, thus, undermining the commitment to protect women and children from all harmful traditional and cultural practices.
The TRC recommendations
Mr. Dempster added, “As regards the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia and those named individuals, corporations and institutions for prosecution, or in some cases for further investigations into acts of human rights violations and war crimes, the TRC also included a list of individuals recommended to be barred from holding public office for 30 years.”
The TRC report called for the establishment of a National Palava Hut Forum as a complementary tool for justice and national reconciliation, according to Mr. Dempster did not materialize. Therefore, the government failed to uphold any substantial reconciliation among the citizenry.
He then called for institutional reforms that should be implemented to promote good governance, human rights, and to prevent the recurrence of abuses. He recalled how on August 28, 2009, the Legislature announced that it must engage in national consultations with various constituents for about a year before deciding whether or not to implement the recommendations but to this date, “nothing is heard about the process.”
The CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia calls on the UN Human Rights Committee to recommend to the government to take immediate actions to set up a panel comprised of government representatives, Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) and civil society representatives to review the progress on the implementation of the TRC report.
Thus, he said, either consider the draft legislation to facilitate the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court to fairly and effectively prosecute past human rights violations and abuse or appeal to the UN and ECOWAS for the extension of the Sierra Leone War Crime court to cover Liberia and West Africa; ensure adequate support and funding for programs designed in view of the TRC recommendations to improve the country’s judicial and criminal justice system to ensure victims have access to effective legal remedies and reparations.
However, in the wake of the report, Mr. Dempster said “while it is expected that the State sends its written replies to the UN Human Rights Committee, it is also a responsibility for civil society or the human rights community to respond to the list of issues in a shadow report, which was submitted to the UN for consideration.
Out of the written replies submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee, the CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia based its oral statement on issues that seek to address past human rights abuses or violations committed during the civil conflict and the full implementation of corresponding recommendations made by the TRC, which was established based on the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in Accra, Ghana in 2003.