Rights Activist Calls for CSOs, Legislative Dialogue on Human Rights Issues

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Rights Activist Adama K. Dempster

A human rights activist has called for dialogue and information sharing on issues of human rights between civil society organizations (CSOs) and members of the Legislature, a release has said.

Adama K. Dempster, secretary general of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform, has said such dialogue and information sharing will enable concrete actions on promoting and protecting human rights.

The civil society actor, making a presentation during a retreat sponsored by The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Liberia-Country Office and the UN Women for members of the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature that took place from February 21 to 24 at a resort in Margibi County, said there is a need to get CSOs’ input in laws passed by the Legislature, especially laws that have impact on people’s rights.

The retreat, held under the theme, “The Role of the Parliament in Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Gender in Liberia,” was attended by current members of the House of Representatives, Women Legislative Caucus, officials of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), and the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform.

According to the release, Mr. Dempster’s comment was contained in a paper he presented on the topic, “Civil Society and Parliament Working Together to promote and Protect Human Rights in Liberia.”

Dempster said the roles of CSOs and lawmakers are complementary, therefore, “lawmakers should include CSOs’ inputs in laws that need to be passed, because CSOs have information on many issues that can assist on framing of the law to reflect Human rights concerns.”

For the lawmakers, he said they need to mainstream human rights and international norms in their legislative process in order to collaborate effectively.

Dempster said that the relationship between CSOs and lawmakers should be guided by teamwork, alliance, combined effort, collaboration, partnership and joint participation.

Another presenter, Ms. Ghoma Karloweah, Program Manager, Peace and Security, UN Women, made a presentation on the topic, “International Reporting Obligations on Protecting the Rights of Women.” Ms. Karloweah said legislature must ensure that states “are in compliance with their international obligations and respect for the principles of international convention.”

Lawmakers, Ms. Karloweah said, should be debating and adopting national legislation that conforms with the international standards set out by the Convention, while monitoring its implementation.

She added that raising awareness of Conventions and its Protocols on human rights and overseeing the practical implementation of the rights set out in these Conventions are among some of the work of lawmakers.

“Institutional linkages and informal relations with civil society and women’s organizations are fundamental to the promotion of women’s rights by the Parliament. Legislators can draw on specialized organizations and community groups for assistance with legislative reviews and analysis,” said Ms. Karloweah.

She added that many women’s organizations can provide legal inputs on bills, as well as advice and assistance.

The lawmakers, she said, can make contributions by participating in the process of national consultations preceding the preparation of the national Human Rights reports to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states.

Of treaty bodies such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), there is a need to actively participate and monitor the overall reporting process, taking part as delegations sent to participate in interactive dialogues with regional and international Human Rights institutions.

Attorney Urias Teh Pour, INCHR Director, Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matter and Law, who made a presentation under the theme, ‘ECOWAS Regional Human Rights Protection mechanism,’ said the ECOWAS court has the jurisdiction to determine cases of violation of human rights that occur in any member states.

The revised ECOWAS Treaty of 1993, Attorney Pour said, guarantees the promotion and protection of human rights.

“In line with that aim, ECOWAS adopted its fundamental principles wherein it guarantees its peoples under Article 4(g) of the Revised Treaty, “the recognition, promotion and protection of human and people’s rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights,” he added.

He said individuals can take cases of human rights directly to the court without exhausting local remedies.

“Plaintiff must establish that there is a public right which is worthy of protection, which has been allegedly breached and that the matter in question is justifiable,” Atty. Pour said.

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