A Local Human Rights Monitoring Group has raised alarm over conditions in one of the prisons in northern Liberia, Lofa County to be precise, alleging that it is “appalling” and that they were investigating allegations of overcrowding and abuse.
“It is a national problem,” Losene B. Fofana, head of Human Rights Monitor for Lofa County told his colleagues when he presented the plight of human rights abuses in his County.
He released the reports recently at the opening of two-day Regional Planning and Strategy Meetings between human rights monitors of Bong and Lofa Counties.
The meeting was under the theme, “Renewing the Social Contract: Strengthening the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Liberia.”
The gathering, held in Gbarnga, the capital city of Bong County was organized by Rights and Rice Foundation, a local social justice advocacy group and Search of Common Ground, with funding from the European Union (EU).
In his presentation, Fofana informed the gathering that Lofa County, one of the largest counties in Liberia, has only one prison facility.
“Everywhere in Lofa,” Fofana said, “inmates are suffering, because there is only a single prison compound in the area. It was built to accommodate 40 prisoners, but it is now hosting over 100. The prison yard is congested. The nature of where they sleep, the atmosphere is not conducive. They don’t have even a blanket to lie on.”
He asserted that if a prisoner were to die in the Lofa cell, it could be regarded as thought government actively abused or neglected them.
“The condition of dehumanization of the human person in the prison will make him die,” Fofana maintained.
Another reason of the inmates crowding the prisons, he said, are detainees waiting months or even years for trials.
Giving situation reports on the legal system in the county, Fofana said Judges, including Magistrates, were receiving money with the intent of compromising human rights abuse cases in the county.
“The way they dispense justice in Lofa is quite slow. And at times, you tend to find out that only a single case can be dispose of during a court’s term of 42 days.”
“Even, if you were to file a complaint to the court, you would bear all of the expenditures, including transporting court’s officers or police officers. You have to buy food for them and then pay the arresting fees among others,” Fofana’s report further alleged.