The Country Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Liberia, Uchenna Emelonye says his office will act as a center for advice and dialogue and promote a climate of trust among all actors involved in or concerned with human rights.
Emelonye spoke yesterday at a resort in Monrovia at the launch of the OHCHR in Liberia, he said the body will be guided by the UN principles of impartiality, independence, objectivity and transparency; the country office will also encourage the Government of Liberia (GoL) to ratify new international instruments, adopt appropriate legislation and introduce human rights training and education in schools and colleges, a statement said.
Mr. Emelonye said his office will maintain appropriate contacts with competent authorities, national institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs) and business enterprises, while executing the program. He holds several degrees, including a doctorate degree in Human Rights Law, from the University of Helsinki.
“We also follow up and report on the human rights situation in Liberia,” he said. “Prior to such reports, it will be shared with the Liberian government and other concerned parties so as to elicit factual comments within a specific timeline.”
Emelonye, who commended the Liberian government for willingly allowing and warmly welcoming OHCHR Country Office in the country, said it demonstrates the government’s strong political will is very enabling for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
“Among other human rights enablers,” he said, “OHCHR commends the government’s peace-building plan for identifying human rights as a priority area of intervention.”
He noted that the Liberian government has also manifested ownership to promote, protect and fulfill human rights as being expressed in the ongoing efforts to maintain human rights in the “Pro-poor Agenda” for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
Mr. Emelonye said on the strength of the agreement with the government, OHCHR is poised to continue sustained engagement in Liberia with all the arms of the government for a period of up to six years that will be split into two phases.
“The first phase will last for three years and will focus on the strengthening of national institutions and human rights protection mechanisms,” he said.
He added that during this period, OHCHR will also support the judiciary in facilitating access to justice, strengthening informal justice administration that is compliant with international human rights standards and the consolidation of judicial internal oversight accountability mechanism.
Emelonye also noted that OHCHR will assist the Law Reform Commission in the audit and identification of laws that are inconsistent with international human rights norms and standards, as well as provide technical assistance to the National Assembly in legislative oversight on one hand, and in the promulgation of human rights’ complaint legislation in general.
He added, “regarding the justice and security sector, OHCHR will focus on internal oversight and accountability for law enforcement personnel and the military, while at the same time building capacity of actors on human rights-based approach in the administration of security and justice in the country.”
He explained that in the subsequent three remaining years, OHCHR will embark on the gradual transfer of capacity and functions to national human rights institutions, particularly the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), the Ministry of Justice Human Rights Protection Division, Civil Service Organizations and Community-based Organizations.
“By then, it is hoped that the GoL would have been able to adopt and implement human rights-compliant laws, and that citizens would have been able to imbibe human rights culture that allows them to resort to non-violent resolution of grievances and to seek accountability and remedy for human rights violations,” he said.
While commending the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for his appointment as well as the Liberian government for accrediting his organization, he said he looks forward to working with the government and in promoting, protecting and fulfilling human rights obligations, with citizens claiming and enjoying their inherent human rights.