UNHCR 2020 Report Unveils Low Support to Human Rights Commission in Liberia

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has disclosed in its 2020 report that the Independent National Commission on Human Rights of Liberia (INCHR) has not received sufficient budgetary support from the Government and therefore its work is impeded as a result of low budgetary support.

It is not clear how much it received in this fiscal budget; however, an official of the Independent Human Rights Commission recently told media practitioners at a one-day workshop that the government only pays salaries of the workers but cannot provide funding for operations that the commission should carry out; something the official said hinders their operations in handling many human rights issues and to be fully independent.

The present report was prepared pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 5/1 and 16/21, taking into consideration the periodicity of the universal periodic review.

The report, according to UN Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Thirty-sixth session (36), recommended that the Government of Liberia allocate sufficient resources to the Commission that will enable it to fully carry out its mandate.

The report, copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, noted that the information provided by the national human rights institution, accredited in full compliance with the Paris Principles, observed that the INCHR international human rights instruments had not been ratified by Liberia yet; several of its reports to treaty bodies were still pending, and some instruments ratified have not been incorporated into domestic law yet.

It further recommended that Liberia ratify the instruments to which it is not a party yet, and fulfill its reporting obligations under treaty bodies by submitting the pending reports.

The Commission, according to its recommendation, the government should continue supporting the constitutional reforms and ensure its consistency with human rights standards.

“The Commission regretted the persistence of prolonged pre-trial detention, despite Liberia’s efforts to address the issue. It was concerned with overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate medication in prisons. It recommended to take steps to reduce prolonged pretrial detention and improve prison conditions,” the report said.

The UN Council report, highlighting Liberia’s INCHR’s plight and the general feature of the country’s human rights, also claims that the Commission recommended increasing support to the system of justice including at regional level, and establishing human rights desks in the different ministries, right to counsel not guaranteed to poor people, among others.

The report further added that the Commission recommended to the Government to enact a national legal aid programme and deploy more public defenders and support them to carry out their functions.

Regarding transitional justice, the UN report said the INCHR has noted that the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have not been implemented, and the proposition to establish a war and economic crimes court was being debated.

“So, in order to achieve national reconciliation, it recommended establishing accountability mechanisms for economic and war crimes court.”

“The Commission regretted that challenges posed by weak institutions, corruption and bad governance undermined the right to an adequate standard of living for the Liberia’s population. It welcomed the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development,” the report said.

The report also revealed that the Commission welcomed the adoption of the Land Rights Act of 2018, acknowledging measures taken by the Ministry of Health to eliminate discrimination against Ebola survivors. However, it was concerned about challenges related to the right to health and the lack of basic services during the Ebola crisis. At the same time, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has recommended that Liberia takes concrete steps to address violence in the country by bringing the perpetrators to justice. WCC, like other human rights advocates in the country, has witnessed a high wave of sexual gender-based violence mainly rape perpetrated against girls and children and has therefore recommended to the Liberian government to take some concrete steps to ratify international instruments that it has not ratified.

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