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Due process demanded for detainees

Liberian human rights organizations are demanding the right to due process and fair trial for detainees here in a report presented at the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in March in Geneva.

A press release says Liberia’s review on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was scheduled for March 2018. The human rights platform of the Liberian Civil Society Organizations prepared a “shadow” report in response to the list of issues that were raised based on the first report of the Liberian state to the Committee.

Rural Human Rights Activist Program (RHRAP) and the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) contributed to the CSO report, concentrating on issues regarding the criminal justice system of Liberia.

This was an out- shoot of a support from the Finn Church Aid (FCA) and the European Union.They recalled that in 2009, only about 10 percent of the 800 detained in Liberian prisons had been convicted of a crime, and were held in extended pre-trial detention in overcrowded jails and centres that lacked sanitation and health care.

The human rights group however pointed out that from June 2009, Liberia has taken some leaps in its efforts to improve the situation, including the Magistrates Sitting Program implemented in the Monrovia Central Prison and all magistrate courts in Montserrado, as well as the three capital cities in Bong, Nimba, and Lofa counties, the report states.

It maintained that prisons in Liberia continue to be overcrowded and people are detained for long periods without access to justice. The report of the CSOs recommend up scaling the work of the Magistrates Sitting Program to all prisons and places of detention to speed up trials of pre-trial detainees, providing adequate resources for prosecutors and judicial officers to undertake effective prosecution, case management and adhere to criminal procedures, and strengthening the National Legal Aid Scheme.

It also recommends speedy hearing of cases by the courts, and ensuring the use of probation and parole services. Other key aspects of the report range from lack of political will and the removal of the provision in Domestic Violence Law that placed ban on female genital mutilation practiced in Liberia, and other sexual and gender – based violence related issues, among others.

Grassroots efforts for improving access to justice in Liberia, RHRAP and AFFEL, in collaboration with the Finn Church Aid (FCA), are currently implementing the project “Providing access to justice and gender sensitive legal awareness at grassroots level” in Lofa, Nimba and Bong Counties, with funding from the European Union (EU).

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The two year program is aimed at contributing to improving the Criminal Justice System (CJS) of Liberia and protecting the fundamental human rights and dignity of community residents.–Press release

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