The European Union says although Liberia has gone far in the last 15 years since the end of civil war here, but the country is still fragile, stressing a need for inclusiveness and accountable leadership.
An EU report giving an overview of the country’s human rights and democracy stresses a crucial need to consolidate inclusive and accountable governance, social cohesion, women empowerment, national dialogue and reconciliation, rule of law, decentralization and land reform.
The report however notes, that the 2017 peaceful elections and the successful handover of power in 2018 represents a major milestone for Liberia’s democracy, and that two by-elections were organized in 2018 in a generally peaceful atmosphere.
“President Weah committed himself to maintaining the relatively positive environment for civil and political rights. Nevertheless, lack of resources hampers the enforcement of legislation intended to protect human rights while in other areas there is a reluctance to challenge traditional practices and attitudes that violate human rights”, the EU further notes.
The report released here over the weekend also calls for strengthening of democracy and support for civil society to ensure both demand for accountability and good governance and the capacity to deliver it.
It observes that concerns remain in the areas of death penalty, enforcement of legislation against child labour and exploitation, as well as access to justice, health and education, including lengthy pre-trial detention, poor prison conditions and questions regarding the sound management of Liberia’s significant natural resources.
“Sexual and gender based violence”, it says; “Continues to be a major challenge, and impunity.”
The report continues that “Good governance”, including support for the electoral process, is a focal sector for EU’s “National Indicative Programme” which is the basis of cooperation agreed with the Government of Liberia until 2020.
It specifically points out that practical support to address human rights concerns is provided through specific projects in areas including women’s rights, children’s rights and the justice sector.
At the same time European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) projects in Liberia in 2018 work with local CSOs to promote inclusive participation of people in defending their rights, community based protection mechanisms for reducing sexual violence affecting women, girls and sexual minorities across 8 communities, work with key security and justice institutions to increase their awareness of Freedom of Information and transparency obligations, adoption and application of Freedom of Information curricula in key training institutes of the public sector, and enhancing the rule of law and the respect of the fundamental human rights of the most vulnerable prisoners in Liberia.
The EU analysis on Liberia details that in the framework of programmes in favour of non-state actors, three projects in 2018 supported access to land and land rights. In partnership with Sweden, the EU provided support to improving electoral institutions and processes. Other projects provided support to the decentralisation process as well as to the General Auditing Commission.
According to the report, Liberia issued its first report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR), 11 years overdue, and that the Review Session of the ICCPR by the UN Human Rights Committee was followed in August 2018 by concluding observations raising concerns about the lack of implementation of recommendations issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, de facto discrimination of individuals belonging to certain vulnerable groups and of LGBTI persons,
underrepresentation of women in public affairs, lack of legal prohibition of FGM/C as well as gender-based violence against women, failure to abolish the death penalty, arbitrary arrests and detentions beyond 48 hours, trafficking in human beings, child labour, detention conditions, backlog of court cases, as well as the existence of defamation and libel provisions in the penal code. The report comes at a time Liberia is beset by political and economic tension, greeted with a pending mass street protest on 07 June by civil society and opposition politicians here, to demand reforms in the governance process. By Jonathan Browne