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GoL welcomes U.S. human rights report

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The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of information has welcomed the 2015 Human Rights Report on Liberia released by the U.S. State Department over the weekend.

The government has called on citizens, including critics not to only identify negative aspect of the report that talks about the judicial system and the police, among others, but should also look at its positive aspects, which talk about performance and progress the country has achieved in terms of prosecuting corrupt officials and rights violators.

Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, who addressed the regular press briefing Tuesday of his ministry said, “We as a government welcome this report from the U.S. State Department; we think it meets the standard we identified in our gaps, and our progress as a nation; we understand that there is much to be done in our judicial system and other areas of development.”

He said it will be unfair for people to take the negative portion of the report and used it to criticized the government, saying while it is true that much is needed to improve the justice and human rights, but citizens must also take along the prospect that this government has made in recent years, looking at where Liberia was and how it is now to do the comparison.

“You cannot hold someone for a one simple mistake, and forget the good that was done in the past; look at the stage that Liberia was in when President Sirleaf took over, and look at the numbers of achievements, progress that have been done in terms of development, freedom of speech, prosecuting indicted officials of government”, the government chief spokesperson argued.

According to him, Liberia was in a state of coma before its resurrection by Madam Sirleaf, which put the nation back on track after 14 years of civil conflict. “I think this government must be commended for the progress in making Liberia better and peaceful for its citizens”, Minister Nagbe countered.

According to the report, impunity remained a serious problem in Liberia despite intermittent and limited government attempts to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government.

It said the most serious human rights abuses include deficiencies in the administration of justice, official corruption, and violence against women and children besides police abuse, harassment, and intimidation of detainees and others; arbitrary arrest and detention; violence against women and children, including rape and domestic violence, human trafficking; racial and ethnic discrimination; discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; mob violence; and child labor.

It reminded that the Constitution of Liberia prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions, detailing that “Citizens continued to be arbitrarily arrested, assaulted, and detained. For example, in September the deputy director for operations of the Executive Protection Service (Darlington George) assaulted a woman after exchanging insults near a sports field in Monrovia. President Sirleaf dismissed the assailant. He was charged with aggravated assault and awaited trial at year’s end.”

The report also observes that police officers or magistrates frequently detained citizens for simply owing money to a complainant, saying “There was little distinction between trying these cases in criminal or civil courts when they were not under the purview of specialized tribunals. The government often used police as a low-level dispute mechanism to settle minor issues.”

The report highlights that concerns remained about the transparency of the finances of state-owned enterprises and autonomous bodies, saying many of these enterprises, had not been audited for several years.

“Government ministries and agencies often did not adhere to public procurement regulations, particularly for natural resource concessions, or to government vetting procedures when hiring ministry officials,” the report states.

This is not the first time the U.S. Department of State Human Rights Report on Liberia has exposed corruption in the police. It can be recalled that in 2014, it was documented in the U.S. Department of State Report on Liberia that police corruption was a problem.

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are submitted annually by the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Congress in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The reports cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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