The Liberian Government is sounding a caveat that Liberia is a sovereign country that must operate within its laws, a day after the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed observation of violation of the doctrine of separation of powers here.
On Tuesday, 7 August, OHCHR Country Rep. to Liberia Mr. Uchenna Emelonye told a human rights and business workshop at Corina Hotel that his first impression is that lawmakers’ action “violates the principle of separation of powers” in their move to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh.
At the close of the workshop Wednesday, 8 August, Assistant Justice Minister Meo D. Johnson said government is glad to have international partners here, but sounds a caveat “that we are a sovereign country and we have our own laws that we must operate within.”
According to Minister Johnson, the government here opens its arms to these international organizations and their participations in the governance process of this country, but notes that it has to be in accordance with the laws of the country.
He argues in an interview that “we are a government” that ought to respect the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, while also recognizing the role of the international partners as neutral party that are in the position to say Liberia has done well in human rights protection or not.
“…Because something came up about what happened at the level of the Judiciary and the Legislative branch of government,” he continues.
“So to have the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Liberia and as it may be other international organizations in Liberia sort of grading Liberia in terms of our human rights records, it’s good, it’s a good thing,” Assistant Minister Johnson says.
Mr. Johnson notes that Liberia is among very few countries in Africa that have agreed to allow the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to operate within its jurisdictional limits.
Regarding business and human rights issues which was the cause of the brainstorming at Corina Hotel, Minister Johnson says the Ministry of Justice has been working very hard to be a part of the national action plan that was presented Tuesday, 7 August.
According to him, the aim of the national action plan is to ensure that concessionaires and businesses that are involved in profit making do not just make profits, but also respect and protect the fundamental rights of their employees in the process of making profit.
“And just in case their rights are violated, there are mechanisms whereby that wrong can be remedied. And these are things that the Ministry of Justice is involved with,” Mr. Johnson says.
He emphasizes that government is committed to protecting the rights of its citizens and no one can violates these rights.
The Justice Ministry official reveals that they have agreed to draft a national policy, adding that the policy on business and human rights will go a long way in protecting citizens that are working within the private sector and other areas.
He indicates that the first step is to ensure that you get government’s commitment on how citizens’ rights can be protected, and it is to be followed by a broad – based stakeholders’ consultation.
Also interviewed, a Commissioner of the Independent National Human Rights Commission Mr. Wilfred Gray Johnson says his institution will support government to remain complaint to international treaties and some of the frameworks to which government has signed.
According to him, the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is belated to a framework of the UN that was put in place in 2008 and 2011.
In that framework, he explains that there is a responsibility to which government agreed to protect; while corporate institutions and businesses are to respect human rights.
Further, he says there is a responsibility for these parties to also ensure remedies for human rights violations.
In order to really achieve the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles, Commissioner Johnson indicates that it means that a number of factors must come together.
According to him, one of the things that must be done is that the government must first make public commitment to develop or put in place a national action plan that will implement the United Nations Guiding Principles.
With support from the OHCHR – Liberia Office, he says the meeting held at Corina Hotel was to bring together a range of actors and institutions to brainstorm a little bit and move on to get government more ready for the actions needed.
Already, Commissioner Johnson reveals that government’s pro – poor agenda has captured a commitment to implement the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah