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GeneralLiberia news

Human rights defenders want policy implemented 

Public Defenders in Liberia want the government to implement a human rights policy submitted to the Ministry of Justice.

By Lincoln G. Peters  

Monrovia, Liberia, June 11, 2024—Over 30 human rights institutions, under the banner of the Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD), are calling on the government to fully implement the Draft Human Rights Policy submitted to the Ministry of Justice.

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), based in Geneva, Switzerland, supports the awareness.

Besides the Bill of Rights, LICHRD also formulated the Draft Human Rights Policy, which is aimed at protecting activists and human rights defenders across the country.

The Human Rights Defenders policy awareness workshop seeks to build members’ capacity to go into communities and spread the message of creating a platform that protects those guiding the public’s rights.

LICHRD and its member organizations kicked off a robust awareness campaign on the National Human Rights Defenders Policy in Monrovia over the weekend.

During the awareness training, they called on all three branches of the Liberian government to take necessary actions to legitimize the policy so the rights of all citizens, especially human rights defenders’ can advocate for the rights of the society and defend human rights without fear for their lives.

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Giving the importance of awareness regarding the policy in an interview with Journalists, the Chairperson of LICHRD, Neidoteh Torbor, stated that defending the rights of human beings amid growing threats and insecurities requires government involvement.

Explaining further, the activist maintained that the time is now to have such an instrument legislated because President Joseph Boakai has signed the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court, which will see many activists pushing the advocacy of victims against some war and economic criminals that have some political or financial influences which pose threats to defenders.

He noted that activists are vulnerable without this policy, and defending human rights is risking stakeholders even more.

“With the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes court signed by the President, we need this policy to protect us in defending the rights of those who are victimized and seeking justice,” he said.

Mr. Torbor said the 1986 Constitution of Liberia Article (3) focuses on fundamental human rights but does not specify the scope within which the national human rights defenders’ policy has been drafted to support the workings enshrined in the constitution.

According to him, protection for those in these areas matters because they are the ones who go into direct contact with perpetrators, fighting for the interests of victims. He adds that in some cases, defenders become targets and, at times, fall prey to human rights violators.

He emphasizes that it is time for the government to stand by its words after attaching signatories to international conventions and treaties and making the policy a law so that perpetrators will not use the influences that exist to silence the defense of human rights in Liberia. 

“The drafted national human rights defender policy is currently in the office of the minister of justice. For the sake of effective and efficient defense of the rights of citizens, the government has to use the instruments in that policy as tools in protecting journalists, lawyers, and many other activists who have a case to pursue as a means of defending others’ rights,” Mr. Tobor concluded. 

Duwana Kingsley, acting executive director of the Coalition, said that communities play a major role in defending human rights, and as such, the awareness activities will reach out to various communities to capture the public’s attention.

Kingsley noted that the member organizations of LICHRD, looking at the importance of the drafted policy, will also move to other parts of Liberia with the awareness because human rights affect every citizen across the different counties. 

The group lauded their foreign partner, ISHR, for supporting the cause to defend people’s rights, adding that the responsibility of implementing the drafted policy rests with the government. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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