Security Entities Renew Commitment to Protect Human Rights

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Senior representatives of security entities including the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Liberian National Police (LNP), Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) have renewed their commitments to ensure respect for and the protection of human rights in Liberia.

Representative of the three essential security entities said respect for human rights have improved in their operations over the years with the establishments of several mechanisms such as Human Rights Sections, Human Rights Coordinators and other channels through which any violations of human rights can be reported and corrective actions taken.

Representatives of the security entities renewed their commitment during a one day technical and advisory support session for mentorship and enhanced human rights mainstreaming and promotion organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in Liberia held at the Murex Plaza at the weekend.

Francis A. Williams, Commander Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberian National Police during a presentation on the topic “Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officer: The Principle of Proportionality”, said security officers should always exercise care in dealing with civilians and know where and when to use force.

He said security officers should only use force when necessary especially when they come in contact with somebody that possess deadly threat such as in possession of deadly weapon before the security officer can use force in return.

“As a security personnel you should use justifiable force that is reasonable, necessary and proportional. Do not be cruel and inhumane during arrest, don’t place people in pickup and step on them”, he said.

Commander Williams warned security officers against degrading those they arrest.

He added “You don’t have to degrade people that you arrest by placing them in a cell with feces, urine all on the floor, you need to show respect for people you arrest”.

The one day working session was attended by senior representatives of security agencies including the LNP, LIS, AFL, Independent National Commission on Human Rights and Civil Society Organizations.

It is a series of working sessions meant to improve the overall human rights situation in the country bringing together key individuals from all sectors including the judiciary, security agencies, members of the National Legislature, Civil Society Organizations, amongst others.

Making opening remarks before the start of the Working Session, Madam Hilda Oyeleda, an official of the OHCHR said the OHCHR is working globally to strengthen and promote the protection of Human Rights based on a resolution from the United Nations General Assembly.

OHCHR, she said is working to strengthen government and wide range of stakeholders including civil society organizations, key governance institutions in terms of promoting human rights.

The OHCHR Liberia office, she indicated is aligning country program to promote human rights in the country in collaboration with key stakeholders, government and civil society organizations.

Interactions such as the one day working session, Madam Oyeleda said is meant to basically discuss the important topic of accountability and access to justice relating to sexual and Gender Based Violence.

“Such interactions cannot be held by one entity, we need to collectively put our efforts together to see how to address the issues of SGBV. I am happy for representation here today but, wanted to have medical personnel because they support in gathering evidence to assist prosecution”, she said.

She challenged the participants to discuss and come out with concrete tangible actions to take back to their respective organizations to respond to issues of SGBV.

OHCHR, she noted is willing to hear more on how to take the issues of human rights forward.

Adama K. Dempster, Secretary General, Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia during a presentation on “Networking of CSOs, INCHR and Law Enforcement Actors on human rights issues” called on all actors to network in order to achieve the goals of raising red flags on issues of human rights violations and at the same time helping to find solutions to these problems.

Looking at basic issues under networking, Mr. Dempster said in a network, members should give more than they get; be genuine; be proactive; take a Long Time Approach; prioritize quality over quantity and should not focus only on institution leaders.

He challenged members of a network to ensure that they are easily approachable, not self-centered and holistically look at issues of human rights as one body with common goal of ensuring that there is respect for human rights.

Mr. Dempster promised that the Civil Society will take the lead in building a network with all the security entities to bring issues of human rights forward.

At the end of the one day working session, participants agreed to have another working session like a meeting to come out with points to begin taking concrete actions in protecting issues of human rights.

The security entities all agreed to be opened in the operations and work with the Civil Society Organizations to protect human rights at all levels in the country.