Aggressive Awareness Needed on Human Rights Issues – Acting INCHR Chair Colley

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The Acting Chairperson of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) Bartholomew B. Colley wants aggressive awareness on human rights issues in Liberia.

Speaking Tuesday in Monrovia at start of a two day Technical Engagement session with INCHR in Strengthening its capacity in engaging with and providing technical guidance to the Legislature on law reforms and bills and human rights advocacy and accountability, Mr. Coley said there is huge gap in the understanding of many people on human rights issues in Liberia.

“We have a lot to do in carrying out aggrieve awareness on human rights issues in Liberia because when you talk to people, you can see that some do not have the understanding on human rights issues”

He says until people understand more about human rights issues, the country will continue to face challenges in protecting and upholding basic human rights.

A presenter at the engagement, Atty. Andrew B. W. Jaye, Sr., Legal Counsel-House of Representatives said the National legislature called for collaboration between the National legislature and key human rights institutions in order to push the issues of human rights through legislations in the country.

He said the National Legislature continues to play its role in ratifying international treaties regarding human rights.

“When we strengthen collaboration, the National Legislature will be able to act fast on key human rights instrument that will be brought for passage into law because the legislative process in long”.

According to him international treaties brought before the body for ratification are not altered.

“The National Legislature does not alter international treaties put forth for ratification because these treaties are already signed by many countries and we cannot change anything”, Atty. Jaye said.

Another presenter, Professor of Law at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, John Josiah, speaking on the topic “Legislation and area of interventions/ collaboration in the ratification of human rights treaties, said there are weaknesses in the ratification of human rights treaties in Liberia.

He said until Liberia can ratify many of these treaties, implementation will not be effective.

“We sign many international treaties as a country but Legislature fail to ratify them. The purpose of ratification is to domesticate and once we don’t do that, there is a big problem”, He said.

Professor Josiah called on institutions that are concerned with human rights to begin drafting legislations that will ensure that local laws can reflect the involvement of the country in international agreements.

Providing an overview of the engagement, Roosevelt Jajay, a staff of OHCHR said the engagement is part of OHCHR responsibility to build the capacity of state institutions on issues of human rights.

Background

The Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Liberia signed its host country agreement with the Government of Liberia on 1 April 2018 with a mandate to promote and protect human rights through different strategies including; technical cooperation arrangements, capacity building, training, awareness raising, technical assistance, human rights monitoring, investigations, documentation and report to strengthen strategic evidenced based advocacy with government authorities and other oversight and institutional mechanism   to demand for accountability, prevent impunity and promote respect for human rights and Rule of Law.

Following the closure of UNMIL in March 2019, OHCHR Liberia stand-alone country Office was established to contribute to consolidation of achievements made after UNMIL and to ensure sustained peace, reconciliation and conflict prevention.

As Liberia has continued to enjoy relative peace and stability following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2003, the political, social and economic state of affairs continues to remain fragile given that, key conflict drivers which led to the conflict have not been adequately addressed.

Additionally, a diverse range of human rights abuses and violations which occurred during the conflict have not been addressed resulting in impunity and lack of accountability for human rights violations which occurred during the conflict. Equally, recommendations from the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report have not been implemented for the past nine (9) years resulting in denial of access to justice to victims who suffered harms and gross human rights violations and abuse during the protracted conflict.

The Government of Liberia has elaborated a Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding & Reconciliation to provide overall policy guidance to deepen peace and reconciliation efforts in Liberia. OHCHR Liberia Office envisages to bring its human rights technical expertise to provide technical support to the Government of Liberia and relevant interlocutors to strengthen requisite capacities of national interlocutors and institutional mechanism to adapt right based, victim centered and gender sensitive approaches to strengthen ongoing initiatives aimed at contributing to long term sustainable peace and reconciliation through ensuring that human rights of victims to effective remedies, recognition of harms suffered, gender sensitive reparations and other forms of restitution are guaranteed.

The process of post-conflict recovery in Liberia has been ongoing for over a decade, resulting in several major governance and policy achievements.

However, despite progress in building peace, several root causes of Liberia’s 14-year civil war remain unaddressed. The human rights challenges in Liberia range from extrajudicial killings by police; police abuse, harassment and intimidation of suspects and others citizens; arbitrary arrest and detention most time leading to protracted pre-trial detention; lack of accountability in cases of violence against women and children, including rape, domestic violence and traditional harmful practices. On the other hand, impunity remains a serious problem for individuals adversely mentioned in atrocities committed during the civil wars, as well as for those responsible for current and continuing crimes.

The two Days Technical Engagement session with INCHR in Strengthening its capacity in engaging with and providing technical guidance to the Legislature on law reforms and bills and human rights advocacy and accountability is one of several activities being undertaken by OHCHR.