Rights Officials, Activists Hold Technical Working Session In Monrovia

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In an effort to further strengthen collaboration amongst key institutions in Liberia on issues relating to Human Rights, the Peace building project of the Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) is sponsoring a two-day technical working session with relevant institutions.

The two-day working session which commenced on Tuesday in Monrovia is being attended by staffers of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform and members of the Legislative Staff Human Rights Association.

Providing an oversight of the technical working session, Roosevelt Jayjay, Human Rights Officer of OHCHR said the activity is one of the several activities of Peacebuilding project that the OHCHR in collaboration with INCHR and CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform is implementing

He said the working sessions are aimed at strengthening INCHR, CSO Platform and the Legislative Staff Human Rights Association, establishing collaboration and partnership to advocate to the Legislature on law reforms and bills and accountability in line with international human rights standards.

“Mainstreaming human rights in bill drafting, law reform and accountability at institutional level remains a serious challenge which requires collaborative effort of every stakeholder to achieve this goal”, Mr. Jayjay said.

Mr. Jayjay added “As you may be aware, HRPS’ role was pivotal in the establishments of the Legislative Staff Human Rights Association and the CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform respectively”.

The OHCHR staffer said collaboration and coordination mechanism among these institutions, specifically CSO Platform and the Legislative Staff Human Rights Association is poor or does not exist; and OHCHR aim is to ensure that collaboration and coordination mechanism is established and strengthened to address the issues that affect women.

The issues, he said issue include harmful traditional practices specifically FGM and SGBV.

Mr. Jayjay promised that OHCHR will continue to work further to strengthen the collaboration and coordination mechanism among the actors which will result to human rights being mainstreamed in Legislative advocacy on law reforms and bill drafting.

During the working session, the first presenter, presenting on the topic “Identifying key legislations/Acts that require human rights compliance”, Atty. Urias Teh POUR, Director, DLATML-INCHR said there are several laws in Liberia that are in conflict international protocols and conventions to which Liberia is a signatory.

Amongst those laws, he said are the law on death penalty which is still being used in Liberia in ruling by courts.

Atty. Pour said the death penalty decisions by some courts including the Han Williams case where the Judge ruled that he is hang to death is a violation of Liberia’s obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Liberia acceded to on 16 September 2005 and which abolishes the death penalty.

Another law, he said is yet to be repealed and is in total violation of international conventions is the armed robbery, terrorism and hijacking Act 2008 July 22 which prescribes death penalty for armed robbers.

He continued that Article 1- 2nd optional protocol provides that no one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed. The protocol furthered that each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.

Atty. Pour also said there are discriminatory provisions within statutory laws in Liberia.

He said discriminatory provisions in statutory law include the Nationality and Citizenship Law, under the 1973 Alien and Nationality Law where it provides that a child born abroad to a Liberian mother and a non-Liberian father is not automatically granted the mother’s nationality. This, he noted is discriminatory to women.

This provision of the law, he disclosed is against Article 2 (a) of the Maputo Protocol which sstates that parties shall combat all forms of discrimination against women through appropriate legislative, institutional and other measures.

Executive Director of the INCHR, S. Herron Gbidi speaking on the topic Techniques, lobbying & Advocacy for promotion of human norms in the process of legislation, said the INCHR needs to work closely with the National Legislature to push bills that will protect human rights.

Another presenter, Atty. Bowoulo Taylor Kelly, presenting on the topic “international Human Rights Treaties and state obligations to protect the freedom of assembly”, said
Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right protected under Liberian laws and in this context is the rule and its restriction an exception to this rule.

Atty. Kelly said the state has a responsibility to provide protection, hence if there is a showing that can be substantiated that the hosting of the association will compromised national security same may be restricted in keeping with law to protect lives and properties.

She said “Restrictions may only be imposed when there is sufficient evidence that participants will themselves use or incite imminent, lawless and disorderly action and that such action is likely to occur. They may not, however, be imposed to prevent controversial speeches and political criticism, even where this might provoke a hostile reaction from others.”

The lawyer added that restrictions based on “national security” or “public safety” only refer to situations involving an immediate and violent threat to the nation or to its territorial integrity or political independence.

Atty. Kelley continued “It is important to note that mere speculation by state authority that an assembly may likely disrupt public peace is not enough to restrict the exercise of the right guaranteed by the Constitution. Even where breach of public peace occurred, the Penal Code has made adequate provisions for sanctions against breakdown of law and order, and so that the requirement of permit as a conditionality to holding meetings and rallies can no longer be justified in a democratic society.”

The technical working session continues today.