The New Dawn (Monrovia)

18 January 2013

Liberian Institutions Are Weak - Special Court

The United Nations backed-Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has said the capacities of Liberian institutions are weak and unable to meet the needs of its citizenry.

The court made this known in its findings dubbed: "Making Justice Count, Assessing the Impact and Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and Liberia." The study was conducted in league with Liberian NGOs Network (LINNK) in June and July, 2012.

The exercise followed immediately after the sentencing of former President Charles Taylor, with the aim of getting an overall picture of the impact and legacy of the Court in the two countries.

The hybrid-tribunal noted that while having improved since 2003, there remains an insidious problem that obstructs the country's growth and the government's ability to govern effectively.

"The capacities of Liberian state institutions still remains weak and unable to meet the needs of Liberians despite having improved since 2003," the court said in its research results.

It said the 2012 UNSC report on Liberia states that the development of the army is "constrained by limited opportunities and resources to conduct practice operations as needed to sustain training and build skills."

The report furthered that the over 4, 200-strong national police force probably needs to be expanded to 8, 000, but improving the very poor conditions of service for the force is even more urgent.

Speaking of the judiciary here, the survey indicated that it is faced with significant inadequacies, including lack of qualified personnel, insufficient funding and corruption.

The tribunal said since the end of the war, there has been significant reform of the police, army and judiciary in Sierra Leone and Liberia, including training, restructuring and the promotion of discipline.

But, on the contrast, Sierra Leone is ahead of Liberia, noting that Sierra Leone's activities have focused on governance reforms, such as judicial reform, parliamentary assistance and decentralization.

"Since the Sierra Leone TRC report was issued in October 2004, there has been significant reform of the judiciary. Court buildings were erected to cope with demand, a code of conduct for judicial officers was adopted and legislation dealing with legal aid was enacted," the research added.

It said the Liberia's Governance Reform Commission, mandated to establish national framework for legal and political reform, continues to seek greater decentralization of power, regional participation and balancing national and regional interests.

The SCSL indicated that once this process is complete, many Liberians, particularly those in the rural areas, would be able to elect representatives that are more accountable to rural needs, acquire greater access and control over local resources and act as a counterbalance toward political and economic policies mandated from Monrovia.

In 2010, Liberia established the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCRH), as mandated in the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Accra, Ghana.

The INCHR is responsible for implementing recommendations contained in the 2009 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, despite reported inadequacies of that report and the government's response to it.

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