FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

27 August 2014

Liberia: Law Criminalizing Concealing Medical Info Debated in Liberia

Monrovia — The House of Representatives at the Liberian National Legislature will shortly join their Sierra Leonean counterparts in crafting a law that will criminalize concealing information of person (s) with communicable/Contiguous infectious diseases.

Recently the Sierra Leonean Parliament passed a Law that will hand down two years imprisonment terms for people concealing information about people affected with Ebola in that country.

On Tuesday, during one of the House's regular session an act calling for the criminalization of people concealing Information of person(s) affected with communicable diseases sponsored by Representative Moses Kollie (UP-District #5 Lofa County) was read and sent to the committee on Health and Social Welfare for review to be brought back in one week for further deliberation.

The crafter of the act among many things believe that concealing information relating to person (s) with infectious disease(s) in Liberia have caused the speedy spread of the Ebola throughout the Republic of Liberia including other countries within the sub-region.

The crafters of the act also said, Article 34(b) of the Liberian constitution gives the Legislature the power to provide for the security of the republic, and that Article 34 (J) of the also gives the legislature the power to establish various categories of criminal offenses and provide for the punishment thereof.

The Act states in section 1 "The title of this Act shall be"2014 Act criminalizing concealing Information of person(s) with communicable/Contiguous Infectious Disease(s) in Liberia". Section two of the act also calls for the instrument to become effective immediately upon passage and printing into hand bill.

"For the purpose of this Act, communicable/Contiguous Infectious Diseases may include, but not limited to, the following: Ebola, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, Laser Fever, Leprosy, Measles, Meningitis, Smallpox, Tuberculosis, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever and all other human communicable/contiguous Diseases," the Act stated.

Further, the Act stated that any person who intentionally and willfully infects another person or groups of persons with any of the communicable/Contiguous infectious Disease(s) as mentioned in section 3 of the Act shall be considered as a criminal offense, second degree felony punishable under the laws of the Republic of Liberia.

"Any person or groups of persons found guilty of committing a criminal offense as described in section 4 of the Act through a court of competent jurisdiction of the Republic of Liberia shall be punished with two (2) years' imprisonment and held liable for the infected persons or groups of persons' health condition(s)," the act added.

In an interview with reporters' Representative Kollie said, many people have over the years, died from communicable diseases and with the current situation of the Ebola outbreak that has put the country health sector under threat, it is necessary to put in laws that will protect the country health sector.

Rep. Kollie said: "The law is to serve as deterrence; there are people who are affected with HIV/AIDS and knowing they will use money to influence a relationship with someone who is not affected and transfer the disease into that person through sexual interaction."

On whether the law could promote stigmatization and discrimination against people affected with such disease, he differed and said, the law will rather protect the country health sector and the lives of its citizens. The Lofa County Representative expressed optimism that the act will be accepted by their counterpart in the Senate and endorsed for President Sirleaf's signature because in his words it is about the lives of the people.

Senate holds closed door meeting with senior Ministers

Meanwhile the Liberian senate had a closed door meeting with several officials of the Executive Branch of government, especially those from the Special presidential Ebola task force but what was discussed in closed door is not made public. Those in the Senate closed door meeting included; Justice Minister Christiana Tah, Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly, Information Minister Lewis Brown and some senior officials from the Bureau of immigration and Naturalization.

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