19 April 2016

Liberia: In U.S. Department of State Latest Report - Police Exposed Again

The just released U.S. Department of State 2015 Human Rights Report on Liberia says police corruption was a problem.

This is not the first time the U.S. Department of State Human Rights Report on Liberia has exposed corruption in the police. It can be recalled that in 2014, it was documented in the U.S. Department of State Report on Liberia that police corruption was a problem.

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are submitted annually by the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Congress in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The reports cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to the 2015 Human Rights Report on Liberia, a copy of which is in possession of the Heritage, the Liberia National Police(LNP) investigated reports of police misconduct or corruption, and authorities suspended or dismissed several LNP officers.

"For example, in January police authorities dismissed and referred to the judicial system for trial two police officers form is appropriation of 2.9 million Liberian dollars (L$) ($33,000)entrusted to them for EVD control operations," the report asserts.

However, the report points out that regarding financial disclosure, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) was not required to release the contents of financial disclosures mandated for executive branch officers in 2012 and 2013, and during the year it released only aggregate information about officials' cooperation and overall compliance.

The report highlights that concerns remained about the transparency of the finances of state-owned enterprises and autonomous bodies. Many of these enterprises, the report accentuates, hadnot been audited for several years.

" Government ministries and agencies often did not adhere to public procurement regulations, particularly for natural resource concessions, or to government vetting procedures when hiring ministry officials," the report states.

On the issue of arrest procedures and treatment of detainees, the report notes that in general police must have warrants to make arrests. The law allows for arrests without a warrant if necessary paperwork is filed immediately afterwards for review by the appropriate authority.

But the report avers that arrests often were made without warrants, and warrants were sometimes issued without sufficient evidence.

The report indicates that the law provides that detainees be either charged or released within 48 hours, and detainees generally were informed of the charges against them upon arrest and typically brought before a judge for arraignment within 48 hours.

" Once sent to jail, however, those arraigned were often held in lengthy pretrial detention," says the report.

"Some detainees, particularly among the majority without the means to hire a lawyer, were held for more than 48 hours without charge. The law also provides that, once detained, a criminal defendant must be indicted during the next succeeding term of court after arrest or, if the indicted defendant is not tried within the next succeeding court term, the case against the defendant is dismissed if no cause is given; nevertheless, cases were rarely dismissed on either ground," the report suggests.

Continues the report: "The law provides for bail for all criminal offenses, although it severely limits bail for individuals charged with capital offenses or serious sexual crimes.

Detainees have the right to prompt access to counsel, visits from family members, and, if indigent, an attorney provided by the state in criminal and civil cases. The government frequently did not respect these rights, and indigent defendants appearing in magistrate courts (the venue in which most cases are initiated) were rarely provided state-sponsored counsel. Public defenders remained understaffed and underfunded."

Meanwhile, the report, among other things, adds that security forces continued to make arbitrary arrests, especially during major holidays, in an effort to anticipate and prevent crime.

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