Liberia: Govt Breaks Silence On U.S. Human Rights Report

2 April 2021
The NEWS (Monrovia)

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The Government of Liberia through Information Minister Ledgerhood Julius Rennie has reacted to the United States 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Liberia which highlighted significant human rights issues.

Addressing the regular Information Ministry press briefing Thursday, April 1, 2021, Minister Rennie said the Government of Liberia has taken due note of the 2020 Human Rights report. He said from the perspective of the Government, the report is largely positive and reflective of the general human rights situation of the country, not necessarily laying full-scale blame on the administration of President George M. Weah, but rather the ecosystem of the country's governance system which predates this administration.

Minister Rennie noted that the report highlights what "we believe are age-old institutional pitfalls and challenges that have bedeviled the country's governance structures over long years of inaction on these fronts... and we as a government we take due note of these issues."

"If you read the report in its entirety, you will see that areas of mention of Human Rights violations are actually not out-rightly tied to a Weah-led Government conscious and deliberate attempt at violating the rights of ordinary citizens; Other than the entrenched institutional and eco-systemic governance structures pitfalls that predate this administration, like, legal and judicial weaknesses and excesses; corruption; challenges in confronting and breaking away from culture and tradition beliefs and practices that are termed as repugnant to western HR Standards, majority of the issues raised were mainly centered around individuals working within or for the government, but their actions were neither sanctioned by the government," he said.

He said on the face of this report, reviewing recent past reports and drawing from where "we have transitioned as a country, we can clearly see that progress is slow, but steady and continual... as we strive in our efforts as a country to reform and in some cases overhaul entire governance machinery. So the Government takes due note of the Report."

Minister Rennie said there has already been diplomatic conversation between the Government of Liberia and the Government of the United States in key areas of concern.

He highlighted the positives in the report including no political prisoners/ no disappearances; respect for peaceful assembly and association; press freedom and free expression encouraged; acknowledgement of government efforts against sexual and gender-based violence; respect for constitutional rights and guarantee."

He also said the report does not blame the unfortunate deaths of the Internal Audit Agency head, along with three Liberia Revenue Authority professionals on the government as some members of the opposition have sought to portray.

In its report, the United States Government highlighted significant human rights issues. The report pointed to arbitrary killings by police, cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention by government officials; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on freedom of the press, including violence and threats of violence against journalists; official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for violence against women; the existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and the worst forms of child labor as some of the issues that occurred during the period under review.

The report among other things said impunity for individuals who committed human rights abuses, including atrocities, during the Liberian civil wars that ended in 2003, remained a serious problem, although the government cooperated with war crimes investigations in third countries.

According to the report, the government made intermittent but limited attempts to investigate and prosecute officials accused of current abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government.

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