Liberia: Stakeholders Seek Reforms in Liberia's Laws, Cultural Practices to Protect Rights of Every Citizen

Ganta — Stakeholders under the guidance of the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Law Reform Commission (LRC) have embarked on the validation of a policy document calling for changes in some Liberian laws and practices in order to protect the rights of all citizens and residents of the country.

The policy guidance was produced by OHCHR under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative to do a thorough review of Liberian Laws and practices to identify those cultural practices that violates fundamental human rights and formulate a strategy to address the human rights gaps.

OHCHR is sponsoring the validation exercise in the five Spotlight counties including Lofa, Nimba, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh and Montderrado to get the citizens' support for the recommendations contained in the policy guidance to be presented to the government as an advocacy tool change for policy.

The validation exercise was launched in Voinjama, Lofa County on April 5, 2021 followed by the second phase in Ganta, Nimba County from the 8th to 9th of April.

In his opening remarks at the Ganta gathering, the Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, Atty. Ramses T. Kumbuyah said when bills or any statue contravene the Constitution, which is the organic law of the land, they are ineffectual and cannot be law.

"When bills are enacted into law on the same subject without repealing the existing law, it creates conflict in the implementation of the law." Kumbayah said. "In some cases, bills are passed into law without analysis of their cost implication, gender sensitivity and human rights implications. This is also a problem in the Liberian law making process."

According to him, the adherence to the rule of law is necessary for peace, stability and economic development, adding that in order for laws to be adhered to, they must be clear, consistent, published and well circulated.

He added that the objective of any law is to ensure that the interest of society is served, and to address a particular concern.

Kambuyah, speaking further, emphasized the importance of ensuring consultation among stakeholders, rule of law institutions and development partners on law making; to create a framework for future coordination, collaboration, and cooperation in the law making process; and to ensure networking amongst rule of law institutions and development partners.

He, among other things, mentioned that the LRC does not have a work plan as the Commission's Strategic Plan adopted in 2011 has expired since 2016, adding that the commission's work over the time has been constrained by the lack of funding and other resources.

However, he noted the commission has seen the need to develop a comprehensive result-focused framework, work plan and budget for 2021.

Giving the objectives of the exercise, the LRC boss outlined that it is geared toward ensuring networking amongst rule of law institutions and development partners; developing a work plan for LRC with clear a goal, objectives, outputs, activities, and budget for 2021 and to bring to the fore in the law reform process the stakeholders and development partners areas of interest, including laws that should be repealed, amended, and new ones that should be enacted.

He said it is also intended to mainstream gender and human right issues, especially as it relates to women and girls, in LRC's law making and reform processes.

Also speaking on behalf of OHCHR Country Representative, Uchenna Emelonye, Human Rights Officer, Francis Igiriogu, stated that the meetings will pave the way for planning the LRC 2021 activities and reinforce its vigor to carry out law reform mandate which is important for human rights promotion and protection.

"Law reform is invaluable in every country because as the society grows, it grows with new dynamics that often necessitate review of laws and policies to meet present realities," he said.

Igiriogu said legal frameworks of any country determine whether human rights and rule of law are respected and upheld adding that this is the reason why the OHCHR attach great importance to partnership with LRC by providing technical support to ensure that laws made by the Liberian Legislature meet international rights standards.

Making reference to Liberia's third cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Igiriogu said Liberia agreed to take steps to effectively abolish the death penalty and repeal the sections calling for the death penalty from the Criminal Code.

He said the government has previously committed to take some positive steps towards the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), war crimes court and LGBT.

For his part, Parleh D. Harris, the Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection said the work plan that is expected to be developed at the meeting will help the Commission achieve its goals.

She said the reform process will help create laws that will benefit every citizen noting, "Rape is a threat to women and girls, that is the reason why law reform cannot be discuss without women."

Harris said "often people see rape as a women issue that is the reason why laws should be made that will protect the children and women and the citizens equally to ensure the country is not lawless."

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