Monrovia — U.S. Ambassador Michael McCarthy has cautioned that the Liberian Government risks losing millions of dollars in U.S. assistance if the Legislature fails to amend the 2005 Trafficking in Person Law.
"The failure to make these changes or even to engage seriously in conversation about an amendment puts millions of dollars in U.S. assistance to Liberia at risk. Through their silence, legislators send a message to both traffickers and victims that human trafficking is not their priority. While I will not speculate on the reason for this inaction, I call on legislators to put their country's needs first and engage in a serious effort to reform the law," said Ambassador McCarthy
Speaking on Monday when Ambassador McCarthy and representatives from the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) met with the heads of the Judiciary, he said, Liberia's returned to the Tier Two Watchlist on Trafficking was a disappointment and reminder for the need for progress.
In order to make progress, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Justice, which constitutes prosecutors and some law enforcers and the judiciary must apply a commitment to make progress on Trafficking in Person (TIP) cases.
"The commitment of prosecutors and judges to this cause, exemplified by their partnership with IDLO and the Ministry of Justice's hosting of a U.S. judicial advisor, shows the willingness of the executive and judicial branches to face the challenge head-on," he said.
"Unfortunately, Liberian legislators have consistently failed, year after year, to make a credible effort to fight TIP. For many years now, the TIP Report has highlighted the need to make changes relatively simple changes to the 2005 Human Trafficking Law," he added.
Ambassador McCarthy said, despite the disappointing aspect in the Trafficking in Person (TIP)'s Report for Liberia, the report still provided a remedy for progress.
"The return of Liberia to Tier Two Watchlist on the TIP Report was a disappointment to all and a reminder of the intense work needed to make and sustain progress," he said.
Fortunately, the TIP Report also offers a clear action plan. One of the top recommendations was to "Train law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases under the 2005 anti-trafficking law," he said.
Ambassador McCarthy stressed that some of those indicated in the Report is for Liberia to make amendments to the 2005 TIP Law, Train Law Enforcement and Judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting Trafficking Cases under 2005, Anti-trafficking Law.
At the occasion, The Ambassador and IDLO Representatives offered a Booklet (BENCHBOOK) prepared by the IDLO to Chief Justice Francis Kporkor Sr, saying it will help to enhance the work of Judges in dealing with Trafficking Cases.
At the same time, the Ambassador and IDLO presented a Legal Handbook to the Ministry of Justice, to be used by states prosecutors, before proceeding to the Temple of Justice.
According to the Ambassador, the International Development Law Organization has been an essential partner in helping the Government of Liberia make progress on the fight against TIP. With funding from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), IDLO has developed useful TIP curricula and training materials, including the Bench-Book for Judges that were donated to both MOJ and the Judiciary.
He emphasized that much work including providing sufficient funding for victim support services to increasing the number of investigations, prosecutions, and above all convictions needs to be done.
He said in support of the latter objective, INL has also contracted Senior Judicial Advisor Drew Engel, an international expert in TIP, among other fields, who will be embedded within the Ministry of Justice to provide valuable assistance. Progress, however, must be led by the GOL, he said.
In a related development, Ambassador McCarthy acknowledged that it has been a difficult year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused setbacks around the world, as governments redirected resources to try to prevent the spread of disease.
At the same time, the pandemic made the fight against TIP even more urgent. Closures of schools and businesses, economic hardships, and pandemic-related movements made victims and potential victims even more vulnerable and provided extra incentives to traffickers.
"That is one reason why the vaccine is so important because it will help us get back on track with important objectives neglected because of COVID. It was an honor for me to witness the arrival to Liberia last week of more than 300,000 single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines donated by the U.S. Government and funded by American taxpayers," Ambassador MacCarthy.