Note : after clicking on the image of the Liberia issue, you must scroll down to the bottom of the web page to view the table of contents and links to chapters. General information about the organization, its activities and projects, and Liberia-related links. Its members --former Peace Corps volunteers, diplomats, missionaries, business people, relief workers and Liberians-- are dedicated to helping the nation rebuild its institutions, educate its children and improve the quality of life for all who live there. A frequently-updated archive of UN documents and discussion papers.
Environmental and human rights issues explored in Liberia This is the web site featuring background information about the recent documentary film on the first year of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's administration in Liberia, focusing especially on prominent women in government. The site includes historical background, biographies, maps, and photographs; plus order information. The government condemned these practices and on several occasions the police and judiciary took action against alleged perpetrators. The incidence of rape of women and girls continued to be alarmingly high in , despite the establishment in of a dedicated court for sexual violence.
The majority of victims were under the age of While public reporting and the police response to reports of rape improved, deficiencies in the justice system and the reluctance of witnesses to testify hampered efforts to prosecute cases. While authorities made progress in conducting regular audits and putting programs in place to improve public finance management, these efforts made little headway in curbing official malfeasance.
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The work of the Anti-Corruption Commission, created in , was hampered by insufficient funds, personnel, and authority to independently prosecute cases. The government's refusal to prosecute some high-ranking civil servants and to take action against individuals cited in a controversial financial audit led to the perception that the president lacks the will to address the problem. Corrupt practices in large part gave rise to the armed conflicts that wracked Liberia in the s and ended in , and have long undermined the provision of basic education and health care to the most vulnerable.
The Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, in effect since , was implemented over the course of the year, but the lack of government control over some mining areas undermined adherence to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, the global effort to end the trade in conflict minerals. In September the parliament passed the Freedom of Information Bill, and also finally constituted the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, seven years after it was mandated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to protect human rights and oversee the implementation of the TRC's recommendations.
Problems marred the selection of the commission's members-including a flawed vetting procedure, inadequate involvement of civil society groups, and the initial selection of a member with close ties to the president, and of other members who lacked relevant experience-generating concerns about the president's commitment to the commission and its potential for independence.
The Liberian government made no progress in ensuring the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes committed during the armed conflicts, and made little effort to implement the recommendations of the TRC. The TRC, mandated to investigate human rights violations committed between and , presented its final report to the government in December , and concluded its four-year mandate in June Its key recommendations included dispensing reparations; establishing a criminal tribunal to prosecute the most notorious perpetrators; barring from public office scores of former supporters of the warring factions, including the current president; and instituting an informal village-based reconciliation mechanism.
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Implementing the recommendations was slowed by disagreement about whether the executive, legislature, or the Independent National Commission on Human Rights should take the lead, as well as legitimate questions about the constitutionality of some recommendations. The poor quality of sections of the report, notably the lack of solid factual evidence about those recommended for prosecution and bans from public office, further undermined its findings.
During the year the president asked the Justice Ministry, the Law Reform Commission, and the Liberian National Bar Association to study the legal and constitutional implications of the recommendations. However, the slow pace of this consultation process raised questions about the president's will to move things forward.
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The program funded and led by the United States to recruit and train a new 2,member Liberian army completed its work in December Despite the suspension of all private use permits, some logging companies continued to operate with other types of licenses. Judges were susceptible to bribes to award damages in civil cases. Judges sometimes requested bribes to try cases, release detainees from prison, or find defendants not guilty in criminal cases. Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested defendants pay bribes to secure favorable rulings from or to appease judges, prosecutors, jurors, and police officers.
The Ministry of Justice continued its calls to reform the jury system. Police corruption was a problem.
During the year the LNP investigated reports of police misconduct or corruption, and authorities suspended or dismissed several LNP officers. BIN suspended five of its officers for ethics violations and contravention of standard operating procedures. The government continued to take steps to improve transparency. The General Auditing Commission GAC audited ministries and other government agencies, sending its reports to the legislature. Since the GAC submitted more than 70 reports to the legislature, none of which were reviewed or acted upon.
The World Bank assisted the legislature to set up the Public Accounts Committee PAC Secretariat, a technical committee staffed by accountants and other auditing experts, which was charged with reviewing the backlog of GAC reports and recommending appropriate action to the legislature. By the end of the year, the PAC had conducted public hearings and reviewed seven GAC audit reports, and it planned to present summaries and recommendations to the legislature in January The president dismissed the auditor general for conflicts of interest.
It bans public and private employers from retaliating against those who disclose information about improper actions that are counter to public interest. The LACC had a whistleblower program under which anyone could report acts of corruption or impropriety to the LACC with the promise of confidentiality. Many officials only did so after the president threatened dismissal if they did not comply. The LACC initiated an asset verification process to review these declarations and in October summarized the results of the process, highlighting some discrepancies and instances of unexplained wealth accumulation.
During the year the Ministry of Finance published the national budget and quarterly financial results, and individual state-owned enterprises published financial statements. Many of these enterprises had not been audited for several years. Periodic short-term advisors continued to support the ministry and other government entities.
Advisers helped improve financial management, purchasing, and contracting practices and instituted financial controls that increased government revenues and helped to curb corrupt practices. 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.
Concerns remained about the transparency of the finances of the state-owned enterprises and autonomous bodies. Some transparency advocates, including the head of the LACC, however, suggested that legislators needed to improve the FOIA law to ensure that citizens could access information to verify that government funds were properly spent and accounted for.
Human Rights Practices in Liberia in
A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The Palaver Hut mechanism, originally scheduled for implementation by the end of , was launched in October The Palaver Hut submitted one report in , but no subsequent reports were completed.
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on ethnic background, sex, creed, place of origin, disability, or political opinion; however, the government did not enforce these provisions effectively. Lebanese born in the country over several generations, for example, remained noncitizens based on this law. According to the World Health Organization, 77 percent of women and girls had been the victim of sexual violence.
The rape law legally defines rape but does not specifically criminalize spousal rape. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment for first-degree rape and 10 years for second-degree rape, and accused first-degree rapists are not eligible for bail. The government did not always enforce the law effectively. Judges had the discretion to impose less than the maximum sentence.
The government and NGOs attributed increased reporting of rape to an improved understanding of what constitutes rape. Despite increased reporting, human rights groups claimed that the real prevalence rates were even higher, as many cases were not reported.
The Sexual Pathways Referral program, a combined effort of the government and NGOs, improved access to medical, psychosocial, legal, and counseling assistance for victims. Thirty-seven cases were forwarded to Criminal Court C. Four rape cases were actually prosecuted; there was one conviction, one acquittal, and two cases remained pending.
As mandated by the Gender and Sexually Based Violence Bill, the special court for rape Court E and other sexual violence, located in Montserrado County, has exclusive original jurisdiction over cases of sexual assault, including abuse of minors. The sexual and gender-based violence prosecution unit within the Ministry of Justice continued to coordinate with the special court and collaborate with NGOs and international donors to increase awareness of sexual and gender-based violence issues.
Outside of Montserrado County, the stigma of rape contributed to the pervasiveness of out-of-court settlements and negatively affected prosecution of cases. An inefficient justice system also prevented timely prosecution, although local NGOs pushed for prosecution and sometimes provided lawyers to indigent victims. The government raised awareness of the issue of rape through billboards, radio broadcasts, and other outreach campaigns.
The law prohibits domestic violence; however, it remained a widespread problem. According to the World Health Organization, 33 percent of married women reported experiencing domestic violence. The government and the media made some efforts to publicize the problem, and several NGOs continued programs to treat abused women and girls and to increase awareness of their rights. LNP officers received training on sexual offenses as part of their initial training. During the year the Ministry of Gender and Development organized workshops and seminars to combat domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment : The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, which remained a major problem, including in schools and places of work. Government billboards and notices in government offices warned against harassment in the workplace. But information and assistance on family planning topics was difficult to obtain, particularly in rural areas, where there were few health clinics.
The government included family planning counseling and services as key components of its new year national health and social welfare plan. A government-led survey found that contraceptive use was below 15 percent for three north-central counties. Approximately two-thirds of women surveyed, however, said they wanted to use family planning methods. This low usage compared to high desire suggested that low incomes or cultural barriers impeded family planning efforts.
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Teen pregnancy was historically also very high. According to the chief medical officer of the John F. Reducing maternal mortality remained a priority of the government, and activities in past years included additional training of midwives and providing incentives to pregnant women to seek prenatal care and deliver at a hospital or clinic. Under the law women can inherit land and property, receive equal pay for equal work, and own and manage businesses.
Women experienced discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, pay, education, and housing. Women experienced some economic discrimination based on cultural traditions. The government promoted women in the economic sector through programs and NGO partnerships to conduct workshops on networking, entrepreneurial skills, and microcredit lending programs.