Annual Report: Liberia 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Liberia 2010

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Head of state and government Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Death penalty abolitionist in practice
Population 4 million
Life expectancy 57.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 144/136 per 1,000
Adult literacy 55.5 per cent

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was released in December. Some progress was made in establishing the Independent National Human Rights Commission. Although the government made some institutional progress to address rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls, many cases went unreported. Serious concerns remained regarding the administration of justice, with significant judicial delays leading to overcrowding in prisons.

Background

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf made significant cabinet changes in April, June and July to address poor performance in key sectors, particularly the justice and security sectors.

The acquittal in April of five senior government officials – Charles Gyude Bryant, former Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL); Edwin Snowe, former Speaker of the House; and three other NTGL members – was considered a major setback in the fight against corruption. The Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission, established early in the year, started investigations on two major cases. Several government ministers were dismissed for alleged corruption.

President Johnson-Sirleaf officially closed the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration programme in July, which had disarmed and demobilized 101,000 former combatants and provided reintegration for 90,000 former combatants since 2003.

There were three separate incidents of violence that involved the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers and Liberia National Police officers in Monrovia in February, April and May.

Mob justice prevailed on several occasions because of the public's lack of confidence in the administration of justice. In June, for example, in the south-eastern city of Harper, an allegation of a ritual killing sparked a riot involving more than 2,000 people who ransacked the police station, damaged the prison and tried to kill police officers by dousing them with petrol.

A joint field mission drawn from UN peacekeeping operations in Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire visited western Côte d'Ivoire in April. It found that many of the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Liberian combatants associated with Ivorian militias were involved in illegal exploitation of natural resources.

In September, the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was extended for a further year, with a reduction in military and civilian personnel to approximately 8,500.

In December, the UN Security Council lifted the arms embargo on Liberia that had been in place since 1999. It also extended the travel ban and asset freeze imposed on people considered a threat to the peace process. The mandate of the Panel of Experts that monitors UN sanctions on Liberia was extended to December 2010.

No steps were taken to abolish the death penalty after its reintroduction in 2008 in violation of the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Liberia acceded in 2005.

Impunity

Little progress was made in bringing to justice people responsible for gross human rights violations during the conflict in Liberia between 1989-1996 and 1999- 2003.

In January, Benjamin Yeaten, a former general of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and a close associate of former President Charles Taylor, was indicted for the murders of two Deputy Ministers and a former Minister and members of his family in November 1997 and June 2003. Benjamin Yeaten was alleged to be living in Togo.