President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed into law an Act that reintroduced the death penalty, which was in contravention of Liberia’s obligation under the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, to which Liberia acceded in 2005.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence remain among the most frequently committed crimes. Further, spousal rape is not criminalized.
There were however some positive developments in addressing rape and other forms of sexual violence. The government did establish a special court dedicated to hearing gender and sexual violence cases. Further a safe house for survivors of sexual violence, supported by UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and run by a local NGO, opened in Monrovia.
Crimes against children, including rape, sexual violence, physical violence, trafficking and neglect remain of serious concern.
Access to health facilities to address emergency needs and psychological care continue to be inadequate.
A national action plan on gender-based violence has been adopted in Liberia. The UN provided funds to implement the plan. Liberia also ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
The justice sector continues to suffer from a shortage of qualified judges, lack of infrastructure, archaic rules of procedure, and too few legal officers. This situation has led to due process denials and lengthy pretrial detentions. Only one public defender was deployed in the entire country.
The problems in the judicial system resulted in overcrowding at Monrovia Central Prison. Overwhelming majority of those detained in Monrovia Central Prison were held without charge, some for as long as two years.
The 2003 Accra Peace Agreement, which brought Liberia’s years of armed conflict to an end, called upon the Liberian government to create an Independent National Human Rights Commission, and in 2005, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights Act was passed into law. Five years later, the government and parliament still have not established a human rights commission in Liberia.
Amnesty International believes that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf must turn the promise of the Commission into tangible action since it is a moral imperative for the Liberian administration to ensure justice, accountability, and respect for the human rights of all Liberians.
While plans to establish the commission remain in limbo, the country has experienced ongoing violence and internecine conflict, striking deficiencies in judiciary, police, and corrections operations, vigilante justice, and high incidence of rape of women and girls. The Commission would be designed to address these problems and help reduce the incidence of human rights abuses.
Amnesty International believes that the Liberian government should make the establishment of such a commission a top priority. Furthermore, the government should ensure the success of the Commission by making public the official budget and time frame for vetting commissioners, by involving civil society in this process, and by ensuring transparency at all stages of the process.