Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Liberian courts' inability to adequately process their cases have led to hundreds of prisoners being held in extended pre-trial detention in overcrowded jails and detention centers in addition to them lacking basic sanitation and health care.

Source:FrontPage Africa

Geneva, Switzerland-

Liberia’s poor judiciary system’s inability to address the increasing number of pre-trial detention cases that continues to result into several individuals languishing behind prison bars and the Liberian government’s death penalty dominated Monday’s human rights review of the post-conflict nation in the ongoing Human Rights Universal Periodic Review being held in Switzerland.

Ranging from the Federal German Republic, France, Canada, Norway, China to a host of dozens of other countries, Permanent Representatives from the various countries to the United Nations were unanimous in their observations and recommendations on Liberia: that Liberia addresses the issues of pre-trial detentions and abolishes the death penalty.

Participants at Geneva conference. According to UPR Report, only 10 percent of some 800 individuals detained in Liberia's prisons had been convicted of a crime in 2009 while hundreds of prisoners escaped in jailbreaks, illuminating the stark inability of the corrections sector to secure Liberia's prisons.

As the Liberian delegation, led by its Attorney-General and Justice Minister Chritiana Tah and Labor Minister Tiawon Gongloe, sought to address various issues characterizing the country’s human rights reports, concerns about Liberia’s human rights review began the first day of a 12-day event of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Sponsored by the Geneva-based Media21, the ongoing UPR is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN member states once every four years that is held under the auspices of the UN’s Human Rights Council. It provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations.

Liberian courts' inability to adequately process their cases have led to hundreds of prisoners being held in extended pre-trial detention in overcrowded jails and detention centers in addition to them lacking basic sanitation and health care.

France said its delegation wants the Liberian Government to take steps against pre-detention issues and inquired about how many persons are affected by court sentence.

According to UPR Report, only 10 percent of some 800 individuals detained in Liberia's prisons had been convicted of a crime in 2009 while hundreds of prisoners escaped in jailbreaks, illuminating the stark inability of the corrections sector to secure Liberia's prisons.

Death Penalty Contravenes International Law Signed By Liberia

Liberia’s adopted death penalty was addressed with huge condemnation by most of the representatives who recommended to the Unity Party government to repeal the law.

A July 2008 law allows for the death penalty for murder committed during armed robbery, terrorism, or hijacking which is in sharp contravention of Liberia's obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it acceded in 2005.

Raged War On Death Penalty

The country’s death penalty meant more concern for most of the countries.

For instance, Sweden’s Permanent Representative said, “Sweden recommends the Government of Liberia to repeal the aforementioned law and bring its legislation in line with its international obligations. Sweden also recommends the Government of Liberia to introduce a permanent de facto and de jure moratorium on death penalties with a view to adopt a law abolishing the death penalty and to commute without delay all death sentences to terms of imprisonment”.

Germany’s Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Committee, while expressing disdain over Liberia’s refusal to ensuring that no one within its jurisdiction is executed and take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty, added, “Germany would like the Government of Liberia to abolish the death penalty and to create, in the meantime, a moratorium.”

An eager French Permanent Representative who wanted to know how many persons have been affected so far by the death penalty noted, “Liberia has reinstated the death penalty in 2008 for a number of crimes when it ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which seeks precisely to encourage States parties to abolish the death penalty. My delegation would like to know how many people were sentenced to death by the Liberian courts since 2008 and if the penalty is being applied in practice?”

The Scandinavian nation of Norway also joined in the recommendation: “Norway recommends that Liberia abolishes the death penalty”.

Tah Highlights Human Rights ‘Achievements’

Minister Tah, flanked by members of the Liberian delegates, responding to the concerns and recommendations from the various permanent representatives acknowledged that Liberia struggles in meeting with pre-trial detention.

Tah, “We try to maintain the low number of pre-detention because we are aware that most prisoners are held longer than pre-trial days.”

Outlining several efforts she said the government is doing aimed at addressing some of the major challenges the Attorney General said some steps have been taken in addressing some of the problems. These, she said, include the setting up of the Law Reform Commission and the establishment of the James AA Pierre Institute to improve the judiciary system. The Justice Minister said the justice system is slow and that most Liberian citizens are not aware of rights.

“We have trained and provided public defendant system throughout the country”, she added.

She named the lack of human rights education, poor and limited court houses and correctional centers, the destruction of family causing social culture breakdown, trial by ordeal, the culture of impunity in public and private sectors and inadequate resources in addressing human rights issues as challenges facing the country’s judicial system.

Counselor Yvette Chesson Wureh, Special Representative of Liberia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminded the various permanent representatives who expressed concern about the death penalty that in the absence of the July 2008 death penalty law, the Liberian Constitution also clothes the Liberian President with the authority of carrying- out execution.

Liberia was the 128th country to be reviewed since the process began about two years ago. It was the first country out of 16 countries whose human rights are being reviewed at the conference.

Malawi, the United States, Panama, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Lebanon and Croatia including others are the other countries whose human rights record will be reviewed during the ongoing 9th UPR session.

The Council is expected to adopt the Liberian report during its Wednesday’s sitting.

Nat Bayjay is one of three Liberian journalists who was qualified to attend the ongoing Human Rights Universal Periodic Review, organized by Media21 in Geneva, Switzerland. Festus Poquie of the New Democrat Newspaper and Torwon Sulonteh-Brown of UNMIL Radio are the other two Liberian journalists.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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