The threats to the violations of human rights in Liberia are increasing due to the below listed factors:
1. A weak Justice system.
2. High unemployment rate
3. Poor qualities of health, education and food Security.
4. Political instabilities
5. Domestic and gender based violence
6. Religious and ethical grouping.
The U.S Department of state 2019 country reports on human rights practices in Liberia highlighted the significant human rights issues which included: arbitrary killings by police; arbitrary detention by government officials; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; serious problem with the independence of the judiciary; substantial restrictions on free expression and press, including site blocking; official corruption; lack of accountability in cases of violence against women due to government inaction in some instances, including rape, domestic violence, and female genital multilation, trafficking in persons; and compulsory child labor.
Moving on, gross overcrowding, food shortages, inadequate sanitary conditions, and poor medical care at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP) and other prisons in the country visualized a clearer image of threats the lives of our many brothers and sisters that have been kept in prison, which of course is a gross violation to their rights as human.
The Constitution of the Republic of Liberia in chapel III article 21f says “every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and presented before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty-eight hours.
Should the court determine the existence of a prima facie case against the accused, it shall issue a formal writ of arrest setting out the charge or charges and shall provide for a speedy trial.
There shall be necessary no preventative detention. But the court system of Liberia is always in the constant violation of this part of the constitution for whatever reason it can’t be explained.
At Monrovia Central Prison (MCP), is where a number of prolonged-pretrial detainees are charged with rape, a non-bailable offense in Liberia, and a number is charged with arm robbery, still a very huge number are charged with very petty crimes.
For example, INCHR monitoring and investigation at the MCP established that 40% of the pretrial detainees are charged with Rape and/or Statutory Rape, 40% with Armed Robbery and 20% with various crimes: Theft of Property, Aggravated Assault, Murder, etc.
In addition, where the MCP was designed to accommodate 374 inmates, the facility currently holds a total of 1,032 inmates, more than tripling its capacity. The majority of inmates are males; women and minors comprise a small percentage of the population.
Again at the MCP, Liberia’s main prison located in the Nation’s Capital, Monrovia, and INCHR captured 211 cases of pretrial detainees from May 9, 2016 obtained from the pretrial detainees’ updated records of the Monrovia Central Prison Records Section.
Interviews were conducted with almost all of the 211 cases of pretrial detainees who complained about over crowdedness of the cells, no proper medication, inadequate feedings, limited toilet facilities in their blocks or units, and that they have not gone to court since their detention.
Some of the pretrial detainees interacted with have been detained from January 2010 up to present and have not had their day in court ever since their detention at the MCP.
The investigation also shows that very few of the detainees’ cases are transferred to Circuit Courts with no records relating to an indictment or complaint.
The increment of rape and gender based violence cases in our country, weak Justice system, high unemployment rate, poor qualities of health, education, and poor food security, political instabilities, religious and ethical grouping, posed threats to the future of a free, equal and peaceful mama Liberia, “a country that is said to be the land of liberty”. Where is the Liberty amidst a weak and segregated Justice system?
If we want to achieve a Liberia of Liberty, Justice and total peace, civil society activists should start to create a confluence of understanding to work together in combating social ills.
Like what my brother and friend Abdullah O. Bility is doing. He established the Peace Agents Network (PAN) as a National youth led platform to promote peace building and conflict prevention in urban and rural Liberia. Not limiting his impact to Liberia only, he also established Global Institute of Peace Justice and Liberty (GIPJAL) to provide education in peace building, Justice and Liberty, and connect students, youth and professionals from all nationalities in creating an equal and freer society.
Government should minimize unemployment for its citizens by providing unlimited opportunities and skills for citizens to occupy. And should also end the cultural practice of impunity by bringing perpetrators to justice, and not providing a one sided Justice System that will only favor those in the elite class, and marginalize the ordinary class.
The basic needs of the citizens; food, health, education, jobs, freedom, should be of top priority to the National Government.
About the Author:
Musa Leo Roberts is a student and Youth leader.
He is a Human Rights Activist, and Coordinator/Special Envoy to Liberia, International Human Rights Commission (IHRC),
Local Coordinator at Students for Liberty (SFL),
Co-provost at global institute of peace Justice and Liberty (GIPJAL), and an Internal Auditor at Peace Agents Network (PAN)
He can be contacted through: [email protected]