Human rights context
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was established in 2003 by Security Council Resolution 1509. The Human Rights and Protection Section (HRPS) of UNMIL was established in 2004, with the mandate to contribute towards international efforts to protect and promote human rights in Liberia, with particular attention to vulnerable groups including refugees, returning refugees and internally displaced persons, women, children, and demobilized child soldiers, within UNMIL’s capabilities and under acceptable security conditions, in close cooperation with other United Nations agencies, related organizations, governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations; and to ensure an adequate human rights presence, capacity and expertise within UNMIL to carry out human rights promotion, protection, and monitoring activities.
By Resolution 1938 (2010), the Security Council extended the mandate of UNMIL until 30 September 2011.
Despite some progress, Liberia continued to face a number of challenges that impacted on the promotion and protection of human rights. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concluded its four-year mandate in 2010. It identified several victims and perpetrators of the abuses committed during the civil war, and recommended relevant actions to be taken by national authorities in order to ensure accountability and reparation. However, the implementation of recommendations proceeded at a slow pace.
The judicial system continued to be fragile. Poor infrastructure, the limited capacity and corrupt practices resulted in long delays of trials and prolonged pre-trial detentions which have led to serious over-crowding in prisons.
The fight against corruption was a priority for the Liberian government in 2010. The Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission has been created to investigate serious cases, and contributed to the dismissal of several government ministers. However, corruption has remained widespread in the country, especially in the security and administrative sectors.
Violence against women and young girls represented a major human rights and social issue. Despite the enactment of the “Rape Law” in 2006, a small percentage of rape suspects have been convicted, and sexual abuses continued to be widely underreported. Also, domestic violence and harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, were denounced as major patterns of gender-based violence.
The lack of legislation criminalising FGM needs to be addressed.
A considerable number of refugees sought protection in Liberia in 2010, due to instability in neighboring countries, in particular Cote d’Ivoire. Living conditions in refugee camps are often not in line with international standards.
Liberia remains characterized by extreme and widespread poverty. Many challenges remain to be addressed in order to ensure the overall enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. However, much progress has been made by the government thanks to the successful implementation of strategic plans in key sectors including health, education, and employment.
At national level, despite progress made towards the establishment of the Independent National Human Rights Commission, it was not yet fully operational at the end of 2010.
In November 2010, the country’s human rights record was reviewed under the UPR process. Key UPR recommendations which were not clearly accepted by the Government related to abolition of death penalty, criminalization of female genital mutilation and the implementation of all recommendations made by the TRC.
The HRPS continued to monitor the human rights situation and engage relevant authorities, focusing efforts on building sustainable national capacity to protect human rights. The Section supported data collection for a national human rights action plan and worked to ensure sustained application of human rights standards in the operations of business practices and within the security and law enforcement sectors. It also worked closely with civil society to increase community awareness of human rights through public reporting and capacity building.
Support was provided for the operationalization of the National Human Rights Commission in line with the Paris Principles. It also provided technical assistance to the Truth and reconciliation Commission (TRC) on evidence gathering and reporting.
The final report of the TRC was issued in 2009.
The HRPS has contributed to the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality through the development of the National Human Rights Survey, together with ministries and national statistics institution, with sub-thematic areas on SGBV, women’s access to justice and general perception of women’s rights in Liberia.
The Section collaborated successfully with UNICEF on issues relating to the rights of the child and child protection, ILO on labour standards and remedies, WHO on the right to health, and UNDP on institution-building, the HRBA, and monitoring and evaluation
The HRPS successfully assisted national authorities in all the steps of the UPR process, and will monitor and support the follow-up of recommendations.
Priorities in 2011-2012
National human rights institutions
The Section will focus on building the capacities of the National Human Rights Commission, in particular for its compliance with the Paris Principles. Awareness will be raised among the population about the individual complaint mechanism of the Commission
Human rights mechanisms
Support will be provided to the government in order to meet a timetable for producing overdue reports to treaty bodies. The government will be also advised and assisted in the follow-up to the UPR recommendations
Justice and accountability
The Section will assist relevant ministries for the inclusion into their programmes of accountability mechanisms for human rights violations and the improvement of access to justice for all the population. It will also advocate for the implementation of the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Mainstreaming human rights
The Section will seek the involvement of the entire mission and the UNCT in key programme areas (Rule of Law, Economic social and cultural rights, Children) and will continue to advocate for the incorporation of a human rights-based approach into existing programmes and projects.