REGIONAL WATCH FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

To content | To menu | To search

Thursday 29 October 2009

NEWSLETTERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Launching of Regional Watch for Human Rights Inc./SITUATION REPORT -LIBERIA

_ RWHR Lunching Pictures_Regional Watch for Human Rights, formerly Liberia Watch for Human Rights.__has been Launched on 18,September 2009. Representative of Reverend Marie Jilo Barnett the Sierra Leone ambassador. In his delivery, Mr.Kaikai thanked the organizers of the launching program for their thoughtfulness and great concern for the wellbeing and rights of the citizens of the sub-region. He also applauded the efforts and bold initiative as well as the steady and sure steps taken so far by Liberia Watch for Human Rights, now Regional Watch to promote and protect the rights of the peoples of Liberia in particular and the sub-region as a whole.

He underscored that a strong, vibrant and responsible human rights institution is predicated on that institution’s independence and objectives, with no inclination to compromise and partisanship. Where such institutions exist as watch, the rights of citizens will certainly be protected and their well-being guaranteed, he concluded. Other representatives invited from the American, Nigerian, Guinean, and Senegalese foreign missions, were present.

Moreover, the former Executive Director Thompson Ade-Bayor, now Regional Director represented LWHR at a 3 day Human Rights and Conflict Management training organized by the Center for Conflict Resolution in Johannesburg, South Africa from September 23 to 25, 2009 coincidentally is also in connection with RWHR mandate (Conflict Trend and Human Rights Monitoring). RWHR now have contacts offices in the following countries: Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria Freetown the Republic of Sierra Leone, Conakry the Republic of Guinea, Darker Senegal and Ivory Coast.

 JUDICIARY

The Liberia judiciary system has made some improvements by way of renovation of courthouses and detention facilities, construction of separate blocks for female and juvenile detainees, revival of the Case File Management Committee, establishment of the Judicial Training Institute, and slight increases in the numbers of public prosecutions. But there is still, persistent deficiencies within the judiciary sector weaknesses were attributable to insufficient judicial personnel, including prosecutors and public defenders, limited court infrastructure and logistics, archaic rules of procedure, and poor case management. Unprofessional, corrupt, and, in a few cases, criminal practices by judicial staff continued to lead to rights abuses and undermine progress. Widespread abuses of the right to due process undermine efforts to address impunity, have prompted calls for more leadership initiatives within the Justice Ministry including calls for international support to strengthen the sector. Prisons and detention centers remain overcrowded and lack basic sanitation and healthcare for detainees. In 2008 hundreds of people were held in prolonged pretrial detention; only ten percent of the some 1,000 individuals detained in Liberia's prisons had been convicted of a crime.


LWHR, has expressed regret and disappointment about the lackadaisical posture the Ministry of Justice has taken regarding the gruesome murder of a law student, Stafford Tamba at the University of Liberia. Stafford Tamba was murdered on August 16, 2008 by some marauding armed men at his Gardnersville residence while studying for his Commercial Law final examination scheduled on that fateful day. While, describing the death of Tamba as untimely, LWHR asserted “It is totally unbelievable and unacceptable for such heinous crime to have occurred in a civilized society. We, consider this case as a very serious breach of the social contact between the governors and the governed, meaning the government and the people as enshrined in 1986 Constitution of Liberia under Chapter 111, Article 11(a) The chapter states that “all persons are born equally free and independent and have certain natural, inherent and inalienable rights, among which, are the right of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of perusing and maintaining the security of the person and acquiring, possessing and protecting property”.

LWHR is shocked to learn that not a single suspect has been arrested since Tamba, was horribly murdered one year ago. We consider such lay-back posture by the Ministry of Justice as a replica of the immediate past where defenseless citizens were murdered in cold blood and the doers of the heartless act went scot-free. The justice ministry must eschew such unfair act because it has the propensity to undermine the country’s nascent democracy. Nevertheless, LWHR cautiously called on the Justice Ministry and other relevant government security agencies to promptly search for and arrest, and subsequently bring to justice all those involved in the murder of the late law student

A unanimous verdict of not guilty of murder on February 5, 2009 brought down in favor of the Junior Senator of Margibi County, Roland C. Kaine, and six other defendants in June 7, 2008 Timor massacre at least 21 persons in Grand Bassa County.Of the 16 defendants charged with the crime of murder by the state, eight were convicted, while A. Y Kollie, one of the principal accused, would be retried. Those acquitted were: • Ernest Kpannah, • Boakai Momo, • Gibson Kpannah, • James Boakai, • Singbah Duu (deceased), • Joseph Kollie and • Roland C. Kaine.

Those convicted were:  Kpannah Quoi,  Oldman Juu,  Moses Kollie,  Kolleh Russ,  James Varney,  Moses Winnie,  Sumo Mulbah and  Rufu Mulbah

The prolonged trial of 12 accused (defendants) in connection with the untimely death of Liberian Agricultural Company (LAC) plantation Manager Bruno Michels has finally been transferred to the First Judicial Circuit Court in Montserado County. The murder case was transferred from the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County following a two-count motion filed by the state for change of venue. The 12 defendants were charged with murder for allegedly killing the plantation manager on November 7, 2007 at Compound #3. The state’s motion for the change of venue of the case spelled out that there had been extra prejudice condemnation in the county where the case emanated and should have been heard. The defense counsel filed a two-count motion requesting the court to deny the motion of the state on grounds that the legal and political started by the prosecution were not distinctly defined to warrant the court to grant the motion. Meanwhile, the court presided over by Resident Judge Cllr. Benedict W. Holt, Sr. has order the Clerk of Court, Mr. Henry W. Garsagne, to transmit all documents pertaining to the case to the new of the case and attach the security bond to the office of the Sheriff in Montserrado County. The according to the court would enable the defendants, who are in custody, to be provided in the court for May Term of court. The defendants include Arthur Crusore, Isaac Zahnto, Gbotoe Richard Darbiea, Luthur Glaydor, Moses Saywon, Rufus Queeto, Mathew Cooper, Samule Garpue, Madison Tarr and Jone Charile. The state is represented by former County Attorney K. Kelvin Zoegan and the defendants by Atty. Paul Jarvan.

The assigned Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court in Gbarnga, Bong County,     Sakijipo Worlor on March 10, 2009, sentenced a 33-year-old man identified as Roland Kwenah, alias, “Kaliku,” imprisonment for 65 year after he was adjudged guilty of committing murder.  Roland a former general of the disbanded Anti, Terrorist Unit (ATU) was pronounced guilty for murdering a 19-year Momo Zayzay, a motorcyclist on the Palala-Gant highway at about 1: 00PM on June 6, 2008

SECURITY SECTOR

The Command-In-Chief of the armed forces of Liberia, and President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called on the young women of Liberia to join new Liberia army in order to get the needed 20% women needed in A. F. L. At the start of the restructuring and recruiting process of the Armed forces of Liberia, President Sirleaf called for 20% of women in the new Liberia Army forces or national Army.

President noted that the present percentage of women in the over 2000 AFL Soldiers are below the 20% needed in the Liberia Army Forces and stressed that the needed 20% will provide equal roles in all aspects of the country’s security endeavor.

But since the Liberia leader made the call, the needed number of women in the AFL is yet to come to fulfillment and LWHR believes her call poses a big challenge to the Minister of National Defense and his principal deputies. Given the current percentage of women on the AFL which stands at 8% of the Commander –In- Chief of the Liberian Army noted that encouraging more women to form part of the AFL will help in the country’s rebuilding and women’s rights process.

The Liberia National Police are still widely considered ineffective and corrupt. Both ordinary citizens and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf have blamed a recent spate of armed robberies on their poor performance. They have been recruited, vetted and trained to a far lower standard than the army. Training of the paramilitary ERU may address some problems, but others have more to do with basic issues of poor management, lack of equipment and dismal community relations. There also appears to be inadequate realization that successful police reform can only be sustained if it is linked to an effective judiciary that enforces the rule of law fairly and effectively to protect individual rights and assure citizen security. This has led to the growth of vigilantism and disrespect of police in Monrovia and elsewhere. The police desperately need a combination of managerial expertise, strategic vision and (only then) a major increase in budget. The challenge facing the government and donors is the transition from external partner to sovereign state responsibilities. To this point, the Johnson-Sirleaf government has been largely happy to leave the reform of its army and police to others, occupied as it is with economic recovery. Domestic ownership of the reforms has become urgent, but it must not entail the overly hasty exit of international partners. Unless in particular U.S. and UN efforts to make Liberia more secure and stable are sustained over the next few years, the investment made since the end of the war could easily unravel

EDUCATIONAL SECTOR

While Government and International partners are striving toward putting the broken pieces together to bring Liberia to better standard after years of turmoil, the Educational Sector remains one cardinal point of focus with a challenge of looking out for qualified teachers. During and after the civil war, many trained teachers left the teaching field owning to poor salary and old age among others. As a result, both government-owned and private schools that sprang up in the war years have limited qualified teachers to develop the minds of the youth. Though Government has rehabilitated some teacher training institute, including Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute and Zorzor Teacher Training Institute with other sub-private training institutes coming up, many school do not now have trained teachers but rather get high school graduates and others who have specialized in certain fields od study to teach without the requisite teacher training course. On the basis of this predicament, many schools have begun sponsoring interest candidates to recognized teacher training institute while some are conducting training workshops for their teachers to acquire some basis knowledge in teaching.

The 2009 West African Examinations Council (WAEC) results have been released. According to authorities at WAEC, the over all performance of the candidates for the examination was poor as compared to last year’s result. Out of the 20,670 that sat the examination at 105 centers in the country, only 11,631 made successful passes, while a total of 6,779 failed.

With many Liberian families living in extreme poverty, due to unemployment and the prolonged civil crises, the children face serious threats of food security. Even when the government has barred street selling by kids within the country, children are still serving as major bread winners for their families. Also most children who refuse to sell or lose money while selling, are brutalized. For the fear of this treatment, some choose to remain in the streets unit they can raise the lost money, mainly through street begging. The children who are brought by relatives from the rural areas to the cities for school are sometimes used as breadwinners, their relatives; the females especially are often susceptible to physical or sexual abuse and rape, at times by the consent of the guardians or relatives.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

MANDATE: Human rights situations and conflict trends in the sub-regions

Since its formation in 1992, Liberia Watch for Human Rights (LWHR) continues to be in the vanguard advocating for the promotion and protection of human rights and civil liberties in Liberia. Given our experience and exposure about situations in Liberia and with advocacy and monitoring of democracy still in progress, the LWHR management deems it expedient to take another crucial step by organizing regional contact points for the sole purpose of creating West African Regional alliances, geared towards the protection and promotion of human rights or as common human rights issues that need urgent proactive resolutions from civil societies based in specified the Mano River Union (MRU) countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast.

It is against this background, that our board of directors in consultation with management now finds it expedient to join Africa’s Regional alliances in order to monitor compliances to human rights standards, assess human rights situation in any given country in West Africa, jointly pressure governments and other influential actors to change their practices in order to change negative human rights situations. The observations and assessments made during these collaborations and alliances will be made public through reports and public statements.

The monitoring and reporting of conflict trends will also take central stage in our regional duties with the aim of developing negotiation tactics in the face of danger so as to build support and stimulate action to address human rights situations.

In summary, the underpinning factor for going regional, hinges on the fact that this “grand strategy” entails the broadest conception of how our objectives are to be attained in the new adventure relative to regional human rights against the background of conflict trends and how the objectives can be attained / how it will serve to coordinate and direct all appropriate and available resources to attain our objectives.

This news conference / launch of the Regional Watch for Human Rights cannot be complete, without highlighting / acquaint you with some of our activities up to this year, specifically pointing at achievements culminating from many years of hard work in advocacy for the rights of the Liberian people in areas such as:

• Respect for civil liberties, including freedom of speech and the press: here, in collaboration with other civil society organizations LWHR still advocates continually for this freedom, which is now enjoyed by all Liberians irrespective of their religious or political affiliations, sex or convictions, as compared to those days when despite Constitutional provisions of freedom of speech and the press, successive governments restricted this right in practice. Accordingly, we take time to recognize the commendable efforts exerted by members of the 4th estate for their indefatigable service to the people of Liberia as they continue to brave the storm despite all, odds. We are of the opinion that LWHR could not have gone this far without the support from the Liberian press.

The participation of various community stake holders should not be overlooked, because the flames of civil conflict in Liberia were fanned by the lack of community development programs for the indigenes. We also urge government to impress on extractive investors the need for environmentally sound practices for the rehabilitation of degraded land areas in their areas of operation. Let us add here quickly that the Environment monitor Unit of Liberia Watch for Human Rights shall carry out monitoring activities in all mining and logging areas in order to report to government and relevant line ministries about environmental situations in any given concession area.

• Corruption/ impunity: this cancerous intermarriage started since the founding of the state of Liberia in 1847. The couple has eaten through the fabric of the Liberian society for decades on end. Successive governments have traded accusations and counter accusations against each other, but this destructive cancer keeps digging deeper. However, even prior to the advent of the incumbent government, LWHR always advocated against corruption and impunity in high and low places and continues to monitor the current corruption cases in court and corrupt practices in government for subsequent report to government and press for prosecution. As a matter of fact, we are worried about corrupt practices deepening in this present government. We are of the hope that the ongoing investigations and trial of former government officials will yield good results and serve as deterrents to would be corrupt persons. This litmus test is envisaged to determine Liberia’s future economic growth and political stability.

• The Judiciary: this sector still has to do a lot in order to regain some semblance of respect, because most Liberians still lack faith in the judiciary. The low salaries of legal personnel working in the judiciary have meant that, magistrates, lawyers and judges are easy targets for bribery. We do hope however, that with the ushering in of new faces in the police and judiciary systems jurisprudence will take on a new an honest face for the prosecution of criminal cases, etc. • Political and other extrajudicial killings: During the Taylor’s regime security forces continued to commit extrajudicial and political killings. Human rights organizations estimated the numbers to be several hundred at that time. Government conducted no investigations into nor took action against alleged • perpetrators. In view of this we are still concerned about and will continue to advocate for the prosecution of former warlords and financiers of the war machines in Liberia, under whose directive some of the most heinous crimes were committed, specifically: • The Duport road massacre, and; • The Carter Camp massacre. • The murders of Sam Dokie and family, Dr Steven Yekeson • The Lutheran Church massacre • The Sinje massacre, etc.

• Security of the state and its people: this issue was always and still is of immense concern to LWHR.Liberians cannot pretend not to know that the peace we enjoy presently is fragile; the restructuring and training of a new Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) is ongoing slowly, some contingents of the UNMIL have started pulling out. It is against this worrisome scenario that LWHR is calling on government to put into place strong measures as a means to curb insecurity, as well as to speed up training of the remaining recruits including all other security arrangements with the US government.

• Situation of human rights defenders: An Amnesty International initiative became one of the commendable achievements of LWHR with the formation of the Mano River Union (MRU) Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, of which LWHR is an executive member. Under the auspices of the International Service for Human Rights, based in Geneva, Switzerland the present structure of MRU Human Rights Defenders reawakened the spirit of the “Freetown Declaration”, of July 29, 2005 which calls for: • Creating awareness on the situation of human rights defenders in the Mano River Union countries and to advocate increased protection for human rights defenders in the Mano River union • Engage respective governments on issues of national and regional importance and in particular mobilization of human rights defenders in danger in specific countries • work closely with the political affairs department of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Representative of the Secretary General on human rights defenders, and; • Strict adherence to the principles of accountability, and transparency

For the enhancement of our human rights activities we still maintain the following units: • Press and Public Information • Research and Documentation • Human Resource Development • Environment Monitor Unit and;

LWHR activities and achievements at grassroots level over the past 15 years cannot be left out in this reflection; as such we shall now highlight the following:

• Continuity of human rights advocacy through tactful and innovative approaches regarding human rights issues and problems that affect the lives of indigenes of Liberia, including non-nationals in a sober and level headed manner through radio programs, training and capacity building and empowerment workshops; • The introduction in our project areas, of a long over due information on environmental rights within human rights provisions. This is geared towards empowering the community residents about their rights to participate in all discussions between government and concession companies, pertaining to the extraction of mineral resources in respective communities and the rehabilitation of degraded land caused during extractive activities by mining and logging companies; • The launching and distribution of a Concept Paper to the president of Liberia, Madam Helen Johnson – Sirleaf , embassies representing ECOWAS countries advocating for the rights and privileges of abandoned children of UN Peace Keepers in Liberia, especially their educational and social wellbeing. This Herculean Endeavour by our institution portrays our concern about the welfare of children left behind by our illustrious brothers in the peace keeping forces as well as current UNMIL forces in Liberia. Reflecting on activities spanning 15 years will not be complete, if no mention is made about our international affiliations. As such we now take this opportunity to recognize assistance given to LWHR by, first of all:- -The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) based in Washington DC, USA current donor to our activities; -The International Federation of Human Rights Organizations (FIDH) based in Paris, France; International Press Services (IPS) African Region, Harare – Zimbabwe; -World Organization against Torture (OMCT), Geneva, Switzerland; - International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FRONTLINE), of Ireland, United Kingdom; -Amnesty International, based in UK; -The International Human Rights Service, Based in Geneva, Switzerland; -The Human Rights internet in Canada; -Human Rights Watch, USA

In closing, I will state my organization’s stance on the just published TRC report….. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the NED, all CSOs, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), the people of Liberia for their overwhelming support in making human rights work as a point of reference in this country.

                         Regional Watch for Human Rights (RWHR), Inc