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