Controversies, Right Violations Rock INCHR -As 3 Commissioners Declare “Vote of No Confidence” in Colleague

By Matthew H. Turry

In line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Government of Liberia in March 2005 enacted into law the Act creating the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), thus repealing the Act that created the 1997 Liberia Commission on Human Rights. Under the new Act, the Government of Liberia endeavored to ensure that the Commissioners came from independent backgrounds and were free from scruples that could taint or undermine the works of the INCHR. But as the situation now stands, revelations are suggesting that the Commission which should be protecting the rights of citizens and residents within the bailiwick of Liberia, is itself rocked by a plethora of controversies, ranging from allegations of corruption, sex scandal and bad governance practices by those heading the Rights Commission.

According to Messrs. Pindarous Allison and Mohammed Fahnbulleh and Madam Pela Boker-Wilson, three of the Commissioners who recently declared a vote of “no confidence” in one of their colleagues, the lapses within the INCHR leadership, especially from Vice Chairperson Cllr. Charles Harris, range from bad administrative governance, poor financial management coupled with his mismanagement of the institution.

The commissioners noted that the accused commissioner has mishandled the human rights body that led to administrative malpractices and financial improprieties, to include the existence of dual payrolls and the continual remittance of salaries for seven commissioners from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning when there are actually five commissioners working at the lead human rights institution.

The aggrieved Commissioners accused Vice Commissioner Cllr. Harris for his continuous silence, mute indifference, omission and inaction exhibited in the wake of some form of disrespect meted against two commissioners openly by his Technical Assistant, in addition to adopting an unconcerned and laid-back approach on the matter and not taking any administrative action against his personal staff.

“Not only has the Vice Chairperson failed and neglected to perform the statutory responsibilities, but he has also assented, influenced and aided the Chairperson in his flagrant disregard of the Board’s decision, the INCHR Act and by extension, the laws of Liberia,” the Commissioners asserted.

In a wake of these allegations, the three aggrieved wasted no time in line with Article (IX)(5) of the INCHR 2005 Act that gives the commissioners the right through a two-third majority the power to appoint, declared a vote of no confidence in Commissioner Harris’ ability to continue in said post.

In a resolution signed by the three commissioners who are presumably the majority, they voted out Cllr. Charles Harris as the Vice Chairperson.

They maintained that the Vice Chairperson has fueled the ongoing strife and division currently at the INCHR due to his failure to fulfill his statutory mandate of being the deputy to the Chairperson and performing responsibilities of the Chairperson in his or her absence or incapacity.

Though the INCHR Act is clear on how the Vice Chairperson shall be elected as in Article XIV, the confusion is that the Act only grants the right to the President to appoint a Commissioner for replacement in accordance with Article XI of the Act in the case of death, resignation or dismissal from office or is unable to perform duties of his/her office.

Meanwhile, the Commissioners are resolved that based on the same power vested in them to vote into power a Vice Chairperson, they are requesting Chairman Dempster Brown to convene a board meeting in accordance with Article XI of the Act for the election of a new Vice Chairperson since they have cast their vote of no confidence to nullify their first decision.

The infighting has accordingly placed fear in workers of the institution about their fate in terms of good working relationship with their bosses with these unfavorable circumstances. The situation sparked off mixed feelings among the personnel, to the extent that even the logistics for monitoring, including the seven motor bikes for operational use, have been packed since the rigmarole with power tussle erupted at the institution.

According to a source in the hierarchy, the internal struggle first sparked at the INCHR with Commissioner Mohammed Fahnbulleh being accused for sexual harassment, while Chairperson Dempster Brown is accused of corruption. The wrangling seems to be dividing the rest of the Commissioners with three against two, thereby putting fear in the employees as they remain tightlipped.

“Recently Commissioner Atty. Mohammed Fahnbulleh has been battling an issue of integrity from two female employees of the Commission who have accused him of sexually harassing them, as well as having sexual affairs with other women in his office under the pretext that he would offer them job or ensure that their names got on the entity’s payroll,” the source explained.

 The source also narrated that Fahnbulleh accused Chairman Brown of double-dipping by serving as Chairperson for the Commission and at the same time actively running his private NGO, The Center for the Protection of Human Rights which is against Article 15.4 of the INCHR Act, that states inter alia, “A Commissioner shall not engage in any other occupation, business or profession or any other activities for which he or she is paid”.

“Fahnbulleh stated that the salary and position of Humphrey Massaquoi, whom he maintains is the son of Chairperson Brown, remains unstable as he becomes the Technical Assistant and or Executive Secretary at one point and Chief of Office Staff at other functions while his salary has increased from an initial amount of U$ 510.91 to U$ 1,110.91, without the consent of the Board of the entity, and this situation is not good for a governance process. If you think I am lying, check the June 28, July 3, and July 12, 2022 publication of the Inquirer Newspaper and you will see all this information,” our source asserted.

All efforts to get Atty. Fahnbulleh and other Commissioners to comment on the issue proved futile up to press time.

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