US Human Rights Report 2021 Out -GOL Fares Relatively Well In Many Critical Areas

The US Department of State’s annual report covering and unearthing global human rights situations, however controversial and highly often disputed in many countries, is generally a prism by which other nations measure their deportment consistent with the revered Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. For post-conflict Liberia, the Scorecard had been quite unimpressive amid poor infrastructures and weak systems under repair for nearly 20 years now. Even under the George Manneh Weah administration which came 15 years after the war was pronounced over, the States Department Report had been consistently unkind if not uncouth in painting Liberia’s human rights situation. But, as The Analyst reports, there seems to be some progress in many critical areas as per the 2021 Human Rights Report.

There appears relative progress in Liberia’s human rights credential – the way it responds to issues of freedoms, civil liberties, democracy and security – courtesy of US States Department Report of 2021.

During the year, there were wild allegations that unexplained disappearances occurred in the country, but the Report says otherwise.

According to the report released over the weekend, the US States Department stated that “there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities”, though the public and media “continued to allege unresolved disappearances (see section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination)”.

The Report also indicated that there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees, something that was repeatedly reported on during political regimes that preceded the Weah administration.

According to the US Human Rights Report, “the government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority”.

“There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events,” said the Report, adding: “A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.”

The Report also spoke of Liberia’s minimum wage, which it stated “was greater than the World Bank’s poverty income level.

“Many families paid minimum-wage incomes were also engaged in subsistence farming, artisanal mining, small-scale marketing, street peddling, and begging”.

Despite the positive ratings in several areas of human rights, the Report highlighted a litany of gross human rights reports.

An official of government who wanted to be anonymous because he is not the right person to speak to the findings of the report told The Analyst that much progress was made during the reporting year as seen in the report.

“While all is not rosy, we think it is commendable that Liberia has changed the trajectory of arbitrariness and citizens can rest assured additional progress will be made in the coming years,” he said.

The report also spoke highly of recent elections held in the country including the special senatorial midterm election held on December 8, 2020 and the November 16, 2021 representative elections which took place in 4 counties of Bong, Bomi, Grand  Gedeh and Nimba counties.

“In December 2020 the country held midterm senatorial elections that observers deemed largely peaceful, although there were some reported instances of vote tampering, intimidation, harassment of female candidates, and election violence. Opposition and independent candidates won 12 of the 15 Senate seats contested, according to election results announced by the National Election Commission.  On November 16, by-elections for the House of Representatives were held in Bong, Bomi, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh counties to fill vacancies created after the December 2020 midterm senatorial elections. Once again, election observers deemed the proceedings largely peaceful, although there were some reported instances of vote tampering, intimidation, harassment of female candidates, and election violence”, the report said.

Under the rule of law, some parts of the report focused on the rights of prisoners and those awaiting trials and highlighted the efforts of the government to bring to book security operatives  and other law enforcement officers who were in the constant habit of ill-treating persons accused of committing crimes in their midst.

“In April the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency dismissed an officer captured on a Facebook video on March 25 choking a suspected drug dealer and kneeling on his head while he and other officers attempted to arrest and handcuff the man. The agency said it was terminating Jeremiah Johnson, deputy commander for operations in Margibi County, because his actions as captured in the video were unprofessional. The agency’s information and communication officer, Michael Jipply, said the commander’s dismissal followed an investigation by a board of inquiry”, the report said.

The 53-page US report further stated that from the period under review records in its possession indicate that there are no political prisoners in Liberia unlike in the past, especially those who are actively involved in advocacy and politics in the country. This is a radical departure from the past where opposition figures were hunted down and thrown into prison.

The reports presented a new chapter in the history of the annual account of human rights in the country by the US government over the years as on many occasions the government had not been able to meet the threshold set by the Americans.

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