INCHR Breaks Silence

INDEPENDENT NATIONAL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

20th Street Sinkor, Fiamah, Monrovia, Liberia; Tele: 0888672984/0777374254 Email: info@inchrliberia.com Web: www.inchrliberia.com

For Immediate Release!

Fellow citizens, members of the Press, colleagues in Civil Society, ladies and gentlemen:

The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) appreciates the national and international actors of the peaceful transition from one regime to another. The INCHR recognizes and appreciates the important roles that all these actors have played in ensuring this peaceful transition. The coordination, cooperation, support and organization we have seen send a signal of a people prepared to work around a common cause, the forward march of the country.

Howbeit, there are some interesting moments or issues that have characterized the transition. Some of these issues include human rights concerns, funding (budgetary allocation), appointments, and assets retrieval among others.

The INCHR in this public manner is calling the attention of the Chief Executive, President George Manneh Weah, to these issues. The Commission wants these issues adequately addressed so as to enhance the transition process and strengthen the development agenda of the country. The INCHR is therefore admonishing the President to not let go of the constitution and various statutes and regulations that are the current controlling instruments of the state. These instruments MUST AT ALL TIMES be respected until their legality is challenged before a court of competent jurisdiction and same is annulled or repealed.

For instance, the INCHR is alarmed about the removal from office the Head of Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI),  a position that should be appointed by the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group (MSG) pursuant to The LEITI Act of July 2009 Section 6.3d. The Commission is encouraging the President to reconsider the removal of the LEITI’s Head of Secretariat in the supreme interest of “adherence to the rule of law”, which is sacrosanct in every democracy, especially so in Liberia’s nascent democracy that must be nourished with every facet of the rule of law. The President’s reconsideration should therefore be followed by an action to complete the structuring of the MSG as provided for in Sections 6.4 and 6.5 respectively of the LEITI Act.

Additionally, the Commission is also troubled by the President’s decision to elevate the position of his Economic Advisor to a Cabinet Minister. The Commission’s trouble is hinged on the fact that the President has the power to appoint several Ministers of State without Portfolios who could be Cabinet Ministers but refuse to do so but rather chose to unilaterally make a pronouncement tantamount to lawmaking that affects the structure of the Executive Branch, without any consideration for the Legislature, the branch responsible for lawmaking to play its constitutional role. The Commission is therefore calling on the President to utilize the proper and appropriate channel, if he wants to elevate a particular position or use the available legal options.

The Human Rights Commission says while it recognizes the President’s authority to appoint as expressed in Article 54 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, it is also encouraging the President to respect and honor all laws and statutes enacted by the Legislature in accordance with Article 34L of the same constitution. The Commission’s encouragement stems from the backdrop that the President’s authority as stated in the constitutional provision cited above, is not by any means an absolute authority; therefore, it must be exercised with due caution so that the rights, liberties and privileges of others guaranteed by the Liberian Constitution are not wantonly violated. The Commission would like to further emphasize that in democratic societies, even rights have limits. And there are no reasonable exceptions to this salient limitation on the exercise of rights!

The Commission is keen to believe that when President Weah took the Oath of Office on 22 January 2018 and declared to the Liberian people and the world at large that he “Shall Uphold the Constitution of Liberia”, the Commission reasonably infers that he /President Weah signed a promissory note to unconditionally respect the Constitution and all laws of the Republic of Liberia including those which did not personally benefit him or his associates; but to protect the rights, liberties, and privileges of all Liberians irrespective of their origins, beliefs or affiliations , hence, the least the INCHR can demand of the Government is to ensure full respect for the Constitution and the Laws of Liberia in furtherance of societal cohesion and harmony as well as adherence to international norms.

The Commission is also expressing concerns over the detention and subsequent suspension of Mr. Alfred Cheeks, an employee of the Central Bank of Liberia and a Liberian citizen, who has been deprived of his liberty on national security charges for revealing the travel expense of the President.  The Commission recognizes the Government security priorities, it however does not in any way sees public financial expense disclosure associated with official travels as a genuine security risk and hereby calls upon the Liberian Government to desist from conducting detentions on such vexatious basis; because revelation of how much the president or other Government officials spend on their foreign travels promotes the President’s accountability to the Liberian tax payers. The INCHR therefore condemns the action of the National Security Agency and the Central Bank of Liberia to have arrested and detained Mr. Cheeks on account of said issue. With respect to his suspension, the Commission wants the CBL to ensure that due process is exercised and that violations are actually seen because anything short of that will be a violation of Mr. Cheek’s rights to due process and work.

The Commission’s attention is also been claimed by a recent public announcement attributed to the Liberia Airport Authority which callously calls upon the Armed Forces of Liberia to “Shoot on Sight anyone who attempts to steal any of the navigational equipment within the premises of the RIA”. Again, while the Commission detests theft or sabotage of Government’s and private citizens’ vital assets, this does not in any way justify extrajudicial killing.  The Commission views this statement as reckless and extreme disregard for the value of human life. This statement is unfortunate especially so for a country that is lifting itself from a prolonged civil war. The Commission commends the AFL for distancing itself from such reckless pronouncement and the LAA’s decision to reconsider. However, the INCHR wants the LAA, AFL and all other agents of government to refrain from making thoughtless statements and actions which could undermine the human rights credentials of the country and drive the citizenry into unwarranted submission.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the press, the Commission is also keen to address allusions from some Government’s officials who tend to give preference for employment to members of their parties.  Absolutely, there should be no preference for employment in the Civil Service of Liberia based on one’s political affiliation; hence, any check for political affiliation to secure employment in the civil service of Liberia violates right to equal treatment guaranteed by the Liberian Constitution in Article 18 and is illegal and unfortunate.

Members of the Press, the Commission calls on all former government officials to turn over all government assets provided them while serving or the Ministry of Justice should act.

Fellow Liberians, the Liberian Government should consider it as a priority to protect every Liberian and foreign residents from fear and intimidation especially so members of the opposition. The Commission is reminding the Government that it has a binding duty to protect all persons irrespective of affiliations or persuasions calls upon law enforcement agencies to desist from conducting any arrest that are not consistent with law, but instead strive to treat all persons impartially. The Commission is consequently calling on the State through the office of the Attorney General to consider the communication of Mr. Dionysius Sebwe of March 1, 2018 and speedily conduct an investigation to determine to what extent his allegations against the Liberia National Police and Minister Nathaniel F. McGill are true and if so apply the remedies available.

On account of the state financial standings and budgeting processes, the Commission is reminding all that the National Budget is a law that should only be tempered with through the law making procedures. On this note, the government is urged to utilize the budgetary process to ensure that its development and governance agenda is funded. However, the INCHR wants the President to order a complete audit of the former government to finally bring to a close the debate surrounding the Country’s financial status. In addition, the President must ensure that financial propriety and accountability are the hallmark of his administration. By so doing, the Human Rights Commission wants the President and his corps of officers (all public officials) to declare their assets as the first step toward accountability.

Finally, the Commission wishes to advise the Government to pay special attention on Liberia’s ranking in major governance and development indices such as the Corruption Perception Index, the Africa Barometer, Amnesty International, and UNDP Human Development Index among others and make firm determination to address areas that Liberia lags behind.

The Commission calls on all including Civil Society, the media, donors and international partners to give these concerns the ultimate attention that they so deserve!

Human rights: our imperative to respect and protect.

Done and issued on this 26th day of March 2018 with the mandate of the Board of Commissioners.

Signed: ____________________________

Rev. Bartholomew B. Colley (Atty)

Acting Chairperson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *