Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1991

Throughout 1991 Liberia remained a nation divided into two
parts and three armed camps as a result of the war . The
Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), headed by
President Amos Sawyer, represented a broad range of political
views, but it exercised administration over only Monrovia and
its immediate environs. About 50 percent of the total
population in Liberia resided in this area which is totally
within the defensive perimeter of the Economic Community of
West African States' (ECOWAS) Cease-fire Monitoring Group
(ECOMOG) . The National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly
Government (NPRAG) , based on and supported by the National
Patriotic Forces of Liberia (NPFL), led by Charles Taylor,
exercised political sway throughout the remaining 90 percent of
the country. The two other former warring parties, the
Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), led by
Prince Johnson, and the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were
encamped in Monrovia. Both INPFL and AFL factions, while
monitored by ECOMOG, retained arms within their respective
camps, and the INPFL sometimes acted independently. Johnson on
several occasions killed a number of people, most of them
members of his force.
The economy, based primarily on iron ore, rubber, and timber,
was ravaged by the civil war. Gross domestic product for 1991
was no more than 25 percent of prewar levels. U.S. and other
Western relief agencies and nongovernmental organizations
initiated massive emergency operations in late 1990 to prevent
widespread starvation in both parts of the country. Those
operations continued through 1991.
When compared to the appalling civil war conditions of 1990,
there was some improvement in the human rights situation in
1991, especially in the Monrovia area controlled by ECOMOG
forces. However, the Interim Government's authority was
limited, and all Liberian military forces committed serious
human rights violations in 1991, including summary executions.
The NPFL in particular detained several thousand West Africans
throughout much of 1991, and NPFL soldiers reportedly killed
many Krahn residents of Grand Gedeh in midyear.
As a police force had only begun to be reconstituted in 1991,
and only in Monrovia, and most of them remained unarmed, ECOMOG
assumed this function to a large extent in Monrovia. The NPFL
policed the territory vinder its control, and, to a large
extent, both the INPFL and AFL carried out this function within
their camps. Soldiers from the warring factions regularly
abused their position by m.istreating civilians, usually in
attempts to extort money and goods. Despite the continuing
unstable security situation, there was some hope at year's end
for a political solution following peace initiatives conducted
by West African nations which led to general agreement on the
need for free, internationally supervised elections in 1992.
Implementation of the agreements is not assured. At the end of
1991, it was estimated that as many as 20,000 to 30,000
Liberians may have died in the conflict and approximately
600,000 more were refugees in neighboring countries.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Indiscriminate killings declined sharply from the previous
year, although many incidents continued to be reported (see
Section l.g.). Prince Johnson, the leader of the INPFL, was
believed responsible for the killing in July of several
soldiers of his own movement, including senior Commando Moses
Varney. The INPFL Leader maintained that the soldiers had been
tried under internal procedures and executed when found
guilty. No details of the trials were made public. The IGNU
condemned the killings. Johnson was also reportedly
responsible for killing some civilians in September, but no
action was taken against him as a consequence.
According to two Liber ian religious leaders, NPFL soldiers
killed 20 Ghanaians in Since county in mid-February, and in
July several Ghanaian women from Fanti fishing communities
informed an international organization's representative in Cote
d'lvoire that the NPFL had killed their husbands. These
reported killings continued a pattern from the previous year
when NPFL followers allegedly killed Ghanaians and other West
Africans in retribution for their respective nations' role in
the conflict (see Section l.b. and l.d.).
NPFL Leader Charles Taylor reportedly ordered several NPFL
members executed following an aborted coup attempt in late
August. While Taylor publicly denied there had been a coup
attempt, he acknowledged that an NPFL officer had been
executed, ostensibly for killing five NPFL soldiers. According
to Monrovia's media, which claimed to have interviewed ex-NPFL
soldiers following the failed coup, up to 75 NPFL members were
executed (see also Section l.g.).
      b. Disappearance
Disappearances were much less common in 1991 than in 1990, but
little new information surfaced about persons missing as a
result of the war. Many families remained divided among those
living in Monrovia, those in NPFL areas, and those who fled
Liberia and have not returned. Although there were many
returnees during the year, movement between Monrovia and the
NPFL areas was very difficult for most people. The
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) began a family
tracer program but located only about 30 percent of the missing
persons brought to its attention.
According to a Liberian religious leader, several Ghanaian
children disappeared in March in Buchanan following a visit by
ECOMOG intended to build confidence between it and the NPFL.
The Ghanaian children warmly welcomed ECOMOG vehicles, some
manned by Ghanaian soldiers. This affectionate display was
said to have enraged some NPFL soldiers who were believed
responsible for the children's disappearance shortly
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
During the height of the civil war, many members of the three
warring factions rampantly indulged in acts of inhumanity.
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Abuses in 1991 declined sharply but cases of inhuman treatment
continued. The most widely pub cized incident occurred in
February when INPFL forces infl Jted inhuman treatment on nine
members of the IGNU, including a cabinet minister-designate and
several members of the Interim Legislative Assembly. They were
stripped and flogged, and one was forced to sit in a mound of
driver ants while einother was made to. lick feces. Under
pressure from ECOMOG, the ICRC, and the Interim Government,
INPFL Leader Johnson released the detainees, excusing his
actions as necessary to call attention to alleged ECOMOG abuse
of INPFL soldiers.
Prior to the 1989 civil war, conditions in the nation's jails
were inhuman and hazardous to life and health. Prisoners were
often denied access to family and medical care; cells were
small, crowded, and filthy. Conditions at the notorious
maximum security facility at Belle Yella had long been of
During 1991 none of Liberia's prewar prisons were believed to
be still functioning, although the IGNU was reported to be
refurbishing one in Monrovia. NPFL Leader Charles Taylor
announced in March that the Belle Yella Prison would be
closed. He directed that its remaining prisoners be
transferred to their respective counties for retrial. There
was no information about the results of the transfer order.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
There were few juridical protections to prevent arbitrary
arrest, even in the ECOMOG-controlled areas, as the INPFL
detention and abuse of nine Interim Government members for 3
days in February demonstrated (Section I.e.). In theory the
1985 Constitution provides specific legal safeguards for the
rights of the accused, including warrants for arrests and the
right of detainees to be charged or released within 48 hours.
Even before the civil war, these rights were freqpjently
violated, particularly in cases allegedly involving national
security. The Interim President repeatedly affirmed that his
Government would respect the 1985 Constitution and its
procedural safeguards, and in practice attempted to do so. In
late 1990, the IGNU outlawed the use of military stockades for
detaining civilians, a practice common under the previous
Early in 1991, undisciplined elements of the AFL on occasion
detained and threatened civilians deemed to be "rebel
sympathizers." After AFL commanders called for greater
discipline and in July formed a Ij.oard of inquiry to investigate
citizens' complaints of abuse, tnere appeared to have been some
lessening of AFL abuses.
NPFL forces detained up to 4,000 West African nationals,
primarily Nigerians and Ghanaians, behind NPFL lines during
much of 1991. The NPFL forces viewed the West Africans as
enemies and reportedly executed many in reprisal against
ECOMOG, which fought the NPFL in October-November 1990. In
March NPFL Leader Charles Taylor "released" the West Africans
from the detention camps but prohibited them from traveling to
Monrovia or crossing into neighboring countries. Approximately
300 to 500 Nigerians as well as a number of Ghanaians
eventually managed to make their way in small groups to
Monrovia. In late August, the NPFL announced "the first phase
of the repatriation process" for West Africans and allowed over
100 Nigerians to cross safely into Cote d'lvoire. The ICRC
assisted in the repatriation, and the Nigerians were followed
by several other groups, including Ghanaians and other West
Following the September incursion by anti-NPFL Liberians into
western Liberia from Sierra Leone after an earlier NPFL
invasion into Sierra Leone, the NPFL forcibly detained 4
Western and 35 Liberian relief personnel working in the area,
accusing them of being "spies." In response the U.N. and
nongovernmental relief agencies suspended all relief operations
in NPFL areas until the detainees were freed. While the 4
Western nationals were released 2 days later, the 35 Liberians
were held for another 8 days.
A number of other foreigners were detained by the NPFL for
varying periods; all were eventually released.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The structure of Liberia's legal system is closely modeled on
that of the United States, with the Supreme Court at its apex.
In practice before the civil war, the system afforded little
protection for defendants due to corruption among court
officials, lack of training, and inordinate executive
interference. By mid-1990, the system had completely collapsed
along with the rest of civil authority, with justice in the
hands of military commanders of the warring factions. Many
public records in Monrovia, including those of the courts,
churches, and schools were looted and badly damaged during the
civil war. The registrar of public records estimated that over
80 percent of national record holdings were damaged, and 30 to
40 percent destroyed.
The IGNU began in 1991 slowly to reconstitute the court
system. Early in the year, it reestablished several
magistrate's courts in Monrovia, and in September swore new
circuit court judges into office. The IGNU, in an
unprecedented move, asked the Bar Association to recommend
candidates for judgeships. At the end of September, following
new West African peace initiatives, the IGNU and NPFL agreed
upon the composition of a five-member ad hoc Supreme Court.
The Court's stated purpose is to adjudicate electoral disputes,
but the full scope of its jurisdiction is still undecided. At
the end of the year, the Court had not yet been inaugurated.
In the areas under NPFL control, legal and judicial protections
were almost totally lacking. There were reports that the
authorities imposed capital punishment for armed thefts.
Another report said the NPFL executed suspected murderers after
"tribunal trials in life-for-life retributive justice."
Another source reported that armed robbery was discouraged in
NPFL areas because "the death penalty is automatic."
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Serious abuses of privacy by soldiers of all three forces
continued in 1991 although not on the scale of 1990. AFL
soldiers committed many armed robberies in the downtown
Monrovia area, including seizure of several vehicles assigned
to Interim Legislative Assembly members. They also illegally
occupied some private homes. The AFL brigade commander
publicly requested citizens to report abuses by AFL soldiers to
the proper authorities and ordered soldiers to respect the
rights of civilians but with only marginal effect. Only when
ECOMOG increased its patrols in downtown areas at midyear did
the situation improve somewhat, but abuses continued throughout
the year.
The situation was worse in NPFL-held areas. According to
Liberians who returned to Monrovia from Lofa County, NPFL
soldiers regularly demanded food and personal possessions from
village residents and often robbed and abused citizens. To
escape the harassment, many Liberians moved their families to
remote areas. Soldiers assigned to checkpoints demanded money
and goods for passage, from both Liberians and expatriate
relief workers.
      g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
Following the November 1990 cease-fire, fighting between the
three warring factions and the use of excessive force against
civilians sharply declined but did not end.
Perhaps the largest number of deaths occurred between July and
August when the NPFL moved through Grand Gedeh County.
According to survivors interviewed by the Western media and
human rights groups in Cote d'lvoire, as many as 1,500 people,
mostly of the Krahn ethnic group of former president Samuel
Doe, may have died. Others interviewed stated that the NPFL
entered their villages shooting indiscriminately. Independent
observers who visited the area confirmed that entire villages
were destroyed and that many inhabitants had fled into the bush.
There were many other instances of the use of excessive force
and violations of humanitarian law during the year. In January
over 1,000 new refugees, mostly Krahn, fled to refugee camps in
Tai, Cote d'lvoire. They reported that the NPFL was conducting
secret killings, raping women, looting homes, and stealing
cattle. In July-August, approximately 10,000 people, mostly
Krahns, fled across the border to Cote d'lvoire reporting that
the NPFL had attacked their villages, indiscriminately killing
men, women, and children. Independent observers reported
seeing jailed Krahns in chains.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
There was increased freedom of speech and press in 1991,
especially in Monrovia. However, people still had to be
careful in criticizing the various factions. Although NPFL
leader Charles Taylor affirmed publicly on several occasions
that his government supported free speech and criticism, both
Liberians and expatriates have been detained by his supporters
for comments made about the NPFL.
There was no press censorship in Monrovia, and the number of
newspapers in Monrovia grew rapidly, with as many as 13
separate newspapers reflecting a variety of opinion being
published at different times in 1991. A shortage of newsprint,
however, reduced this number by the end of the year. Unlike
the previous Doe regime, the Interim Government did not publish
its own newspaper. The INPFL sponsored a newspaper. The
Scorpion, with articles highly favorable to Prince Johnson and
the INPFL. The NPFL printed a monthly newspaper. The Patriot,
which was also sold in Monrovia but which stopped publication
late in the year. In December two newspapers describing
themselves as independent appeared in Gbarnga, capital of
NPFL-controlled territory.
Press freedom was not complete even in Monrovia. For example,
ECOMOG reacted negatively to an article published in May by The
Inquirer which alleged complicity by the ECOMOG field commander
with a reputed arms merchant. The editor was briefly detained
and asked to reveal the source of his information, which he
refused to do. As a result of this incident, the Interim
Government publicly called upon the press to be more
responsible in its reporting. This, in turn, was publicly
criticized by the Press Union of Liberia which claimed it had
"an intimidating" effect on the press.
The Interim Government supported a shortwave radio station
(ELBC), and its broadcasts from Monrovia were heard across most
of the country. ELBC news reports were generally favorable to
the IGNU. The Catholic Church-operated FM radio station,
previously shut down by the Doe Government, resumed operations
in May. The NPFL operated three radio and two television
stations in its areas. NPFL news programs supported Charles
Taylor and the NPFL, while discussing economic and social
problems in NPFL territory. The NPFL's FM station, part of
whose appeal is the current American music it broadcasts,
acquired increased power in October and can now be heard by the
majority of Liber ians, including those in Monrovia.
When Monrovian journalists accompanied ECOMOG in May to the
opening of the MPFL's legislative assembly in Gbarnga, a senior
NPFL military leader, who later was appointed its chief of
staff, attempted to detain two reporters and confiscate their
equipment for having interviewed local residents. He also
attempted to arrest a Monrovia radio reporter for "treason" for
having broadcast news about Interim President Sawyer. ECOMOG
press officers intervened to prevent the arrest.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
In 1991 political parties and other groups in Monrovia were
able to organize and to hold public meetings. New political
organizations appeared, including the True Whig Party which
Samuel Doe had outlawed shortly after seizing power in 1980.
Under IGNU sponsorship, a coalition of organizations held a
mass rally in August attended by up to 5,000 people to show
public support for the ECOMOG peacekeeping effort.
Freedom of assembly and association was generally more
restrictive in NPFL areas than in Monrovia. For instance, none
of the prewar political parties were known to have reorganized
or to have held public meetings during 1991 in NPFL areas.
According to Western and Monrovian press reporters on the
scene, some Liberians in NPFL areas who greeted ECOMOG soldiers
during the initial confidence-building visits in March with
chants of "we want Taylor," later spontaneously broke out into
chants of "we want peace" and "we want ECOMOG." Some reporters
stated that the people had been forced to assemble and chant
pro-NPFL slogans and that many were later punished for their
praise of ECOMOG. One Western news service reported five
people died from NPFL beatings following ECOMOG visits to
Kakata and Buchanan. However, NPFL justice minister Laveli
Supuwood dismissed the reports as "malicious."
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      c. Freedom of Religion
The 1985 Constitution states that freedom of religion is a
fxindamental right of all Liberian citizens, and in practice
there are no restrictions in Monrovia on freedom of worship.
There is no established state religion. Christianity has long
been the religion of the political and economic elite, while
the majority of the rural population continues to follow
traditional religions. Muslims account for about 20 percent of
the population. Mandingos, who are predominantly Muslim, were
targeted during the civil war by the NPFL as being pro-Doe, and
most mosques were closed in NPFL territory during the war.
However, other Liberian Muslims did not receive the same
treatment, and the action against the Mandingos was based
primarily on ethnic/political considerations rather than an
effort to repress religious freedom.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
While the Constitution provides every person the right to move
freely throughout Liberia and to leave or enter the country at
will, the previous Doe regime required exit visas for those
wishing to leave the country, and it maintained a "black list"
of those who were not permitted to depart. The Interim
Government announced in March that it was abolishing this
"xinconstitutional" policy.
Throughout the year reuniting families and returning displaced
persons were hampered by NPFL checkpoints, which made travel
very difficult on roads in and out of Monrovia. The NPFL
required employees of the various international relief agencies
to have passes approved monthly. In spite of difficulties,
many Liber ians transited the lines, often by paying bribes or
using guile to reach ECOMOG- controlled areas. During the
period April-September, nearly 60,000 moved to Monrovia through
these means.
Because of civil war abuses, approximately 600,000 Liber ians,
about 20 percent of the prewar population, remained as refugees
in nearby countries, mostly in Cote D'lvoire and Guinea.
Smaller numbers are in Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Following the NPFL incursion into Sierra Leone in March, the
125,000 Liberians who had originally sought refuge near the
border in Sierra Leone were forced to flee to safer areas in
that country, or to Guinea or NPFL-held territory in Liberia.
Many who reached Sierra Leone's capital subsec[uently returned
to Monrovia by ship. Some refugees have also repatriated to
Liberia from Guinea, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, and Nigeria. The
NPFL incursion also put Sierra Leonians to flight, and a
reported 12,000 sought refuge inside Liberia near the border at
Cape Mount.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Despite constitutional and legal guarantees of free and fair
elections, Liberians could not exercise their right to change
their government in 1991. However, there was limited progress
in the search for new political formulas to restore unity under
popularly elected leadership. In March-April, a second
All-Liberia Conference (ALC) occurred in Monrovia (the first
was held in August 1990 in The Gambia). The NPFL initially i
participated, but later withdrew. The second ALC created a new
Interim Legislative Assembly (ILA) . The six political parties
and the NPFL selected representatives according to their own
internal procedures, while the county representatives were
selected informally from among members of the respective
communities resident in Monrovia. Two seats were also allotted
to the country's 18 registered interest groups, and filled by
leaders from the Teachers' Association and the Trade Union
Federation. In August the IMPEL representatives resigned from
the ILA after their leader. Prince Johnson, withdrew his
support for the Interim Government. (The NPFL maintained its
separate legislature. The National Patriotic Reconstruction
Assembly, in Gbarnga.) The second ALC reaffirmed through a
more widely based conference the interim administration which
had resulted from the first ALC at Banjul. The IGNU is a
relatively broad-based government with representation from the
major political parties. Amos Sawyer was originally chosen
President by the participants at the first ALC, and he was
reaffirmed in that office by the participants in the second ALC.
Neither the legislature in Monrovia nor that in Gbarnga was
truly representative. However, the ILA in Monrovia purported
to function as a separate branch of government and both
confirmed and rejected IGNU appointees following public
confirmation hearings. It also subpoenaed members of the
executive to explain the actions of the Interim Government. In
contrast, the NPFL legislature was generally viewed as
subservient to NPFL leadership views.
Following a new series of peace initiatives during the second
half of 1991, conducted by the heads of numerous West African
nations in Yamoussoukro, Cote d'lvoire, the Interim Government
in Monrovia and the NPFL in Gbarnga agreed to hold free and
fair elections which, if the process continued, were expected
to take place during the first half of 1992. Under the
Yamoussoukro formula, the three warring factions would encamp
and disarm their military forces under ECOMOG supervision.
Subsequently an elections commission and an ad hoc Supreme
Court were established by IGNU and the NPFL, and the members
were appointed by mutual agreement. The electoral commission
held its first meeting on December 31 and was formally sworn in
several days later. By year's end, the ad hoc Supreme Court
had not yet met.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights.
On numerous occasions. Interim Government President Sawyer
declared the IGNU's commitment to human rights. Two fledgling
human rights groups formed in 1991 and conducted public
meetings and other activities. One issued the first of what it
hopes will become a regular publication on human rights. The
attitude of the NPFL government was not clear. Its conduct to
date has been less than exemplary. One human rights
organizations based in NPFL territory was established in 1991.
In August a representative of Africa Watch visited Monrovia and
later successfully traveled to NPFL areas. However, a
delegation of the New York-based Lawyers' Committee on Human
Rights, which also visited Monrovia in August, did not go to
NPFL areas because an NPFL escort failed to meet the delegates
as previously arranged.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status.
The roots of the civil conflict can be found in the historical
division between the Americo-Liberians, who for over 150 years
dominated the political, economic, and cultural life of the
country, and the ethnic groups in the interior. The latter
frec[uently complained of government discrimination in many
areas, such as access to education and civil service jobs and
to infrastructure development. The coup mounted by Sergeant
Doe and other noncommissioned officers in 1980 was seen as a
revolution, with the interior groups taking power from the
Americo-Liberian elites. However, Doe's authoritarian,
military-based regime exacerbated ethnic tensions while
subverting the democratic reform process, exemplified in the
1985 Constitution, through rigged elections. During the Doe
regime, resentment grew over domination by, and government
favoritism toward, his tribe, the Krahns.
The 1985 Constitution prohibited discrimination based on ethnic
background, race, sex, creed, place of origin or political
opinion. However, it also provides that only "persons who are
Negroes or of Negro descent" may be citizens or own land,
denying full rights to many who have lived their lives in
Liberia. There was no indication that this prohibition had
been relaxed by either Monrovia's Interim Government or
Gbarnga ' s NPFL government.
The status of women in Liberian society varies by region, with
women holding some skilled jobs, including cabinet-level
positions, in both the IGNU and NPFL Governments. In urban
areas and along the coast, women can inherit land and
property. In rural areas, where traditional customs are
stronger, a woman is normally considered the property of her
husband and his clan and is not usually entitled to inherit
from her husband. Women in rural areas are responsible for
much of the farm labor and have had only limited access to
education. According to a recent U.N. study, females in
Liberia receive only about 28 percent of the schooling given to
males. In the massive violence inflicted on civilians during,
the conflict, women have suffered the gamut of abuses,
especially rape. Even prior to the war, domestic violence
against women was extensive but never seriously addressed by
the Government or women's groups as an issue. There were no
statistics on domestic violence against women, but it was
considered to be fairly common. Female circumcision was, and
almost certainly still is, widely practiced in rural areas.
During the height of the civil war, a person's language was
used to identify him or her by ethnic group. Those from groups
considered hostile frequently were summarily executed. The
cease-fire in late 1990 stopped most of these abuses. However,
NPFL reprisals against the Krahn, particularly in Grand Gedeh,
continued well into 1991 (see Section l.g.).
 Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
The Constitution states that workers have the right to
associate in trade unions. Over 20 trade unions were
registered with the Ministry of Labor before the civil war,
representing roughly 15 percent of the work force in the wage
economy. Ten national unions were members of the Liberian
Federation of Labor Unions (LFLU) . However, the actual power
these unions exercised was limited. The previous government
did not recognize the right of civil servants or employees of
public corporations to unionize or strike. Like virtually all
other organized activity in the country, unions disappeared
during the height of the war in mid-1990, and union activity
remained limited in 1991. While some large-scale operations
involving rubber and other extractive industries partially
resumed in NPFL areas, it is not known if union activity
associated with these industries resumed.
In April 1990, the U.S. Trade Representative announced that
Liberia's status as a beneficiary of trade preferences under
the Generalized System of Preferences program had been
suspended as a result of the Doe government's failure to take
steps to provide internationally recognized worker rights. The
suspension remained in effect throughout 1991.
Labor unions have traditionally affiliated with international
labor' groups.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
In 1991 workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively
were moot because of the lack of economic enterprise,
especially in Monrovia where only a few businesses resumed
operations, usually with reduced staffing. With the important
exception of civil servants and employees of public
corporations, prior to the civil war workers enjoyed the right
to organize and bargain collectively. Labor laws had the same
force in Liberia's one export processing zone as in the rest of
the country.
The 1991 report of the Committee of Experts (COE) of the
International Labor Organization (ILO) reiterated that Liberian
labor legislation fails to provide workers adequate protection
against discrimination and reprisals for union activity, fails
to protect workers' organizations against outside interference,
and does not give eligible workers in the public sector the
opportunity to bargain collectively.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution prohibits forced labor, but even before the
civil war this prohibition was widely ignored in rural areas,
where farmers were pressured into providing free labor on
"community projects" which often benefited only local leaders.
Forced labor was used by some or all of the warring factions
during the civil war, especially for moving equipment and
supplies. Some vestiges persisted in 1991; for example, a
local newspaper reported that following the incursion into
Sierra Leone in March, the NPFL used forced labor in Lofa
County to move supplies to the border. According to the same
source, forced labor was also used to clean up several major
towns in Lofa County. There was at least one report of the
NPFL forcing local villagers to set up a communal farm to feed
its soldiers, also in Lofa County.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Under the Doe government, the law prohibited employment of
children under age 16 during school hours in the wage sector.
Enforcement by the Ministry of Labor, however, was very
limited. Even before the civil war, small children continued
to assist their parents as vendors in local markets and on
family subsistence farms. During the conflict, the NPFL and
INPFL recruited young children, some less than 12 years of age,
as soldiers. Many of these children had been orphaned during
the war. While some children remained under arms, neither
group was believed to have recruited additional children as
soldiers in 1991.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The labor law provides for a minimum wage, paid leave,
severance benefits, and safety standards. Before the economy
collapsed, the legal minimum wage varied according to
profession but still did not provide a decent standard of
living for a worker and his family and had to be supplemented
by other sources of income, including subsistence farming.
There had also been health and safety standards, in theory
enforced by the Ministry of Labor. In view of the low level of
economic activity in divided Liberia during 1991, these various
regulations were not adhered to by many employers, and there
was no attempt at enforcement.