Amnesty International Report 2017/18 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Liberia

Domestic violence, and sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread. Impunity for human rights violations persisted. Prison conditions did not meet international standards and individuals were frequently held in prolonged pre-trial detention.

Background

Presidential and legislative elections began in October. George Weah, of the Congress for Democratic Change party, was elected as President on 26 December and was expected to take up his position in January 2018.

The practice of placing government schools under the control of a private company limited children’s access to adequate education, a concern raised in 2016 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education.

Impunity

Most of the 2009 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were yet to be implemented, including a recommendation to establish a criminal tribunal to prosecute crimes under international law, and measures aimed at obtaining accountability and reparation for victims. The Commission was established following human rights violations and abuses carried out during the 14-year civil war which ended in 2003.

No one had been prosecuted in Liberia for human rights violations committed during the civil war. However, Mohammed Jabbateh was convicted of perjury and immigration fraud in the USA, in relation to his role in alleged war crimes. Investigations also continued in Switzerland and Belgium into alleged war crimes committed by Alieu Kosiah and Martina Johnson – commanders in rebel groups − who were arrested in Switzerland and Belgium respectively, in 2014.

Detention

Prisons continued to be overcrowded, partly because hundreds of people were held in prolonged pre-trial detention. Detainees had inadequate access to medical care and recreational facilities. In June, an inmate became pregnant by a male prisoner at Tubmanburg Central Prison after she was coerced into sex. The incident was facilitated by prison officers who then took her to have an abortion without her consent. Following an investigation, several prison officers were dismissed; however, none of them were known to have been prosecuted.

Freedom of expression

A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to decriminalize press offences, particularly related to libel. It remained pending at the end of the year.

Right to education

In August, 174 national and international organizations called on investors to stop supporting Bridge International Academies, a private company that runs 25 schools in Liberia and other African countries. Earlier, in March, the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education highlighted concerns about the company’s practices such as capping classroom numbers in government schools, a practice that left children without access to a local school. The running of these schools had been outsourced to the Bridge International Academies in 2016.

Women’s rights

Domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls, including practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriage remained widespread. Impunity for rape and other forms of violence against women remained prevalent. However, a domestic violence bill was passed by the legislature in July and was awaiting the President’s signature at the end of the year. The government, the UN and development partners continued to invest in sexual and gender-based violence units, located in police stations and government ministries to investigate sexual abuse and violence, as well as a specialized court to deal with such crimes in Montserrado County in the northwest. The authorities continued to run 12 one-stop centres in seven counties which offered medical and support services to survivors of sexual violence.

Affordable and accessible abortion services continued to be largely unavailable to rape survivors, despite legislation allowing for abortion in sexual violence cases where the attack is recorded with the police and authorization given by two medical professionals. Unsafe abortions continued to contribute to Liberia having one of highest rates of maternal deaths and injuries in Africa.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

LGBTI people experienced discrimination, harassment and threats. The Penal Code criminalized consensual sexual activity between same-sex adults. A man arrested in June 2012 on allegations of “voluntary sodomy” remained in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison at the end of the year.