“Liberian Gov’t Remains Adamant On Mysterious Disappearances, Deaths” – Says U.S. State Department Report

In its 2022 human rights report, the U.S. State Department quoting Liberia’s Independent National Commission On Human Rights (INCHR) said ‘There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities, but the INCHR reported the government did not address most human rights concerns, including those linked to past unresolved disappearances, thus instilling public fear and curtailing various freedoms.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were credible reports, that government officials employed some of them. The law provides criminal penalties for excessive use of force by law enforcement officers and addresses permissible uses of force during arrest or while preventing the escape of a prisoner from custody. An armed forces disciplinary board investigates alleged misconduct and abuses by military personnel. The armed forces administer non-judicial punishment.

The U.S. State Department also said, there were reports that government authorities physically abused peaceful civilians, including persons in custody or seeking protection. Recounting that on January 6, a Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency officer allegedly beat a criminal suspect who had allegedly stolen the officer’s mobile telephone. The matter was still under investigation at year’s end.

On March 29, the Ministry of Justice dismissed four senior LNP officers – Deputy Commander Amos Williams, Inspector Otis Wallace, Sergeant George Wleh, and Humphrey Karhn – for allegedly beating civilians in Monrovia. There were also reports of rape and sexual abuse by government agents.

LNP Officer Lydia Garga Flomo alleged in a February 7 radio interview that she was raped by Deputy Police Commissioner Joshua During in late 2021 in his office at LNP headquarters. After a lengthy investigation, during which he was suspended from duty, he was reinstated in his position.

In May, the Ministry of Justice agreed to prosecute During after the INCHR successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to compel his prosecution. At year’s end, there was no action on the Supreme Court’s order to proceed with the case. Harper City Solicitor Thomas Togba Kun was arrested and charged for a May 6 sexual assault of a woman law client. His trial was pending at year’s end (see also section 6, Women, Rape and Domestic Violence). In the report, the U.S. State Department noted that impunity in Liberia was a significant problem in the security forces.

Allegations of police harassment or abuse are referred to the LNP Professional Standards Division for investigation. The Civilian Complaint Review Board, which includes representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), is empowered by law to review complaints against the LNP and Immigration Service. Observers stated some security force members believed they were above the law and were aided by a judicial system that rarely convicted and punished abusive officers.

The report also said the Liberian Government provided some training to increase respect for human rights by the security forces. On the issue of arbitrary arrest or detention, the report noted that the government did not always observe these prohibitions and rights. On the arrest procedures and treatment of detainees, noting that arrests are often were made without judicial authorization, and warrants were sometimes issued without sufficient evidence.

The report also recounted that there were media reports that security forces made arbitrary arrests. For example, on February 1, opposition political figure Isaac Vah Tukpah, Jr. was reportedly detained by immigration officials at the border with Sierra Leone, even though he had not been charged with any crime and no warrant for his arrest had been issued.

Tukpah was released the next day without charge and fled the country soon thereafter, reportedly after receiving death threats. Pretrial Detention: Although the law provides for a defendant to receive an expeditious trial, lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem. As of October 31, pretrial detainees comprised approximately 70 percent of the prison population across the country and 80 percent in the MCP. In some cases, the length of pretrial detention equaled or exceeded the maximum length of sentence that could be imposed for the alleged crime.

The use of detention as a punitive measure, failure to issue indictments in a timely manner, lack of a functioning bail system, poor court recordkeeping, failure of judges to assign court dates, ineffective assistance of defense counsel, and a lack of resources for public defenders all contributed to prolonged pretrial detention. With UNICEF support and in coordination with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, the Ministry of Justice worked to remove children from the criminal justice system. As of September 30, 154 children were removed from detention and another 396 cases were mediated under a juvenile diversion.

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