UN Human Rights Regional Director Rallies for Joint Effort To Build National Human Rights Protection System in Liberia

Monrovia – The visiting Chief of Africa Branch of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), Maarit Kohonen Sheriff has called for a collaboration between the Government of Liberia and civil society organizations to build a national human rights protection system to boost Liberia’s commitment to implementing its human right obligations. 

Madam Sheriff said building a national human rights protection system entails a society that is resilient, representative and inclusive. She said it also called for the strengthening of the justice system for the promotion of justice and rule of law; as well as the promotion of a vibrant media and freedom of speech and of the press.

The UN Human Rights’ Regional Director made the called when she paid a courtesy visit to Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf while in Liberia.

Earlier, Minister Sirleaf, flanked by his principal deputies, welcome Madam Sheriff and delegation and pledged the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ commitment to working with the UN Human Rights Office in Liberia, the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHCR), intergovernmental agencies and the civil society to promote reconciliation, social cohesion and the respect for the rule of law.

Speaking further, he also said the Ministry has worked collaboratively with chiefs and traditional leaders to place a ban on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons is still practice in Liberia.

Minister Sirleaf told the visiting UN Human Rights’ official that the campaign against the practice, which has been a taboo to discuss publicly is now gaining momentum and making progress due to joint efforts of civil society activists, the Government of Liberia, traditional leaders, development agencies and the media. These collaborative efforts, he noted, are gradually making a difference to phase out this traditional harmful practice.

“We work with the chiefs and elders to deal with the FGM issues. Sometimes it can be political, but we have reached to a point where we can now discuss it. At east that is an achievement because at first that was not happening,” Minister Sirleaf said.

He also revealed that the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the UN Human Rights Office in Liberia had planned to memorialize several mass graves that were recorded by the defunct Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), but the plan was not actualized due to the COVID-19 disruption. He expressed hope that the Ministry and the OHCHR will relaunch the project.

In Response, the UN Human Rights Regional Director lauded the progress made so far and pledged the UN Human Rights Office in Liberia’s collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

She lauded the Government of Liberia for promoting a tolerant society and its commitment to work with the UN and CSOs to address some human rights violations taking place in Liberia; something she said is not happening in many countries.

She said: “Liberia is a country of opportunity for human rights. It is not that there are no violations. There are human rights violations like any other country but the government is willing to talk about them. It is willing to allow people to talk about them without any reprisal and it is willing to take action.”

She continued: “The Minister referred to many commitments and the political willingness of the government to address human rights. And it may sound normal but in many countries it is not the case.  We don’t have that opportunity to easily engage, to have asset and to be working in partnership and to support the government and the civil society in meeting human rights obligation.”

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