STATEMENT of COMPLIANCE with THE PARIS PRINCIPLES of THE [INDEPENDENT NATIONAL COMMISSION on HUMAN RIGHTS (INCHR)]
December 18, 2016
The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) was formally established by an Act of the National Legislature of the Republic of Liberia on September 9, 2005, as a national human rights institution responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights in Liberia. Although not a constitutional Commission, Chapter III of the Liberian Constitution captioned Fundamental Rights is devoted to the protection of universal human rights of all Liberians and residents of Liberia. Consistent with Article II (2) of the INCHR Act, by operation of law, the INCHR has a mandate to establish and maintain regional and county offices in such number as it may deem necessary within the Republic of Liberia and close and terminate any of them, and thereafter reopen and reactivate them according to its requirement. In fulfilment of this provision, the INCHR is headquartered in Monrovia and has deployed Human Rights Monitors across Liberia. Below is the full list of INCHR presence across Liberia:
|County||Location of Office||Number of Staff|
|Montserrado County||Monrovia (Headquarter)||7 commissioners, 1 Executive Director, 5 Department heads, 7 human rights monitors, 1 human rights investigator, and several other technical and support staff|
|Margibi County||Kakata||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|Bong County||Gbarnga||2 County Human Rights Monitors|
|Lofa County||Voinjama||2 County Human Rights Monitors|
|Bomi County||Tubmanburg||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|Grand Cape County||Robertsport, Tienne||2 County Human Rights Monitor/Education Officer|
|Gbarpolu County||Bopolu||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|Grand Bassa County||Buchanan||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|River Cess County||Cestos City||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|Sinoe County||Greenville||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|Grand Kru County||Barclayville||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|Maryland County||Harper||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|River Gee County||Fish –Town||1 County Human Rights Monitor|
|Grand Gehed County||Zwedru||2 County Human Rights Monitors|
2 County Human Rights Monitors
The INCHR is an autonomous state institution which enjoys enormous independence: its Board of Commissioners and staffs are not under the control of any branch of government, instead, their day to day work is defined by the powers that are conferred on them by the Act. According to Article XIX(9) , “as a policy to ensure accountability, the Commission shall submit detailed quarterly and annual reports on its activities and programs to the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive Branches of Government. The reports shall also be accessible to the public and the international community.” In addition, the Commissioners and other requisite staffs of the Commission have unhindered access to prison and other facilities throughout the country without any prior notice or request from officials. Although funded by the government the INCHR works completely independent and void of interference of the government.
3. Composition, Appointment Process, Tenure:
The BOC of the INCHR is comprised of persons with diverse backgrounds including sex (4 males, 2 females), professional pursuits, geographic origin or ethnicity. As clearly stated in Article IX (6) of the INCHR Act, “the composition of the commissioners thereby appointed shall reflect, the extent possible, the pluralist nature of Liberian society in terms of sex, ethnicity, language, and religion and shall also have the representation of nongovernmental organizations or professional associations involved in the protection and promotion of human rights, or such bodies as universities, the legislature, and other civil society group.” Regarding nomination for membership on the Commission, consistent with Article IX (3) the President of Liberia shall consider only such persons for the purpose of appointment for the position of chairperson or commissioners who are on the list of persons recommended for this purpose by an Independent Committee of Experts formed by the Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia in consultation with the civil society organizations. Article/IX (3), is the guiding principle for the nomination of Commissioners fn the INCHR.
According to the INCHR Act, Articles IX (1), XIII (1), the following positions are listed:
- Six Commissioners including a Vice Chairperson
- The Executive Director, and five Departments namely, The Department of Administration and Budget, The Department of Planning, Internal Monitoring and Evaluation, The Department of Complaints, Investigation and Monitoring, The Department of Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Law, and The Department of Education, Training and Information
- To date, the following positions are filled by the following:
|Chairperson (vacant at the moment)|
|Rev. Bartholomew B. Colley||Male||Vice and Acting Chairperson|
|Mr. Adolphus S. Wade||Male||Oversight Commissioner, Dept. of Administration and Budget|
|Mr. Wilfred N. Gray-Johnson||Male||Oversight Commissioner, Dept. of Planning, Internal Monitoring and Evaluation|
|Atty. Oretha Snyder-Davis||Female||
Oversight Commissioner, Dept. of Complaints,
Investigation and Monitoring
|Mrs. Tonieh A. Talery-Wiles||Female||Oversight Commissioner, Dept. of Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Law|
|Mr. James Torh||Male||Oversight Commissioner, Dept. of Education, Training and Information|
|Mr. Herron Gbidi||Male||Executive Director|
|Mr. Abudul Hamid Kiawen||Male||Director, Dept. of Administration and Budget|
|Mr. Orando Nyanquoi||Male||Director, Dept. of Education, Training and Information|
|Mr. Nathaniel Solo||Male||Director, Department of Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Law|
|Miss. Christo Gorpudolo||Female||Coordinator Complaints Monitoring and Investigation|
|Mr. Bah-Wah brownell||Male||Program Officer / Acting Director Department for Planning, Internal Monitoring and Evaluation|
At present, due to budgetary constraints, two Departments namely the Departments of Internal Monitoring and Evaluation; Complaints, and Investigation and Monitoring do not have directors, but are staffed with technical officers who assist the Commission to fulfil these roles in a significant manner. The Commission as of November 2016 has a total of 89 staff including 6 Commissioners, 44 regular staff, 34 short term contract staff and a project management unit overseeing the national palava hut project with 5 staff. Thus there are a total of 87 staffs on the government payroll.
3.2 Selection and Appointment through a vetting process
The INCHR Act, Article (XX) adequately defines the selection and appointment criteria which are meticulously adhered to, and forms the bases for selection and appointment of commissioners. Apart from the Act, the Panel of Experts consults human rights professionals especially those from the United Nations System and other international organizations who have human rights focus for guidance to ensure international best practices are referenced during the selection and appointment. Regarding transparency, there is adequate publicity about vacant positions and names of shortlisted candidates are published in several national dailies for public scrutiny before such names are submitted to the President for nomination. Although the Act does not have a Black Letter Law definition of transparency, publicity, broad consultation, openness with respect to the appointment and selection procedures of commissioners, in practice, the selection and appointment is replete with transparency, publicity, broad consultation and openness. Diverse stakeholders including civil society, the Legislature, professional bodies, and the Judiciary play critical roles in the selection and appointment process. In addition, philosophical or religious thoughts, and persuasions from diverse groups also play a significant role in the vetting and confirmation processes of commissioners and some commissioners are derived from those organizations. For instance, the commissioners are selected based on an open and transparent vetting system headed by a panel of experts which is primarily a configuration of civil society representatives, professional bodies such as the Liberia National Bar Association, representatives from academia (universities and colleges), Youths represented by the Federation of Liberian Youths, and women organizations. The Independent Committee of Experts (ICE) forward list of selected candidates who meet the selection criteria to the President for nomination to the Liberian Senate (an Upper House of Legislature) may confirm or deny a nominated candidate. Representatives from Government departments are not represented on the INCHR and do not form part of the Commission’s day-to-day work. Although, not explicitly stated in the Act, representation from indigenous, persons with disabilities or religious minority are emphasized in the vacancy announcements for commissioners.
3.3 Guarantee of Tenure
Article XV (1-4) defines the tenure for INCHR commissioners, specifically, Article XV (1), the tenure for the Chairperson is six years and that of the six other Commissioners is five years. The Executive Director also has five year tenure. Per the Act, Commissioners are full-time employees, hence, they are precluded to take up any other employment, additionally, Article XV (4) is emphatic on this subject: a commissioner shall not hold any position incompatible with the proper performance of his/her official duties. Within ten (10) days following his or her appointment and before taking office, he or she must resign from any position incompatible within this section or with the office of Commission; otherwise the nominated person is barred from accepting the appointment.
With respect to the remuneration for commissioners, Article XIX addresses Funding, of the Commission. Article XIX (1) stipulates that “In order to enhance the operational efficiency and independence of the Commission, the Government of Liberia shall ensure its adequate resources to the Commission following consultations with the Legislature, Director General of the Budget and the Commission.
The chairperson and commissioners hold a secure tenure for six and five years respectively. However, if a strong reason for replacement or dismissal is anticipated, Article XIX (1-2) sets the basis for replacement or dismissal of a commissioner. To date, no commissioner has been dismissed. The present commissioners were appointed and started work in March 2016, while the Chairperson, retired at the end of September 2016. There is no advisor body who serve along with the members of the Commission, but the Commission maintains good working relationship with other stakeholders such as the Interfaith Council of Liberia, the National Civil Society Council, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, The Carter Center, amongst other in furtherance of protecting and promoting human rights.
4. Organizational Infrastructure:
The INCHR is comprised of the Board of Commissioners (BOC) (the chairperson, vice chairperson, and five commissioners who have thematic oversights). The Executive Director, as Head of the Secretariat is the Secretary to the BOC. The day to day technical operations of the Commission are executed by directors who are supervised by the Executive Director whilst the BOC focuses on policy formulation. Below is the Commission’s realized organogram reflecting current filled positions as well as anticipated positions. Filled positions are marked blue whilst those envisaged but not yet filled are marked yellow: the commission receives funds from Government to pay special allowances of its commissioners, secretariat’s technical or support staff, goods and services and for the Commission’s facilities.
Although much is desired for the full establishment of the Commission, its Act is written with keen emphasis on provisions that allow it to fully fulfil its mandate; this includes the provisions for adequate financial resources for personnel and facilities that ensures a strong national presence.
INCHR Organizational Chart:
The INCHR is an autonomous independent state institution which enjoys broad powers to hire staff based on its requirements; hence, staffs are hired solely on selection criteria established by the Commission’s Standard Operating Procedures set by the BOC in keeping with international best practices such as equal opportunity for all, competition, and transparency. Apart from the availability of funds, the Commission is not limited by any restriction imposed on it when it comes to employment. There are presently two interns on secondment with Commission from the Liberia Peacebuilding Office, and the Public Procurement Commission; the rest of the staffs working for the Commission are either full employees or contractors hired by the Commission. From Commissioners to Secretariat’s technical or support staff, there is strong reflection of pluralism including backgrounds, gender, ethnicity and religion.
4.3 Premises (accessibility)
The INCHR headquarters is located on the main boulevard in Congo Town, Monrovia. The Commission is housed in a two- storey building well situated for prompt services to the public. The building has enough offices for the BOC, the Secretariat’s five departments as well as a sizeable conference room. The Commission has deployed monitors in all the fifteen counties of Liberia and envisages opening five regional offices and staffing same with coordinators to coordinate 10 county offices also being established. The INCHR is people focused organization, hence, members of the public who wish to utilize the services of the Commission do not have to undergo any formality: all that is required is to make a telephone call or appear in person to speak to officers of the Commission. The building housing the Commission’s principal offices was not specifically designed for the Commission: so there was no special consideration to cater for persons with disability, however, our staffs have been trained to assist disabled persons who intend to visit the Commission. In addition the Department of Complaints Monitoring and Investigation is on the ground floor for easy access to persons with disabilities.
The Commission’s budget is informed by the Revenue Expenditure ceiling set by the Department of Budget, Ministry of Finance & Development Planning based on the GoL Annual Expenditure Plan. Based on the advice and technical guidance from the Department of Revenue aforementioned, the Commission’s Budget Committee then consults all departments and advises them to structure their planned expenditures in accordance with the set budget ceiling. The Board of Commissioners then reviews the budget and submits same to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning which then reviews, makes adjustments and finally submits it/budget to the Legislature for approval. The Government of Liberia allocated from its Fiscal Budget a total of US$7,130,916.00 over the last five years 2010 – 2016, while it is projected that for the period 2016 – 2021 the Government will contribute US$8,117,700.00 which constitutes at least 55.8% of the US$14,838,740 million projected for the operations and programs of the Commissioner for the next five years as detailed in the chapter on costing and resource mobilization plan in the INCHR Strategic Plan. This estimate contribution from the Government is based on actuals over the last five years – but depends, however on actual revenue intake. The INCHR, like any other GoL institution is subject to all budget formalities prescribed by the Public Financial Management Law of Liberia.
After allocation, the Commission takes control over the management and expenditure of its allocated budget consistent with Public Financial Management Law, i.e. expenditure of budget lines are spent per the budget contents (lines for wages are spent for wages only). To date, 100% of the Commission’s core budget comes from the GoL, however, donors such as the UNDP and United Nations Mission in Liberia, Human Rights Section regularly support the Commission financially. UNDP with funding from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) is supporting the Project Management Unit/PMU which is managing ‘the Community-Based Truth Telling and Atonement Project (the Palava Hut Project). This project is on the transitional justice initiative that was recommended by the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) aimed at addressing minor offenses that were committed during Liberia’s Civil War using traditional conflict resolution mechanisms.
5. Working Method
The Commission has developed and adopted internal regulations including a staff hand book with code of conduct, standard operating procedures for internal and external communication, a personnel manual with terms of reference and jobs descriptions for each position of the INHCR including future posts, financial policy and manual as well and procurement policy and petty cash policy. The Commission has also developed and applies procedures for investigating complaints, and has developed its five year strategic plan. The Commission’s first three year strategic plan expired in May, 2015 and a second strategic plan has been concluded and will come into force effective August 1, 2016. Overall, the strategic plan defines the Commission’s overarching objectives, emerging challenges in the protection and promotion of human rights, constraints and yearly financial requirements.
5.1 Regular Meetings
The INCHR’s meetings are scheduled, called or general staff meeting. Scheduled meetings are normally twice monthly for the BOC as provided for in Article XI (2), while called meetings are held based on exigencies, and General staff meetings are held to apprise secretariat staff and commissioners alike of emerging trends that the Commission wishes to address. The BOC meetings are informed by a formal agenda and decisions are reached based on a consensus. Additionally, decisions are expressed in a resolution that is signed by at least four of the seven commissioners.
5.2 Working Groups
The Commission has established working groups on protection, harmful traditional practices, and child labour and transitional justice. The table below explains their mandates, composition, and working methods:
|Name of Working Group||Mandates||Composition||Working Method|
||Chair/ex-officio, Civil Society Council of Liberia, Oversight Commissioner for Monitoring and Investigations, Executive Director, Director of Education and Information||
Meet once a month
(last Thursday) or as required to share information and take corrective actions
|Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs)||
||The Commission, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism, Ministry of Gender Children & Social Protection, Ministry of Justice, Interfaith Council of Liberia, National Traditional Council of Liberia, CSO, Liberia Peace Ambassador, The Carter Center, Catholic Justice and Peace Commission||Regular meetings and awareness raising on HTPs reduction|
|Women and Child Rights (Child Labour)||
The Commission, the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Education, Liberia National Police, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Gender Children & Social Protection, MIA, Traditional Council, Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia, and key NGOs and INGOs
|Regular meetings to highlight the harmful issues related to women and children rights as well as consequences of child labour|
||The Commission, MIA, PBO, Liberia Peace Ambassador, CSOs working on transitional justice issues, key ministries, agencies and commission of government implementing TRC recommendations||Hold quarterly meetings|
6. General Competence and Responsibilities:
The Commission’s competence and responsibilities as enshrined in Article III o fthe Act establishing the Commission captioned “Powers of the Commission:” The Commission shall have general competence to protect and promote human rights in the Republic of Liberia according to the provisions of its Act, the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, especially Chp. III and other relevant laws of Liberia. Its competence and responsibilities are detailed in Article III (1-17). Amongst its salient powers are:
- To take up any situation of violation of human rights, which it may deem necessary, for necessary action according to its Act;
- To hear and consider complaints and petitions concerning human rights violations brought before it by victims, their representatives, third parties, non-governmental organizations, association of trade unions or any other representative organizations;
- To submit to the Government, Senate and any other competent body, on an advisory basis, either at the request of the authorities concerned or on its own motion, opinions, recommendations, proposals and reports on any matters concerning the protection and promotion of human rights;
- To examine the legislative and administrative provisions in force, as well as bills and proposals and make such recommendations as it deems appropriate in order to ensure that these provisions conform to the international human rights standards or instruments. The Commission shall, as it deems appropriate, recommend the adoption of new legislation, the amendment of legislation in force or both, and the adoption or amendment of administrative measures;
- To draw the attention of the Government human rights violations in any part of the country and make proposals to it for initiatives to put an end to such situations and, where necessary, to express an opinion on the actions of Government in response to such violations;
- To promote and ensure the harmonization of national legislation, regulations and practices with the international human rights instruments to which the Republic of Liberia is a State party, and their effective implementation;
- To encourage ratification of these instruments which the Republic of Liberia has not yet ratified, or accession to those instruments, and to promote their implementation by the Government;
- To cooperate with the United Nations and any agency in the United Nations system or related to the United Nations System, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, other regional institutions and the national institutions of other countries which are competent in the areas of the protection and promotion of human rights;
- To assist in the formulation of programs for the teaching of, and research into, human rights and to take part in their execution in schools, universities and professional circles.
Consistent with its Article III (3a), the INCHR is authorized and empowered to act on a complaint filed by a victim, on behalf of a victim or suo moto (based on the Commission’s own initiative). A concrete example of how the Commission fulfils this function: the Commission sometimes declines to participate on taskforces or committees that are established by the Government to investigate a given human rights situation, instead, it relies on its authority to investigate on its own initiative as provided for by Article III (3a).
6.1 Mandate to Promote and Protect Human Rights
The INCHR Act empowers the Commission to be the premier human rights institution in Liberia. With this mandate, the INCHR sees itself as the lead protection, promotion, and advocacy body with both a national as well as an international mandate. There are several legal provisions that vest the Commission with this function including Articles I which succinctly reads “There is hereby established the independent national human rights institution named and styled the Independent National Commission on Human Rights as the independent and non-political national human rights institution of the Republic of Liberia.” Its powers, functions, method of operation, immunities/privileges, composition, and terms of reference amongst others are defined by law/the Act.
In practice, the INCHR carries out this function by regularly ceasing itself to address human rights issues in Liberia: this includes the Commission’s stance on its independence, impartiality and integrity coupled with its thoroughness to investigate and publish its findings if need be. Regarding the Commission’s authority to make recommendations, there are several initiatives:
- The Commission’s recommendations to the Constitutional Review Committee which is attached to this document;
- The Commission’s advisory position to the Liberian Parliament against the infamous Proposition “24”, the Proposition which calls to declare Liberia a Christian State;
- The Commission’s advisory position to the Parliament on the Amended Domestic Violence Bill which seeks to decriminalize FGM, contrary to the original Bill which criminalizes FGM;
- Advisory to the Government on the State of Emergency during the Ebola crisis
Regarding advocacy thus undertaken by the Commission to harmonize Liberia’s laws and practices, the Commission in consultation with civil society organizations is campaigning for the elimination of the death penalty in furtherance of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Optional Protocol II. Additionally, the Commission has openly supported the United Nations Security Council Resolution that imposes a travel ban and asset freeze on several persons in Liberia.
6.2 Advisory Functions
Article IV(3) of its Act confers on the Commission powers to submit to the Government, Senate,and any other competent body, on an advisory basis, either at the request of the authorities concerned or on its own motion, opinions, recommendations, proposals, and reports on any matters concerning the protection and promotion of human rights.
6.2.1 Functions Regarding National Legislation
Article IV(4) empowers the Commission to examine legislative and administrative provisions in force, as well as bills and proposals, and make such recommendations as it deems appropriate in order to ensure that these provisions conform to the international human rights standards or instruments. The Commission shall, as it deems appropriate, recommend the adoption of new legislation, the amendment of legislation in force, or both, and the adoption or amendment of administrative measures. In practice, the Commission, reviews legislations to ensure their compliance with international standards consistent with Liberia’s obligations. This implies that the Commission consults with the Legislature, raises awareness with keen emphasis on the State’s obligations to uphold international human rights standards. With respect to the Commission’s stance on recommendations and administrative provisions, please see initiatives listed in 6.1 above.
6.2.2 Encouraging Ratification and Implementation of International
The INCHR regularly engages with the Legislature and the Executive to ensure that Liberia goes beyond merely signing up to international human rights instruments but to take necessary steps to domesticate those instruments in Liberia national laws. In the Annual Report for 2015, the INCHR called for the domestication of a few legislations including: Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and AU Protocol on the Rights of Women, and for the printing into handbills and publication of the Act enacted by the National Legislature on the use of the White Cane to safe guide the rights of the Blind. INCHR also encouraged the government to deposit with the headquarters of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) the MARRAKESH Treaty ratified by the government of Liberia in 2016. In furtherance of this, the Commission has compiled a full list of international treaties that Liberia has signed or acceded to the Senate’s Committee on International Relations for their consideration. The Commission’s Department of Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Law is in a constant dialogue with the Legislature, the Law Reform Commission and the Ministry of Justice for their necessary actions so that those laws can be domesticated.
6.3 Monitoring Function
Article III (4d) vests in the Commission, the powers to monitor the general situation of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of the citizens and residents of the Republic of Liberia; while III (4e) empowers the Commission free unfettered on-site inspections and investigations, if necessary without the prior consent of the concerned authority, including powers to visit all civil, military and para-military places of detention in the Republic of Liberia. On a day-to -day basis with keen emphasis on the work of the judiciary, the prisons, law enforcement and economic social and cultural rights including the right to education, health etc., the Commission primarily fulfils its human rights monitoring role by field visits. Field monitors gather the aggregate human rights situation in their assigned counties and report same to the monitors’ coordinator who is situated in the Monrovia head office. The Commission also gathers information from media sources and from other human rights organizations that are working across Liberia. As far as possible, the Commission vigorously monitors Government authorities compliance with its advice and recommendations: its recommendations on the West Point Shooting Incident (during the zenith of the Ebola pandemic in Liberia) and the Golden Veroleum Concession Company (GVL) in Butaw Riot in Sinoe County, have been thoroughly followed, thus ensuring the Government full compliance with the Commission’s recommendations (victims of the West Point Shooting Incident received compensation from the Government).
Not Applicable: consistent with Article VI (2,3,4) The Commission has quasi-judicial powers which it can exercise through a court as stated below:
The Commission shall have the power to require any person, subject to any privilege which may be claimed by that person under any law for the time being in force, to furnish information on such points or matters as, in the opinion of the Commission, may be useful for, or relevant to, the subject matter of the inquiry or investigation and any person so required shall be deemed to be legally bound to furnish such information subject to the criminal law of Liberia; 3) the Commission or any officer authorized by the Commission on its behalf may enter any building or place where the Commission has reason to believe that any physical evidence or document relating to the subject matter of the inquiry or investigation may be found, and may seize any such physical evidence or document or take extracts or copies or photographs thereof subject to the existing provisions of Criminal Procedure Law, in so far as it may be applicable; 4) In case any person refuses to appear before the Commission, in the context of inquiry or investigation, the Commission may apply to any Circuit Court for a writ of arrest to compel the accused to appear before it . In all public inquiries, the Commission invite a concerned person(s) through a formal written communication which states the subject of the invitation, time and place for the concerned person to appear before the Commission.
Regarding its reporting obligations on the national human rights situation, Article IV (16) obliges the Commission to prepare quarterly and annual reports on the national human rights situation generally and on more specific matters such as armed aggression against the Republic of Liberia, internal conflicts, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and genocide and to submit same to the heads of the three branches of Government. This requires the Commission to prepare and present its quarterly and annual reports to the Speaker of Parliament, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia and the President of Liberia who represent the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive respectively. The Commission generates its reports by keeping abreast of and taking interest in human rights developments that occur in Liberia, thereby recording those developments as they occur. Copies of annual and thematic reports are circulated to diverse stakeholders including civil society organizations, international organizations and the diplomatic community. The Commission also holds press conferences to directly address the public about the key contents of each report. English is the official language of Liberia; hence, all the Commission’s reports are published in English.
With respect to response to the Commission’s recommendations or findings, there are legally binding requirements which oblige public authorities and individuals to respond to the Commission’s recommendations. If an individual or public authority refuses to respond to the Commission’s recommendation, the Commission may seek recourse to its quasi-judicial powers to enforce compliance. The Commission’s recommendations are logged in a matrix which is reviewed regularly with the concerned institution of Government. Recommendations are also shared with civil society organizations to inform and influence their advocacy.
6.4 Promotional Functions
6.4.1 By raising awareness on human rights norms and issues
The INCHR Act Article IV (11,13,14) vests in the Commission salient human rights promotional functions including to assist in the formulation of programs for the teaching of, and research into, human rights and to take part in their execution in schools, universities and professional circles; to act as a source of human rights information for the Government and the people of the Republic of Liberia; and to assist in educating public opinion and promoting awareness and respect for human rights and international humanitarian laws, treaties and protocols to which the Republic of Liberia is a party. Although the Commission is a nascent institution challenged with adequate budgetary allocation, however through its Department of Education and Information, engagements with the public to raise awareness and promote myriad of human rights instruments remain firm. Regular radio shows, lectures at schools and other places of interest on key human rights issues are the Commission’s primary mode of public outreach. The Commission does its official business in English, however, in order to disseminate information to a wider audience, the Commission tailors its messages for the specific audience, hence, interpretations and use of Liberian creoles has been adapted. Apart from statutory provision (Article 27b) of the Liberian Constitution which reserves Liberian citizenship only to persons of Negro descent, Liberia is a very integrated country with little or no significant incident of xenophobia or racism. The Commission has regularly denounced Article 27b mention supra; declared same as inconsistent with the spirit and intent of the CERD Convention. One of the propositions the Commission has submitted to the Constitution Reform Committee for amendment. In collaboration with the UNMIL Human Rights Section, the Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD), The Carter Center and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Commission is engaging traditional leaders to build their capacities so that they better understand the harmful consequences of FGM, trial by ordeal, early marriage and other harmful traditional practices that are commonplace in rural Liberia.
6.4.2 Through programmes for teaching and research
One of the key functions of the INCHR/Commission as stipulated in Article IV (11) captioned functions of the Commission is: to assist in the formulation of programs for the teaching of, and research into, human rights and to take part in their execution in schools, universities and professional circles. Our Department of Education and Information is playing this critical role in a modest manner: its primary modes of outreach lectures and seminars on basic rights and fundamental freedoms with keen emphasis on economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to affordable and quality education as well as health; the rights of the child are mainly promoted in junior secondary schools. The Commission’s engagement with professional organizations focuses on civil and political rights with keen emphasis on political competition and consensus building. With reference to research, the Commission has been able to conduct a full empirical research on several human rights issues, but it has engaged in collating anecdotal evidence for instance on the proximate causes of mob violence in rural Liberia, the high frequency of Sexual Gender-Based offences, especially rape of minors.
6.4.3 By addressing public opinion
Article IV (14) of the Act empowers the Commission: to assist in educating public opinion and promoting awareness and respect for human rights and international humanitarian laws, treaties and protocols to which the Republic of Liberia is a party. In achieving this provision of the Act the Commission avails itself to address on-going public discussions. For instance, the Commission has released several press statements to address public opinion on issues such as freedom of speech with keen emphasis for the public to better understand the human rights prescriptions on the enjoyment of this fundamental human right. The Commission encourages the media to fully teach its members and the public as well the entire contents of the right to free speech; how this right can be a pivotal source not only for mere free speech, but also a pivotal source of an enlightened public that values tolerance and diverse opinions.
7. Subpoena and Other Quasi-Judicial Powers
The Commission hears cases and independently makes determinations. On a more regularly basis, the Commissions Department of Complaints, Investigations and Monitoring receives complaints from members of the public, or based on its initiatives takes up a complaint solely on the following requirements: whether the complaints falls within the Commission’s competence or meets its admissibility criteria which are listed in Article XVII of the Act. The Complaint handling process and system is at the heart of the protection role of the Commission in dealing with a wide range of human rights issues. The officer, human rights monitor or a Commissioner receiving complainants is in many ways the face of the Commission. Anyone claiming or alleging a violation of his or her fundamental right may bring a complaint before the Commission for its timely intervention in finding redress. Complaints may be received in person (walk-in) i.e., where the complainant walks into any of the commission offices to tell their story, or by a letter, by email, or a telephone call. After listening to the allegations made by the complainant, the person receiving the complaint will make a preliminary assessment based on the following: (a) whether or not the Commission has jurisdiction in the matter; (b) whether or not the complaint raises a human rights violation based on the admissibility criteria. This is a crucial stage in the investigation process and the person receiving the complaint has a duty to apply due diligence in recording and ascertaining that the facts are correct. Where the complaint raises a human rights violation and the person or monitor receiving the complaint is satisfied that the Commission has jurisdiction over it, the Monitor should record the complaint on a commission’s complaint form and open a file for the complainant. The Monitor writes an initial assessment to his supervisor stating why the complaint should be investigated. When a file is assigned to a particular investigator or monitor, he/she must send out a notice called an “Allegation Letter” signed by the chairperson or a commissioner delegated to the respondent within 7 days of being allocated the file, to be reply to within 21 days. If this fails, a reminder letter is sent allowing for a further 7 days for a response. The Monitor requests the complainant to make available at the Commission two of his/her witnesses to record their statements. Thereafter, witnesses for the Respondent are contacted for purposes of recording their statements as well. At this stage, the investigation begins by setting a time and venue, preferably at the Commission’s offices ensuring that all parties and witnesses to the complaint are present. Thereafter, the investigator concludes the investigation and documents his findings in the form of a report and submits same to the supervising commissioner for endorsement. The commissioner reviews the report and decides whether or not to endorse same. If the findings are endorsed, the commissioner with oversight writes a legal opinion for the attention of the Chair and the Board of Commissioners as to whether or not to endorse the recommendations of the legal officer or recommend further or different action. The Chairperson of the Commission will make the final decision on all legal opinions.
On the other hand, complaints should only be deemed inadmissible based on the admissibility criteria as provided in the Commission’s Complaints manual. At this stage, it is the duty of the Commission to provide advice, legal or otherwise to the Complainant explaining the Commission’s lack of jurisdiction in the matter and make a referral to the relevant agency or institution or government with authority to handle the matter.
8. Relationship with Relevant Human Rights Stakeholders and Other Bodies:
8.1 Relationships with Civil Society
The INCHR enjoys a congenial working relationship with civil society organizations collectively and individually. Article V (2) of the Commission’s Act recognizes the fundamental role played by the non-governmental organizations in expanding the work of national institutions; hence, the Commission shall develop relations with the non-governmental organizations devoted to protecting and promoting human rights, to economic and social development, to combating ethnic discrimination and racism, to protecting particularly vulnerable groups such as children, women, refugees, physically and mentally disabled persons or to other specialized areas. The Commission consults and works closely with the National Civil Society Council of Liberia and other members of the Council in several undertakings including joint fact-finding missions or investigations. The Commission is open and has worked with diverse civil society organizations, but on a more regularly basis, the Commission has been more engaged with NGOs especially those who are based in the field. The Commission has at times utilized their field presences to fill the void created by its absence in the field when there were little or no resources for the Commission to deploy its own monitors in the field. Holding meetings and joint workshops are the most frequent modes of interactions or collaborations that the Commission enjoys with NGOs. It is also noteworthy to highlight the Commission’s collaborative efforts with the Ministry of Justice Human Rights Unit in the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan as well as how we consult in addressing the UPR recommendations.
8.2 Relationship with Other Bodies
Although a nascent human rights institution, provisions of the INCHR Act are replete with references that ensure that the Commission maintains strong working relationship with diverse organizations nationally both in Government (Legislature, Judiciary, and Executive) and those of civil society organizations. For instance, the Commission’s power to propose amendments or reforms of laws, regulations or administrative practices to the competent authorities , especially if the laws, regulations or administrative practices have hindered or unreasonably complicated the filing of a complaint by a complainant, puts the Commission in a position to dialogue with the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Executive on regular basis. The Commission’s Department of Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Law works in close collaboration with the Parliament (Senate Human Rights Committee, House Human Rights Committee), the Ministry of Justice and the Law Reform Commission. The Commission meets at least once with the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, conducts joint facts - finding missions on needs basis with other collaborating civil society organization; and undertakes capacity building initiatives to enhance mutual benefit; consults the Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation to address prisons concerns on recurrent basis.
8.3 Cooperation with the United Nations and other Organizations
In Article IV (10), one of functions of the INCHR is to cooperate with United Nations, in particular the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNDP and any agency related to the United Nations System, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, other regional institution and the national institutions of other countries which are competent in the areas of the protection and promotion of human rights. The Commission strongly recognizes itself as a national body which also has strong international commitments to fulfil. As such, within its capabilities, the Commission engages with its international partners to promote their mandates through collaboration and espousing the principles of those organizations. The Commission attends regional and international meetings in furtherance of the work of the African Union and UN to address issues affecting the continent including the impact of refugees and stateless persons on the continent; promoting international humanitarian law, raising awareness to reduce the frequency of trafficking in persons, promoting the AU objectives on improving the welfare of women and children; the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention Against Torture, etc. The Commission has worked regularly with UNHCR and Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) in highlighting the plights of Ivorian refugees and the resettlement of internally displaced persons in Liberia. With the Human Rights and Protection Section of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the Commission immensely collaborated on the Protection Cluster during the Ebola crisis and at present is jointly conducting capacity building training for the Ministry of Internal Affairs to reduce the frequency of harmful traditional practices such as FGM, trial by ordeal, early marriage, accusation of witchcraft that are commonplace in rural Liberia. The Commission is collaborating with UNDP to address some of the TRC recommendations aimed addressing some minor offences that were committed during the Liberian Civil War and memorialization through the Palava Hut Project. The Commission is working with the government, CSOs and related institutions on addressing transitional justice issues resulting from the 14 years civil conflict in Liberia.
Finally, in June 2016 the Commission visited the Secretariat of the Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland where the INCHR delegation got further knowledge and understanding of the working of OHCHR, treaty bodies and special procedures amongst others. In August 2016, the INCHR visited Nairobi, Kenya, and re-established membership with the Network for Africa National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRIs), and established working relationship with the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights. In September 2016 the INCHR also visited Sierra Leone and has forged partnership with the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, while in October and November 2016, the Commission attended the African Commission Annual Meeting Banjul, the Gambia and the 2016 Human Rights and Business Forum held in Geneva, Switzerland. With funding from the European Union, the INCHR will be supporting the Government of Liberia to begin to put in place its National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Commission has already stated discussions with and will shortly conclude its engagement and partnership with The OHCHR Regional Office for the West Africa Region (WARO) based in Dakar, Senegal, The Network of National Human Rights Institutions for West Africa (NNHRIs-WA) based in Abuja, Nigeria, and The UPR Info Africa Regional Office, based in Nairobi, Kenya.