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Independent National Commission on Human Rights 

 (INCHR)

 

Adjacent Zone 3 Police Station, Congo Town

 

 

        2015  Annual Report

 

 

 

 

   Appendix B. INCHR Oranogram

 

Oranogram

 

ANNEX A FINANCIAL REPORT 

 

BACKGROUND

 

The Department of Administration, Budget and Finance consists of several units/sections that are functional, however a few are yet to be fully staffed. Currently, the Department relies on the following partially staffed units/sections to carry out its mandate: Human Resource Unit, Finance Unit, Procurement Unit and Maintenance Unit. The Commission is yet to fully staff the aforementioned units /sections to their maximum capacity due to budgetary constraints. Other units/sections that have not been established include: Internal Audit and Control, Asset and Fleet Management.

HUMAN RESOURCES

 

No organization thrives without the existence of vibrant and skilled human capital. The Commission has over the last fiscal year worked assiduously to build its human resource capacity.

In March of 2015, the Commission through a rigorous recruitment exercise hired 18 personnel to fill various vacant positions, encompassing 2 directors, human rights monitors, coordinator, investigator,   procurement officer, comptroller among others with funding from GOL 2014/2015 budgetary appropriation for capacity building.

The Commission also had human rights monitors whose salaries were being paid from the Peace Building Fund in counties where the Justice and Security hubs exist. Contracts for those monitors ended in March 2015. However, the Commission utilized the balance in 2014/2015 special allowance allotment to extend those contracts and hire technicians for an additional 2 months, up to June 30th, 2015. Furthermore, the Commission has again renewed contracts for 14 monitors for 5 months from November 1st, 2015 to March 31st, 2016 with funding from balance in special allowance allotment from July to December 2015. Also, 3 technicians/consultants were hired with funding from 2015/2016 budgetary appropriation for consultancy services to enhance the productivity of the secretariat.

In partnership with the UNDP, the Commission hired national and international consultants to conduct an assessment to establish the capacity needs of the Commission. As a result of said assessment, institutional manuals were drafted and induction training was held in the conference room of the National Elections Commission.

The Commission, in its efforts to acquaint its staff with the national social security and welfare schemes, conducted a one day symposium on the importance and benefits of employee contributions.

 

FINANCE

The Commission through its department of Administration, Budget and Finance crafted and submitted proposed budgets of $3.1 million and $3.4 million USD for FY 2014/2015 and FY 2015/2016 respectively. After budget hearings and deliberations, the National Legislature approved annual appropriations of $937,536.00 and $992,736.00 USD respectively.

Analysis of INCHR’S 2014 – 2015 Fiscal Budget (in Million) 

2015.1

 

Analysis of INCHR’S 2015 – 2016 Fiscal Budget (in Million)

2015.2 

 

Incremental appropriation between FYS 2014/15 and 2015/16 

2015.3 

 

During the calendar (Q3 FY 2014/2015- Q2 2015-2016) year in review, the GOL allotted $1,089, 269.00 USD and disbursed $994,369.34 USD respectively. 

Analysis of 2015 (Calendar Year) Allotment 

2015.4 

 

The total disbursement of $994,269.34 USD was expended as follows:

  • Personal Cost - $738,741.34 = 74%
  • Goods and Services - $167,166.00 = 17%
  • Fixed Capital - $88,462.00 = 9%

 

 

 

 

Analysis of 2015(Calendar Year) MFDP Disbursement to the INCHR

2015.5 

 

Analysis of 2015 (Calendar Year) Goods & Services component of the INCHR’s allotment  

 

 

 

During the period under review, the Department of Administration, Budget and Finance made several significant achievements as detailed hereunder:

  • The unit also provided funding for the preparation of the Commission’s annual report that is being currently distributed to stakeholders in keeping with its legislative mandate.
  • The Executive Director along with the Director of Administration, Budget and Finance attended a one day micro-assessment workshop at the MOFDP.
  • Prepared and submitted to the Board of Commissioners thru the Executive Director, institutional financial and petty cash manuals for their injection and adoption.
  • Members of the Budget Management Committee attended 2015/2016 budget workshop at Sharks’ Business Center under the auspices of the MOFDP.
  • Four staff of the Department attended the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) workshop at the MOFDP to boost their understandability of GOL’s public financial management systems.
  • Provided funding for the implementation of a three day Human Rights workshop jointly undertaken by the Commission and UNMIL.
  • The Department ensured that US$ 180,000.00 which is inclusive of the total disbursement mentioned above was transferred from Public Sector Investment Project (PSIP) to the Commission’s recurrent budget to facilitate the recruitment of the 18 personnel.
  • Undertook major renovation works at its old office building creating office spaces for three newly staffed departments (Administration, Budget and Finance, Education, Training and Information and Complaints, Monitoring and Investigation).
  • Staff of the Procurement Unit attended 1 week intensive training organized by PPCC in collaboration with UNDP and Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.
  • Provided funding to facilitate several investigations, namely: Butaw/Golden Veroleum, Red Light among others.
  • The Department in collaboration with the Project Management Unit (PMU) of the Commission has initiated processes leading to the acquisition and installation of QuickBooks Accounting Software that augment efficiency, accountability, transparency and proficiency of the Commission.
  • In order to promote financial probity, the Commission requested the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) to assign a resident auditor, which was granted. As a result of the presence of these internal auditors, the Commission is currently undergoing Risk Appraisal for prudent risk management recommendations.
  • The Commission in collaboration with its partners UN Women, UNMIL celebrated Human Rights Day 2015.

PROCUREMENT AND ASSET MANAGEMENT

For the duration of the period under review, the procurement unit of the Commission carried out the following activities:

  1. In compliance with the PPCC Act, the Department procured a vehicle with funding from GOL’s 2014/2015 budgetary appropriation for capital equipment, for use by the office of the Chairperson.
  2. The Commission has through its Procurement Unit acquired office furniture and IT equipment to mitigate the enormous logistical challenges the Commission is faced with.
  3. Due to the inability of the old office building to host current and future employees, the Commission embarked on the process to relocate to a more spacious edifice. With the signing of the lease agreement between the GOL and Levi C. Williams School, the INCHR has relocated to its new offices in Congo Town with funding from FY 2015/2016 budget.
  4. As part of its efforts to comply with the GSA’s policies on fixed assets and the recommendations from the GAC and UNDP audit reports, the Commission has substantially completed the coding of its assets.

CHALLENGES

ØThe Commission is currently faced with acute financial constraints that impede its operational effectiveness.

CONCLUSION

Our achievements are evidenced by the fact that each staff of the Department has engendered in themselves the resolve to ensure that financial sanity is robustly taken head on and that transparency and accountability which are vital tools that guarantee development is not undermined. We will remain committed to this path.

The Commission being aware of its fiduciary responsibility intends to continue its fiscal discipline by improving financial controls to ensure that the work of the Commission is an example for other institutions to follow and ensure that the people of Liberia have value for Money (VFM).

RECOMMENDATION

  • The INCHR must engage the Civil Society and other parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in an effort to ensure that the GOL meets it statutory mandate of adequately funding the Commission as enshrined in the act establishing it.
  • The Commission must embark on fund raising activities both nationally and internationally to complement the meager budgetary appropriation from GOL.

 

Message from the Chairperson

The Board of Commissioners (BOC) of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) is deeply gratified to submit the 2015 Annual Report to the heads of the three branches of Government: the President, Speaker and the Chief Justice, in accordance with Article IV (17) of the INCHR Act of 2005. 

This 2015 Annual Report is in two folds: First, it reports on the activities of the INCHR in 2015, and highlights key accomplishments as well as challenges experienced by the Commission during the reporting period. Second it informs on the “national situation with regard to human rights in general, and on more specific matters” (Article IV (5), and also draws the attention of the Government to human rights violation in Liberia. It also makes proposals and recommendations to help address such situations (Article IV (6). 

During the reporting period, the INCHR maintained its independence and exerted effort to strengthen its associations with all stakeholders especially in the area of human rights, including civil society institutions and the international community.

Further, in order to enhance its work and ensure a high level of efficiency and proficiency of the INCHR in the execution of its mandate, the BOC commissioned a full and all-inclusive Capacity Assessment of the INCHR from February – April 2015. Funded by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund through UNDP-Liberia, the overarching objective of the assessment was to identify skill gaps and other related challenges; develop a capacity building program and implementation strategy for the Commission informed by the findings and conclusions of the assessment. The assessment also reviewed and updated where needed, the INCHR key administrative related policy documents including the INCHR Staff Hand Book – with Code of Conduct, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), and the INCHR Jobs Descriptions and Terms of Reference Manual for all of the positions in the INCHR. This process was characterized by a critical self-reflection of the institution and its staff and focused on how best the INCHR could utilize its very limited resources to achieve its mandate and make meaningful impact throughout the country. 

The Board of Commissioners is pleased to note that despite financial, logistical and other constraints, 2015 was a more successful year than 2014 especially interruption of activities caused by the out-break and spread of the Ebola Pandemic which unfortunately took away the precious lives of a little over 4000 of our fellow citizens and residents alike. It is the expectations of the INCHR, that this Annual Report will enhance the visibility of the Commission and allow stakeholders to acknowledge its efforts. It is also our ardent anticipation that the concerned authorities in government as well as other stakeholders will not only read this Report, but will find it useful if we must accelerate the promotion, protection and attainment of human rights. We encourage all the relevant actors to once again review thoroughly the 2005 Act establishing the INCHR especially its essential powers.

Finally, before I conclude this message, I would like to formally highlight the issue of Proposition 24 Declaring Liberia a Christian State/Nation through Constitutional Amendment and state the position of the INCHR and its Board of Commissioners. Since proposition 24

was put forward, it has been a contentious issue that has caused national concerns. In this regard, the INCHR has carefully reviewed the Proposition and carefully listened to the articulation / debate of those either for or against as well as the many concerns being expressed by the citizens of Liberia. The INCHR holds the following view:

  1. Proposition 24 is in derogation of the very purposes and objectives which the Constitution Committee would aim to achieve as set out in the PREAMBLE to the Liberian Constitution (1986). Those purposes and objectives called for the establishment of a framework of government aimed at promoting Unity, Liberty, Peace, Stability, Equality, Justice and Human Rights under the Rule of Law, with opportunities for Political, Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement of our Society, for Ourselves and our Posterity.

INCHR warns that Proposition 24 is divisive and would pose a threat to that National Peace, Unity, Stability, etc, envisioned in the PREAMBLE to the 1986 Constitution. 

  1. Proposition 24 is a setback to the reconciliation which Liberians are struggling to engender after years of warfare and the concomitant human rights violations.
  1. Proposition 24 seems to imply that declaring Liberia a Christian State is the solution to Liberia’s numerous problems; that bad or immoral things are happening in Liberia because we have not declared Liberia to be a Christian State, a conclusion that has no foundation or historical supporting record.

Instead of pushing for constitutional provision to declare Liberia a Christian State/Nation, and by so doing creating problems between Christians and non-Christians, INCHR suggests that the proponents of proposition 24 follow the dictates of the Master of

Christianity who said to his followers “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father in Heaven” (Matt 5: 16). In other words, let Christians win souls, converting non-Christians by their good works, and let them live exemplary lives, loving their “neighbors” as themselves and having respect for the dignity of their fellow human beings, eschewing corruption, fornication, adultery, ritualistic killing, cruelty, malicious gossiping, selfishness, greed, envy, jealousy, lying, cheating, etc.

  1. Proposition 24 – declaring Liberia a Christian State is undemocratic. It contradicts and undermines Liberia’s determination and efforts to establish a democracy. Freedom of religion is one of the most closely guarded tenets of any democratic society.
  1. Proposition 24 is contrary to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an instrument to which Liberia has subscribed and by which it is bound. Article 18 declares:

 “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, either alone or in community with others and in public, private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

This freedom cannot be holistically enjoyed in the environment proposition 24 seeks to create.

  1. Proposition 24 is a mockery of the Christian religion. INCHR says that to declare Liberia a Christian Nation when in truth and in fact there are other people in Liberia who are not Christians and who have every right by virtue of their citizenship to live in Liberia and practice their kind of religion is a sham, a pretense intended to serve the proponents’ hidden agenda or ego as did the Pharisees – words and not deeds to attract attention.
  1. The argument that Liberia was founded on Christian Principles is not sufficient or strong enough to support Proposition 24, INCHR says that the Liberia that was founded on Christian Principles consisted of less than half  a million people and the territory or land space far less than today’s Liberia. As the population expanded to include people of other territories and religions, the Constitution cannot now declare Liberia to be a Christian Nation when in reality Liberia has been inhabited by people of various religious beliefs and backgrounds.
  1. Furthermore, as the Constitution is the organic law of the land, its provisions should protect the rights of all Liberians, including their right to practice any religion of their choice. Accordingly, the Constitution cannot choose one religion above all others to be the national religion. Under the doctrine of separation of church and state Proposition 24 is a no.
  1. Proposition 24 is dangerous to national security, a perfect setup for attack by nonChristian religious zealots or fanatics already in pursuit of Christians in our region and elsewhere in the world.
  1. Proposition 24 is attempting to solve a non-existent problem, despite a popular adage which admonishes, “if it aren’t broke, don’t fix it.” For the past 168 years of peaceful coexistence in our country, there have been occasional conflicts among the people, but never one based on religious differences. We should let sleeping dogs lie. Proposition 24 is a recipe for trouble and instability.

The INCHR says it also was a participant in the nationwide consultations out of which several meaningful and beneficial propositions evolved, but Proposition 24, is an exception having no unifying, reconciliatory or problem-solving value.

In view of all the cogent arguments against the submission of Proposition 24 to referendum, INCHR recommends to the Honorable Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate that Proposition 24: to make and declare Liberia a Christian nation be scrapped, deleted, omitted and obliterated from the list of Propositions submitted for referendum by the Constitution Review Committee. The INCHR is confident that the Honorable Members of the Legislature will see wisdom in scrapping Proposition 24 now and thereby nipping this trouble in the bud.

Justice Gladys K. Johnson

Chairperson

Independent National Commission on Human Rights


Acknowledgement

The Board of Commissioners of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) acknowledges with thanks the efforts of the INCHR field monitors for monitoring, investigating and reporting under challenging circumstances; extends gratitude to local officials, the Liberian National Police, and prisons officers, court officials, traditional chiefs and elders, women and youth groups and all those who responded to our interviews and investigations which in one way or the other contributed to this report.

The Commission remains grateful to the Human Rights and Protection Sections of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and its field staff in the counties for all the support and contribution in helping to get this report concluded. The Board of Commissioners remains grateful to Civil Society Organizations across the Country for their support and partnership. Also, the Board of Commissioners expresses thanks to the Government of Liberia for the support to the Commission during this period.  

Vision 

The INCHR envisions a country that will guarantee and realize the fundamental human rights of all of its citizens and all those within its borders. It envisages a country where human rights remain the pillars on which the national peacebuilding and development agenda are built and sustained. In sum the vision of the INCHR is to ensure a “peaceful, secured and developed Liberia founded on the protection and promotion of human rights.”

Mission

The mission of the INCHR is to “combat human rights violations and advance the welfare of all Liberians irrespective of sex geographical location, political affiliation and socioeconomic condition,” as well as “to build and sustain a positive human rights culture in Liberia.” Acronyms:

AP         Administrative Procedure
ACRWC African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 
AFL       Armed Forces of Liberia
AU        African Union 
BCPR  Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery

CAT              Convention against Torture 

CERD        Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 

CEDAW        Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 

CJP        Center for Justice and Peace building
CPA      Comprehensive Peace Accord 
CRC  Convention on the Rights of the Child 
CRPD  Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 
CSO      Civil Society Organizations
EMU  Eastern Mennonite University 
FGM  Female Genital Mutilation 
GVL  Golden Veroleum Liberia
ICRC  International Committee of the Red Cross 
ICCPR  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 
ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 
INCHR Independent National Commission on Human Rights
JSC        Joint Steering Committee 
LNP       Liberia National Police
MCC  Monrovia City Cooperation   
MOH  Ministry of Health
NTGL  National Transitional Government of Liberia
OAU  Organization of African Unity 
PBF       Peace Building Fund 
PMU  Project Management Unit 
SOP      Standard Operation Procedure
SGBV  Sexual and Gender Based Violence 
SSF       Same Sokie Fawar
TOR  Term of Reference  
TRC       Truth and Reconciliation Commission  
UN        United Nations   
UNDP  United Nations Development Program  
UDHR  Universal Declaration on Human Rights  
UNO  United Nations Organization   
UNMIL United Nations Mission in Liberia  
UPR      Universals Periodic Report  
       


Table of contents

Message from the Chairperson            -           -           -           -           -           -           -           i

Mission and Vision  -              -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -             iv

Acknowledgement      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -             iv

Acronyms                    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -             vi

Executive Summary -              -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -              1

INCHR: Power, Functions, Method of Operation and Mandate -           -           -           2

2.1 Background          -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           2 

2.2 Power and Funding of INCHR under the 2005 Legislative Act -           -           -           3

2.3 The Administrative and Operational Structure of INCHR          -           -           -           4

2.4 Finance of the Commission  - - - - - - - 4 a.Funding, Accountability and Transparency - - - - - 4

2.5 Funding of INCHR in 2015         -           -           -           -           -           -           -           5

3. Projects and activities implemented in 2015         -           -           -           -           -            5

3.1 The Palava Hut Program - - - - - - - - 6 a.Staff Capacity-building and Recruitment - - - - - 7

  1. Ethnographic Forums -     -           -           -           -           -           -           -            7
  2. First National Memorial    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           9

3.2 INCHR Institutional Capacity Assessment          -           -           -           -           -           9

3.3 International Human Rights Day 2015      -           -           -           -           -           -           10

3.4 INCHR Major Achievements in 2015      -           -           -           -           -           -           11

3.5 Human Rights Monitoring and Investigation 2015 - - - - 11

a.Complaints handling process - - - - - - - 11

b.Complaints received, registered and investigated  in 2015 -        -           -           12

c.Harassment and Assaults of Persons by State Security    -           -           -           14

d.Respondents in complaints Complaint Received and registered in 2015             -           14

e.Complaints: number, description and Institution  referred           -           -           -           15

3.6 Assessment of conditions in places of detention -           -           -           -           -           15

4. Human Rights concerns in Liberia 2015 - -           -           -           -           -           16

4.1 Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia  -             -           -           -           -           -           16

  1. Female genital mutilation    -           -           -           -           -           -           -            17
  2. Forced Initiation into Secret Societies        -           -           -           -           -           -            17
  3. Trial by ordeal         -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           17
  4. Accusation of witchcraft - -           -           -           -           -           -           -           18
  5. Ritualistic killings   -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           18

 4.2. Social, Economic and Cultural Rights  - - - - - - 19     a. Right to Health  - - - - - - - - - 19

  1. Right to Education             -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           19
  2. Right to Employment Opportunity             -           -           -           -           -           -           19
  3. Right of Children and Women  -    -           -           -           -           -           -           20

 4.3 Other Human Right Issues  - - - - - - - 20     a. Freedom of Speech  - - - - - - - - 20

  1. Youth related Violence -    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           21
  2. Corruption  -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           21
  3. Rights of Persons with disability    -           -           -           -           -           -           21
  4. Sexual and Gender base Violence -           -           -           -           -           -           22
    1. Liberia International Treaties Obligations  -           -           -           -           -           -           22

5.1Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Recommendations on Liberia             -           -            22

  1. Conclusion  -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           24

6.1 Recommendations             -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -            26

 Appendices 

 

.Executive Summary

 

The 2015 Annual Report is submitted by the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) in line with Article IV section 17 of the INCHR Act of 2005, which mandates the Commission to submit Annual Reports to the heads of the three branches of the Liberian Government (Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary). The report covers the period January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015, and comprises a letter from the Chairperson to the three branches of Government, a message to the public, as well as the INCHR vision and mission statements. The report is in two folds: First, it provides progress updates on the work and achievements of the INCHR in 2015 and also notes the challenges; and 2) it reports on the human rights situation in Liberia as at December 31, 2015.

A portion of the information contained in this Report is primarily firsthand obtained from INCHR monitors in the field, and some from complaints received and investigated by the Commission. Some portion is secondary in the case of information provided by collaborating partners including civil society and international organizations such as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Human Rights Protection Section (HRPS) among others. As far as possible, the Commission usually authenticates secondary information to ensure a balanced and objective position with ardent emphasis on the respect for the dignity of all persons or institutions concerned.

Programmatically, the Commission undertook projects and activities including: capacity building and training to strengthen its human resource, and deployed human rights monitors in the counties. The INCHR participated and undertook human rights awareness activities nationwide, and organized and commemorated human rights events, with the help of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. During the period, the Commission organized and conducted workshops, seminars, conferences and investigations with INCHR Commissioners serving as investigators and performing clerical duties most times due to lack of adequate staffing.

The Commission was challenged in its work to promote and protect human rights during the period under review due to inadequate funding which impeded the recruitment of the requisite staff needed for the Commission to effectively monitor, investigate and report human rights violations. Notwithstanding, the INCHR succeeded in staffing and operationalizing two of its five Departments: the Department of Budget and Administration and Department of Education, Training and Information. It also recruited a few staff for the Department of Complaints, Investigation and Monitoring and contracted and deployed additional human rights monitors in few of the counties.

During this period, a full capacity assessment of the INCHR was undertaken, and as part of this assessment, several institutional documents of the INCHR were revised, updated and or developed. These include the INCHR Staff Hand Book, Standard Operating Procedures, Job Descriptions and Terms of Reference Manual and the INCHR Financial Procedures Manual, Procurement Policy and Petty Cash Policy. The INCHR also reviewed and broadened its Organogram to reflect current and future positions.

1

Further, the INCHR accelerated preparations for the National Palava Hut Program as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report and highlighted as a Thematic Area in the National Reconciliation Roadmap, and initiated the construction of the first national memorial on a mass-grave site at Duport Road, Paynesville. 

In part two, the report highlights a number of human rights violations, including the conditions of prisons, freedom of the press, harmful traditional practices, sexual and gender based violence especially rape and police brutality. The report also flags and draws attention to ritualistic killings, accusation of witch craft and youth based violence amongst others. Incidents of statutory rape were alarming. Disappointingly, most of these cases were compromised because of relationships or by police and perpetrators and victims‟ families. In 2015, there were mysterious deaths that still need to be fully investigated and the public informed of their outcome. Some of those deaths were clearly ritualistic because of missing body parts, but up to the end of the reporting period there were no arrests because of lack of evidence. There were reports of police misconduct some of which were punished by dismissal and pending prosecution. There were incidents of police violence especially during arrests which went with impunity. 

Meanwhile, while several human rights violations were reported during the period under review, the INCHR notes that in 2015, there were no records available to INCHR of arbitrary arrests and detentions by government. 

Finally, the Commission continues to make recommendations to the Government of Liberia, the public, human rights defenders in Liberia, the Liberia National Police, other law enforcement agencies, the Judiciary and the Legislature to ensure Liberia fulfills and upholds its international and regional treaty obligations, ensures speedy trial of accused persons, and addresses human rights issues associated with cultural practices. The Commission recommends that concrete steps are taken to address and put an end to sexual gender-based violence, ensure adequate public information as well as prosecution of perpetrators of human rights offenses; ensuring that all Liberians and foreign residents enjoy civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights including access to quality healthcare and education, amongst others.

 

2.INCHR: Power, Functions, Method of Operation and Mandate

 

2.1Background

 

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on August 18, 2003, in Accra, Ghana, intended to end the Liberia civil war, recognized the importance to promote and protect human rights. This was a deliberate effort to address some of the fundamental root causes of conflict in Liberia, especially the malevolent disregard and disrespect for human rights. In Article VIII, the CPA recommended the establishment of an Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) which was subsequently created, by an Act of Legislature in 2005, as a national institution to promote and protect human rights.

2

Although created in 2005, the Commission did not become operational until 2010.1 The INCHR was also established in line with the Paris Principles of 1993 which amongst others requires “States to give a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), as broad a mandate as possible, which shall be clearly set forth in a constitutional or legislative text, specifying its composition and its sphere of competence.”2  

The INCHR is envisioned as a vital national institution created to realize human rights not as an end in itself, but also to play an instrumentalist role as a means to achieving other national strategic objectives, such as employing rights based approaches with the governance structures; enhancing peacebuilding and national reconciliation, and ultimately contributing to human development.3

The Commission consists of seven (7) Commissioners including a Chairperson and six other Commissioners, who are to perform the functions as assigned to them by the Act. The Chairperson and the six other Commissioners are appointed by the President of the Republic Liberia, with the consent of the Legislature, for five years each and the Chairperson six. The nomination of Commissioners to the INCHR is also based on recommendation of an Independent Committee of Experts (ICE) formed by the Chief Justice in consultation with civil society organizations.  

2.2 Powers, Functions and Operational Method under the 2005 Act 

Article III of the INCHR (2005) Act titled Powers of the Commission states the “INCHR has the general and special qualification to protect, promote and monitor human rights in the Republic of Liberia, monitor Liberia‟s compliance and commitment to the international conventions and protocols, writes reports and makes recommendations to the Government of Liberia.”

Within the framework of its operational method, the Commission has the mandate to freely consider any questions falling within its competence; whether they are submitted by Government or taken up by the Commission without referral from a higher authority;  or of complaint; by any individual or group, hear any person and obtain any information and any documents necessary

                                                        

1Following the enactment of the law establishing the INCHR, the process of nominating nominees to the INCHR met with serious delays. An Independent Committee of Experts set up by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, submitted a shortlisting of INCHR nominees to the President through the Chief Justice in early 2007 but in February 2010, the Legislature finally rejected en bloc the INCHR nominees placed before them for confirmation. With this rejection, the process of vetting possible INCHR nominees had to begin afresh. In March 2010, a new Independent Committee of Experts (ICE) was constituted for this purpose.

2 Their mandate should include a number of responsibilities with the ultimate goal of promoting and protecting human rights, including: 1) Submitting of recommendations, opinions, proposals and “reports on any matters concerning the promotion and protection of human rights,” either on their own initiative or at the government‟s request; 2) Meeting on a regular basis;3) Establishing working groups and regional or local sections, as necessary to achieve their goals; 4) Consulting with other entities that are responsible for protecting and promoting human rights, including entities in the UN system; and 4) “Develop[ing] relations with the non-governmental organizations devoted to promoting and protecting human rights, to economic and social development, to combating racism, to promoting particularly vulnerable groups.”

3In 1997 the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) enacted into law a Human Rights Act, but this was however repealed on 2005 to give way for the passing into law of the current INCHR Act.    

 

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for assessing situations falling within its competence; address public opinion directly or through media organ, particularly in order to publicize its opinions and recommendations. The Commission can set up local or regional sections to assist it in discharging its functions; maintain consultations with other bodies responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, among others.

Its functions include practical measures such as the following: stakeholders‟ consultation, take up situation of violation of human rights, which it may deem necessary, for necessary action in accordance to this Act; 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 organization; addressing public opinion, hearing cases, investigating human rights violations, and writing quarter/annual reports for submission to the three Branches of the Liberian Government. Its core functions are divided and compartmentalized into five Departments as follows:

  1. The Department of Administration and Budget
  2. The Department of Planning, Internal Monitoring and Evaluation
  3. The Department of Complaints, Investigation and Monitoring
  4. The Department of Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Law
  5. The Department of Education, Training and Information

2.3 The Administration and Operational Structure of INCHR 

 

The INCHR Administrative and Operational Structure comprise standardized operating procedures that guide the work of both the Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the Secretariat. The BOC is headed by a Chairperson who is assisted by six Commissioners from amongst which one is selected by the rest of the Commissioners to serve as Vice-chairperson. The other five Commissioners provide oversight for the five Departments of the INCHR listed above. A Commissioner provides oversight for a Department which functions he or she may have the requisite knowledge and experience. 

The Secretariat is administered by the Executive Director who is assisted by five Directors responsible for the day-day administrative and programmatic functions of the INCHR.

2.4 Finance of the Commission 

a.Funding, Accountability and Transparency  

 

The key source of funding of the INCHR is the Government of Liberia which is responsible to provide adequate funding for the operation and functions of INCHR. Article XIX section 1&2 of the Act creating the INCHR states: “That, in order to enhance the operational efficiencies and independence of the INCHR, the Government of Liberia shall ensure adequate resources and funding; following consultations with the National Legislature and the Director General of the Bureau of Budget” (Section 1) “That, the Commission, to exist and function as a fully independent body with respect to its administration and finances, it shall have financial allocations, autonomy, budgetary and shall not in any way be connected or placed within the

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budget of any other agency, ministry or institution of Government” (Section 2). Accordingly, its resources are administered in compliance with the financial management procedures of Liberia. In this regard, the Commission adhered to the management procedures and employed skilled personnel to execute its financial and procurement functions

 

In the last three fiscal years, the Government has underfunded the INCHR, thus making it difficult to fully establish its Departments and to carry out all its functions with high level of proficiency, and efficiency as provided in its Act of 2005. Despite the Commission has made several appeals with the Legislative and the Executive Branches of Government to provide adequate funding for the work of the INCHR, no concrete actions have been taken.Goods and Services - US$167,166.00 = 17%

  1. Fixed Capital - US$88,462.00 = 9%

 

 3. Projects and Activities Implemented in 2015 – Accomplishments

 

Despite inadequate funding, the INCHR made notable accomplishments during the reporting year. The INCHR partially operationalized three of its five Departments including: 1). Administration and Budget, 2). Education, Training and Information, and 3). Complaints Investigation and Monitoring. The Commission was able to employ the Director of Administration and Budget, and the Director of Education, Training and Information. In addition, the Commission employed seventeen (17) other personnel amongst them are Research/Documentation Officer, Accounts‟ Clerk, Expeditor, Procurement Officer, Human Rights Monitors‟ Coordinator, Human Rights Education Officers, a Human Rights Investigator, and ten (10) Human Rights Monitors. Others included ten (10) Human Rights Monitors deployed in three (3) Counties: Montserrado, eight (8), Gbarpolu, one (1), and Margibi one (1). Due to the inadequate funding, the Commission was unable to acquire the needed number of Human Rights Monitors to cover the fifteen (15) Counties.

Moreover, in an effort to operationalize the Department of Planning, Internal Monitoring and Evaluation, and The Department of Legislative Assistance, Treaty Matters and Law, INCHR also contracted three (3) technical staff for only 5 months: a Legislative Officer, Program Officer and a Research Analyst paid from the consultancy fees allotted by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

Given the inadequacy of funding in 2015, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning accepted and approved the INCHR request to utilize the balance in special allowance allotment to underwrite the salaries of seventeen (17) contracted Human Rights Monitors and ten (10) support staff of the Secretariat. The Monitors were deployed in the counties covered by the five (5) Justice and Security Regional Hubs (fourteen counties). Despite the deployment of these monitors, their work has been hindered by lack of logistics and mobility to travel within the counties where they are deployed. 

3.1 The Palava Hut Program-Sponsored by UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF)

In addition to its statutory functions, Section 47 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report recommended that the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) follow through on the implementation of its recommendations (findings) in the TRC Final Report of 30 June 2009.   

It also assigned a few of the recommendations especially those related to transitional justice as directly the responsibility of the INCHR to implement including the palava hut talks, memorialization, and reparations. In addition, the Government of Liberia Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding, and Reconciliation of December 2012 also articulated these responsibilities assigned to the INCHR in the first three thematic areas of the Roadmap under Category 1 (Accountant for the Past): 1) Palava Hut Process 2) Memorialization and 3) Reparation. A fourth thematic area was also assigned to the INCHR: 4) Diaspora and Reconciliation. Thus the implementation of Community-based Truth Telling and Atonement Project is one of the priority areas that INCHR leads and coordinates. 

In 2014, with funding from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) and the then Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) based in New York, a Project Management Unit (PMU) was established by the INCHR to oversee the implementation of the National Palava Hut Project. As approved by the PBF Joint Steering Committee (JSC) in Liberia, the project set out to achieve the following:

 

  • Strengthen the capacity of the INCHR to lead and coordinate the National Palava Hut Project;
  • Conduct nationwide ethnographic studies which result will help define and develop methodology and operational guidelines for the Palava Hut;
  • Conduct nationwide outreach to galvanize grass-root support, understanding and participation in the  Palava Hut Project;
  • Conduct Palava Hut process piloted in 2 communities; and 
  • Construct at least two regional memorials in hard hit war affected communities; particularly on mass grave sites where victims of the Liberian civil war are buried.

 

a. Staff Recruitment and Capacity-building   

In 2014, the INCHR recruited six staff to set up the Project Management Unit (PMU) to implement the Palava Hut Project funded by the UN PBF and BCPR. Those recruited included a Project Manager, two Coordinators, Administrative Assistant and a Driver. 

With the requisite staff recruited and the PMU established, the INCHR started the implementation of the National Palava Hut project and is poised to meet all its key outcomes. To begin the Palava Hut Project a few staff of the PMU underwent short-term training in  four topics including: “Community Organizing for Social Change and Justice in Transition: Restorative Indigenous Approaches in Post-war Context”, Conflict Analysis, and Restorative Forms of Justice as well as Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR – Level 1) at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) Program of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), Harrisonburg Virginia, United States of America.

A few of the PMU staff also underwent training in Monitoring, Evaluation and Result-based Reporting. This training was held at the Regional Security Hub of Gbarnga, Bong County and funded by the Liberia Peacebuilding Office. 

b. Ethnographic Forums          

 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended the establishment of National

Palava Hut Program (15.0). It recommended “the Palava Hut is another form of justice and accountability mechanism with traditional orientation to foster national healing and Reconciliation at the community and grass root levels creating the opportunity for dialogue and peace building.” (15.1), It also highlighted that the Powers of the Palava Hut Structure as: “Can seek pardon (15.1), reparation (15.1), public sanctions (15.1), can reduce or waive debarred years” (15.2). In addition, it recommended the “INCHR to oversee Palava Hut process and coordinate activities and has power to review decisions on request” (15.1).

 

In order to successfully undertake this tasks the Palava Hut Project called for the conduct of a nationwide ethnographic study of the existing traditional Palava Hut Systems and other traditional or informal conflict resolution and justice mechanisms of Liberia‟s four linguistic groupings (Mel, Kwa, Mande and Settlers) with the anticipation that the outcome will inform the development of context-specific, structure, methodology and operational guidelines for the implementation of the TRC recommended National Palava Hut Program. In this regard, two consultants (national and international) were contracted and conducted an ethnographic study in four selected forums of the four linguistic groupings of Liberia. (The Settlers, not officially counted among the traditional linguistic groupings of Liberia, but for the purpose of this study, were selected; making them four Linguistic groupings of the Republic of Liberia. The forums were held in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County for the Kwa, Tubmanburg, Bomi County for the Mel, Gbarnga, Bong County for the Mande, and Brewerville, Montserrado County was selected for the Settlers.

 

                      

           

                  

 

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