CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Liberia

Live rating: Obstructed

Last updated on 04.12.2018 at 18:09

Liberia-Overview

Despite enabling laws, Liberia’s civic space protections do not fully adhere to international standards.

read more

from the news feed

view the news feed
80 CSOs call for accountability and justice for past war crimes

80 CSOs call for accountability and justice for past war crimes

In a letter to president George Weah on 20th September 2018, 80 CSOs have requested the Liberian government to commit to 'a roadmap to ensure justice and reparations for victims of the gravest crimes committed during Liberia’s civil wars' at the United Nations General Assembly. In July 2018, the UN Human Rights Council called the government to set up a process to ensure accountability for war crimes. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia made the recommendation to set up a war crimes court, but has not been implemented.

Association

In a letter to Liberian president George Weah on 20th September 2018, 80 CSOs urged the Liberian government to commit to 'a roadmap to ensure justice and reparations for victims of the gravest crimes committed during Liberia’s civil wars' at the United Nations General Assembly. The civil wars, which lasted 14 years, ended in 2003.

In July 2018, the UN Human Rights Council called the government to set up a process to ensure accountability for past war crimes. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia recommended the creation of a war crimes court, but it is yet to be implemented. To date, no one has been held accountable in Liberia for past abuses and war crimes, including massacres, summary executions, torture, mutilation, the use of child soldiers and the systematic use of sexual violence. The few cases of prosecutions that have taken place, occurred in other jurisdictions outside of Liberia, mainly in the United States of America and Europe. 

Peaceful Assembly

Bring Back Our Money protest

On 24th September 2018, hundreds of protesters gathered in Monrovia to demand the return of 16 billion Liberian dollars (104 million USD) in cash that is unaccounted for. The money, printed abroad, went missing after arriving in containers in two Liberian ports between November 2017 and August 2018. The protesters, who braved the rain, marched to the United States embassy, the European Union and the United Nations buildings to present petitions requesting them to exert pressure on the Liberian government to account for the missing money. Previously, an investigation was launched and a travel ban imposed on 15 people as part of the probe, although the Central Bank of Liberia later claimed, in October 2018, that the bank notes were not missing at all. 

According to Frontpage Africa, at least two people linked to the protest claim to have received an 'invitation' by police for questioning prior to the protest, namely Emmanuel Gonquoi of the Freedom Economic Fighters and Martin Kollie of Concerned Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back. According to the police, the invitation was intended ‘so that they can tell us the purpose of the protest, where they will be gathering and which route they’ll use – that’s all’.

Protest to demand justice for past war crimes

On 12th November 2018, hundreds of Liberians marched in Monrovia to call for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court to hold the perpetrators of war crimes during Liberia’s civil wars to account. The protesters, under the banner of ‘Campaigners and Victims For Justice’, presented petitions to the embassies of the United States, the European Union, the office of the United Nations and the office of President Weah.

Expression

Bettie Johnson-Mbayo, journalist for the newspaper Front Page Africasaid to have received two threatening calls from a lawyer on 15th August 2018. In the first call, Johnson-Mbayo received a death threat, and in the second call she was threatened with the disappearance of one of her children if she continued publishing stories on the lawyer's client. The incident was condemned by Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Centre for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) and the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and the Reporters Association of Liberia (RAL). The newspaper filed a complaint against the lawyer, and after a police investigation, the individual was charged with 'terroristic threat and menacing'. 

Association

Freedom of association is constitutionally guaranteed and the 2008 National Policy on Non-Governmental Organisations establishes the procedures for registration.

Freedom of association is constitutionally guaranteed and the 2008 National Policy on Non-Governmental Organisations establishes the procedures for registration. The Law on Associations allows for organisations to operate without having to be formally ‘incorporated’. There are many CSOs operating in the country and they do so, in general, without restriction. Official government statistics showed that, in 2010, there were 277 registered CSOs in Liberia, although it was estimated that there were almost double that number in operation. While most within civil society operate freely, LGBTI activists and HRDs who work on issues of corporate accountability are more vulnerable to attacks and harassment. There is no reported government infiltration of the civil society sector and there are also no bans or restriction on foreign funding of CSOs.

Peaceful Assembly

Article 17 of the constitution provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly and legislation requires that protestors must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Justice.

Article 17 of the constitution provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly and legislation requires that protestors must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Justice. In December 2014, the President issued Executive Order No. 65 temporarily banning rallies and gatherings in Monrovia due to the Ebola crisis. During the period of the outbreak, the right to gather in public was also restricted in practice. For example, security forces used excessive force to disperse protestors calling for an end to the quarantine. Excessive force was also used during post-election protests in 2011 and again in early 2016 as protestors gathered outside court buildings in Monrovia, calling for the release of an arrested journalist.

Expression

Article 15 of the Liberian constitution provides for freedom of speech and press.

Article 15 of the Liberian constitution provides for freedom of speech and press. Despite the government’s endorsement of the Table Mountain Declaration in 2012, defamation remains a criminal offense and it is still used against journalists to curtail dissent. During the state of emergency and the Ebola crisis in 2014, limitations on freedom of expression and access to information took place. These included the closure of independent newspaper The National Chronicle, which was reopened following a court decision in 2015. Journalists sometimes face threats, intimidation and harassment. In 2010, Liberia enacted a freedom of information law although its full implementation is still a work in progress.