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New Human Rights Report Critcizes Liberian Government - 2003-01-17

A new report released by the Roman Catholic Justice & Peace Commission in Liberia says the government of President Charles Taylor has disregarded the constitution of the country. The report also accuses state security of committing gross human rights violations. English to Africa Reporter

In its 2002 annual situational report, the Catholic Justice & Commission says the Taylor-led government has institutionalized disrespect for the rule of law. It accuses the government of state security brutality, intimidation and harassment of peaceful citizens.

The report says the government has held people in detention without trial beyond the constitutional provision of 48 hours. The report accuses the government of building a culture of impunity.

It says several human rights activists, journalists and religious leaders have been arrested and detained without charge, and in some cases brutally attacked by state personnel without any official reason.

The commission says unless steps are taking to correct these practices, the country risks more international isolation and severe economic hardship.

Commenting on this year’s general and presidential elections, the commission warns that the electoral process could be marred by some of the worst forms of security brutality, molestation and intimidation of the government’s political opponents. Already there are reports of arrests and detentions of individuals whose views run contrary to authorities.

The report is therefore recommending the deployment of a UN and ECOWAS stabilization force for the duration of the electoral process – something the government here has always rejected.

Reacting to the report, Presidential spokesman Varney Passawe describes it as unbalanced, saying the commission ignored atrocities committed by rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy or LURD.

Mr. Passawe also rejects claims by the commission’s report that there’s a culture of impunity in Liberia.

On the question of pre-election violence, Mr. Passawe describes the assertions as hateful assumption. He says government is committed to the democratic process and will do everything possible to ensure that it is free of violence. On the ongoing rebel war in northwestern Liberia, the Roman Catholic Justice & Peace Commission report calls on rebels to abandon their violent struggle and join the electoral process.