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Justice Minister briefs Security Council

Liberia’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, has told the UN Security Council that the Government of Liberia in collaboration with partners has put in place a comprehensive plan to address emerging challenges as the United Nations peacekeeping mission leaves the country, paving the way for the government to take full responsibility of State security. 

He said the plan was concerned not only about UNMIL transition, but also took into account the consolidation of gains made over the years with focus on protecting peace and security in a more structured fashion.

According to the Ministry of Information, Minister Sannoh spoke when he addressed the UN Security Council meeting held under the theme: “Consideration of the 29th Progress Report on the Situation in Liberia”, which was held at the United Nations held quarters in New York.

He pointed out that the transition plan identified institutional weaknesses as well as challenges within the security and justice sector and advances mechanism for reforms in the areas of law, infrastructure, capacity building, logistics and equipment for enhanced service delivery.

Minister Sannoh said the Liberian government was committed to adopting an approach in ensuring that the capacity of its security agencies, especially the Liberian National Police and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization are built with a focus on human security consistent with the plan for Security Sector Reform (SSR), envisioned  under the Agenda for Transformation and the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Liberia (NSSRL).

Minister Sannoh explained that the UN Secretary-General's 29th progress report fairly represented the situation in Liberia as at April 15, 2015, but fell short of a holistic picture if it was not read in the context of a country emerging from conflict, the progress that it has made, and the practical reality on the ground.   

" All the world over, no government can predict , let alone prevent all incidents that happen within its borders, which may constitute human rights violations or abuse or which pose a threat to the peace and stability of the country. Under such circumstances, the role of any responsible government would of necessity focus on a two prong approach: The first prong is to create the enabling environment for peace and stability through an appropriate legal framework and institutional arrangements that will allow the people to carry on their lives with minimum governmental intrusion. The second prong is to ensure that when incidents do occur in violation of the fundamental rights of its citizens; undermine integrity in governance; or threaten the peace and stability of the state, that such incidents are thoroughly and speedily investigated and those held culpable brought to justice consistent with law due process so as to prevent impunity, and discourage others from engaging in the same line of conduct."

 Addressing specific issues raised in the Secretary General’s report, Minister Sannoh said the events enumerated concerning the security situation were isolated and not persistent incidents or violations. He intimated that the government took prompt measures to investigate and brought to justice those involved, stressing that these events were effectively contained by the police and the local peace committees established under the National Security Strategy.

Commenting on Press Freedom, the Minister said there was "no restriction or prior censorship on press freedom" in Liberia. He however, stressed that the media was not above the law, and that when there was clear and deliberate violation of the laws  the government had the a duty to  bring those responsible to justice to vindicate the integrity of the law and for the greater good of  the society. 

On corruption, he said the delay in prosecution of cases in Liberia was more a manifestation of capacity challenge than a lack of political will to fight the menace. He recalled that President Sirleaf during her last address to the Legislature urged that august body to amend the act establishing the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to give the Commission full prosecutorial powers. He said the institutions in the forefront in the fight against corruption were created and were being funded by the government.

"What is not being said is that prosecuting corruption cases requires capacity and resources, which are not readily available," he told the meeting.

Speaking further, Minister Sannoh informed the Security Council meeting that Liberia was in the process of decongesting the police beyond Montserrado County into the counties to have more police presence there.    On concerns about police brutality, the Minister said the professional Standards Division of the Liberian National Police was routinely investigating acts of misconduct and was dismissing and prosecuting officers involved.  

On Human Rights situation, he said the government did not condone violations by any of its institutions and remained committed to fulfilling its obligations under local and international laws.

Concluding, the Minister said Liberia remains committed to its obligations under the statement of mutual commitment with the Peace-building Commission and will continue to forge increased engagement with members of the configuration to solidify peace in Liberia, especially when the pace of resource mobilization in support of Liberia has slowed down considerably over the past years.

 He then expressed gratitude to UN Secretary-General Ban Kim Moon, Members of the Security Council, as well as bilateral and multilateral partners for the support given Liberia during the Ebola crisis.

For her part, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Liberia, Karin Landgren said the Ebola highlighted Liberia's underlying fragility, but stressed that there were promising development in addressing corruption, with the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission undertaking major investigations in respect of state-owned enterprises. She however, noted that steady political will was needed to support such processes.

Landgren, whose tour of duty ends by June this year, expressed appreciation to the Liberian government and the people of Liberia for good working relationship during her stay in Liberia. She appealed for a more robust international support for Liberia to keep alive the gains made over the years.

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