By Reuben Sei Waylaun
The United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) has opened its office in Liberia for the first time.
OHCHR-Country Representative Uchenna Emelonye
Although UNMIL has officially declared its peacekeeping mission officially closed in the country, the OHCHR-Country Representative Uchenna Emelonye said the commissioning of the office has demonstrated the Liberian Government’s political will and commitment to join the universal declaration in promoting and protecting the rights of all human beings.
“Although the work of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has come to an end, the work of human rights continues with the opening of the UN Human Rights Office in Liberia,” Dr. Emelonye told an inaugural press briefing in Monrovia Tuesday, 26 June 2018.
“This milestone, which reinforces the human rights commitment of the United Nations Country Team in Liberia, under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator Yacoub El Hillo, is coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and programme of Action for Human Rights, both of which paved the way for significant human rights advances globally.”
Through the Human Rights and Protection Service (HRPS) or UNMIL, Dr. Emelonye reaffirmed his pledge to implement the objectives of the OHCHR Country Office’s and principles, including the charter of the United Nations, which he intoned, recognizes the importance of observing the provisions contained in the UDHR and other international human rights instruments.
Emelonye also recalled the regional and international human rights instruments acceded to by the Government of Liberia and finally calls for the implementation of the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 48/141 of 20 December 1993.
In accordance with the host country agreement, OHCHR Country office in Liberia, he noted, “will advise and assist the government on strategies, programmes and measures to be implemented to promote and protect human rights in Liberia. To this end, the country office will provide advisory services and technical assistance in the implementation of international human rights instruments ratified by the Republic of Liberia. The country office will also encourage the government to ratify new international instruments, adopt appropriate legislation and introduce human rights training and education in schools and colleges.”
Guided by the United Nations principles of impartiality, independence, objectivity and transparency, Dr. Emelonye assured the Liberian nation and the world body that the OHCHR country office shall act as a center for advice and dialogue and promote a climate of trust among all actors involved in or concerned with human rights.
“It shall maintain appropriate contacts with competent authorities, national institutions, civil society organizations and business enterprises. It shall also follow up and report on the human situation in Liberia. Prior to such reports, it will be shared with the government and other concerned parties so as to elicit factual comments within specific timeline,” Dr. Emelonye promised.
Notwithstanding, he commended the Liberian Government for mustering the political will in allowing for the establishment of the OHCHR office in the country, saying, “I am pleased to commend the government for willingly allowing and warmly welcoming OHCHR Country office in Liberia. This strong political will is very enabling for the promotion and protection of human rights in Liberia. Amongst other human rights enablers, OHCHR commends the government’s peace building plan for identifying human rights as a priority area of intervention.
The government of Liberia has also manifested ownership to promote, protect and fulfill human rights as being expressed in the ongoing efforts to mainstream human rights in the Pro-poor agenda for prosperity and development.”
Regarding specific work that his office would be engaged with in the coming six years, Dr. Emelonye disclosed that: “On the strength of the agreement with the Government, OHCHR is poised to continue sustained engagements in Liberia with all the arms of government for a period of up to six years split into two phases. The first phase will last for three years and will focus on the strengthening of national institutions and human rights protection mechanisms. During this period, OHCHR will also support the judiciary in facilitating access to justice, strengthening information standards, and the consolidation of judicial internal oversight accountability mechanisms.”
The seasoned UN Rights lawyer also outlined specific roles and responsibility of the commission in future engagement with the government and rights groups in the country, including the Independent Commission on Human Rights(INCHR).
On the other hand, he further revealed that “OHCHR will assist the Law Reform Commission (LRC) in the audit and indemnification of the laws that are inconstant with international human rights norms and standards, as well as provide technical assistance to the National Assembly in legislative oversight on the one hand, and in the promulgation of human rights complaint legislation in general. Regarding the justice and security sector, OHCHR will focus on internal oversight and accountability for law enforcement personnel and the military, while at the same time building capacity of actors on human rights-based approach in the administration of security and justice.”
On the overall, Dr. Emelonye expressed delight about the opening of the OHCHR office in Liberia, noting, “I am pleased to inform you that pursuant to a host country agreement with the government of the Republic of Liberia, the United Nations office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) has opened a country office in Monrovia, Liberia.”
Moving forward, especially with respect to the remaining three years, Dr. Emelonye also announced that: “In the subsequent three remaining years, OHCHR will embark on the gradual transfer of capacity and functions to national human rights institutions, particularly the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), the Ministry of Justice Human Rights Protection Division, CSOs and CBOs. By then, it is hoped that the government of Liberia would have been able to adopt and implement human rights-complaint laws, and that citizens would have violent resolution of grievances and to seek accountability and remedy for human rights violations.”
“In conclusion, please permit me to underline that I am personally elated and honored to be appointed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and accredited by the Government of Liberia as the first country Representative of OHCHR in Liberia. I look forward to working, on one hand, with the Government of Liberia in promoting, protecting and fulfilling its human rights obligations, and on the other hand, with citizenry, in claiming and enjoying their inherent human rights.”