Funded by the European Union and implemented by the National Civil Society Partner Organizations, Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP) and the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL), the two-year project seeks to contribute to enhancing the rule of law and the respect of the fundamental human rights of the most vulnerable prisoners in Liberia. It also aims at improving access to justice by strengthening local capacities to provide gender sensitive and legal support and protection of prisoners' rights in the three counties.
Speaking at a ceremony to launch the project, the Head of Cooperation Section and Resilience at the European Union Delegation in Liberia, Alberto Menghini emphasized that the project will enhance the knowledge of law reinforcement representatives including police, and correction officers, legal practitioners as well as enlightens community leaders to the rule of law and international human rights standards. He added that the initiative will further increase legal provision of legal assistance for vulnerable detainees; strengthen dialogue, cohesion building and information sharing between stakeholders and improve attitude and practices, through awareness raising and advocacy at national and international level on issues of vulnerable detainees' rights.
"Poor prison conditions and excessive pre-trial detention are a consequence of wider problems in the judicial system and cannot be fully addressed in isolation. However, they are also human rights violations that cannot be left unattended until the bigger problems are fixed.
That’s why EU Human Rights Strategy in Liberia includes supporting initiatives aiming at improving prison conditions and reduce pre-trial detention", Alberto Menghini stressed.
Talking about the overview of the project, the Finn Church Aid (FCA) Country Director, Mr. Hoslo Jiwa, explained that “we have all heard it when the alleged perpetrator of a crime says “I want to make a phone call”. It seems the right thing to say when you have been accused of a crime and you need help from your parents, guardian or a lawyer. We have all got used to hearing these same words used in countless TV shows that we take it for granted”. He further noted that FCA and its local partners will monitor the prisons and train Liberian Police, Prison Guards and Governors of prisons on international human rights of prisoners and establish a telephone system for three national prisons in Liberia, for 18 months and prisoners will have access to phones and lawyers working on pro bona system to review their cases of incarceration.
The FINN CHURCH AID would manage and coordinate the project while RHRAP and AFFELL, two Liberian civil society organizations will implement it in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties respectively. In doing their work, the implementers will collaborate with government ministries and agencies with focus on the Justice Ministry, traditional and religious leaders in addressing some of the many challenges faced by the Liberia justice system.
Finally, the Ministry of Justice represented by Assistant Minister Hilary Siakor-Sirleaf officially launched the project. Speaking onbehalf of the Minister of Justice, Hon. Siakor-Sirleaf pledged the ministry support and full collaboration toward the successful implementation of the project.