JURIST >> WORLD LAW >> Liberia 

Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Liberia is a centralized republic, dominated by a strong presidency. The Constitution provides for three branches of government, but no effective system of checks and balances, and presidents traditionally have wielded extraordinary power. Charles G. Taylor, who is of both indigenous and Americo-Liberian ancestry, has led the Government since 1996, when forces under his command emerged dominant after a 7-year civil war. In 1997 Taylor won the presidential election, and his National Patriotic Party (NPP) won three-quarters of the seats in the legislature. The elections were administratively free and transparent, but were conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation, as most voters believed that Taylor's forces would have resumed fighting if he had lost. Most other leaders of the former warring factions subsequently left the country. The bicameral legislature exercises little independence from the executive branch.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The judicial system is functional but extensively manipulated by the executive branch. There is a Supreme Court, criminal courts, and appeals and magistrate courts in the counties. There also are traditional courts and lay courts in the counties. Trial by ordeal is practiced in various parts of Liberia.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Liberian Government's human rights record remained poor in 2001, and there were numerous, serious abuses in many areas. The security forces committed many extrajudicial killings, and they were accused of disappearances of numerous persons. Security forces tortured, beat, and otherwise abused or humiliated citizens. The Government investigated some of the alleged abuses by the security forces; however, offenders rarely were charged or disciplined. Prison conditions remained harsh and sometimes life threatening. Security forces continued at times to use arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention remained common. The judicial system, hampered by political influence, economic pressure, inefficiency, corruption, and a lack of resources, was unable to ensure citizens' rights to due process and a fair trial. In some rural areas where the judiciary had not been reestablished, clan chieftains administered criminal justice through the traditional practice of trial-by-ordeal; authorities tacitly condoned this practice. Approximately 20 political prisoners remained in jail, although some were released during the year. Security forces violated citizens' privacy rights, conducted warrantless searches, harassment and illegal surveillance, and looted homes. The Government restricted freedom of speech and of the press; it detained, threatened, and intimidated journalists. Police forcibly dispersed one student demonstration. Security forces restricted freedom of movement, using roadblocks to extort money from travelers and displaced persons fleeing fighting, primarily in Lofa County. Security forces frequently harassed human rights monitors. Violence and discrimination against women remained problems. The welfare of children remained widely neglected, and female genital mutilation (FGM) continued to increase. Societal ethnic discrimination remained widespread, ethnic differences continued to generate violence and political tensions, and the Government continued to discriminate against indigenous ethnic groups that had opposed Taylor in the civil war, especially the Mandingo and the Krahn ethnic groups. Forced labor persisted in rural areas. Child labor remained widespread, and there were reports of forced child labor. Ritualistic killings also persisted.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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