Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Liberia is a constitutional republic led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, problems continued. Mob violence and land disputes resulted in deaths, and ritualistic killings occurred. Police abused, harassed, and intimidated detainees and citizens. Prison conditions remained harsh, and arbitrary arrest and detention occurred. Lengthy pretrial detention and denial of due process and fair public trial were problems. Some incidents of trial‑by‑ordeal were reported. Corruption and impunity continued in most levels of the government. Violence against women, including rape, was a problem, and domestic violence was widespread. Female genital mutilation, child abuse, and sexual violence against children were problems. There were reports of human trafficking, racial and ethnic discrimination, and child labor, especially in the informal sector.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Despite significant progress in the transition to peace and stability after a 14-year civil war, the country remains a fragile state that relies on the United States, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and other international partners for assistance in maintaining stability and building the foundations for sustainable peace and development. The U.S. Government's priorities in the country are to promote peace and security, improve the quality of and access to justice, and strengthen democratic institutions.
To meet these objectives, the U.S. Government focuses on expanding its rule of law program outside of the capital city of Monrovia; continuing work with UNMIL to address prison conditions; supporting programs to combat gender based violence; and supporting local efforts to deter trafficking in persons. Consistent with the country's goal of fighting corruption and the entrenched culture of impunity, U.S. assistance will include efforts to combat corruption and develop a functioning judicial system. The U.S. Government conducted two evaluations: one in October 2008 for election, legislative, and political party support, and one in April 2009 for rule of law activities. To foster a stronger independent press in advance of the 2011 national elections, U.S. efforts focus on strengthening the viability and capacity of the press to help create an atmosphere for free, fair, and credible elections.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The U.S. Government continues efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and the political process. Specific programs strengthened the electoral process through increased assistance to local political parties, civil society, and the National Elections Commission. Legislators received U.S. assistance through sponsorship of training sessions to increase knowledge of committee operations, ethics, and budgets. Candidates for legislative by-elections participated in training and a public debate organized by U.S.-funded NGOs, which also supported civic education outreach and voter education efforts. U.S. officials observed the legislative by-election during 2008 in Margibi and River Gee, and determined that they were well run, free and fair. The United States funded a local NGO to survey inhabitants regarding what democracy meant to them and what they thought of their government officials.
The Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) that is helping the country effectively control and manage its public finances will transition into a broader capacity building program. The GEMAP program, funded by the United States and other partners, has placed internationally recruited financial controllers and management experts in key ministries, agencies, and state-owned enterprises to encourage transparency and accountability. During the next phase, a follow-on program will focus on training and institution building across government. U.S. support for key government institutions will also continue through the Senior Executive Service program that attracts qualified local citizens to fill critical government posts. U.S. officials publicly highlighted the need for transparency and accountability in all branches of government and worked privately with officials, NGOs, and international organizations to identify areas of concern and encourage systemic reforms.
U.S. efforts to strengthen the judicial sector and expand access to justice include training for judicial personnel, supporting legal aid clinics, providing a law student scholarship and internship program, promoting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and conducting public legal education. U.S. assistance supports several American justice sector advisors who work closely with the minister of justice, the chief justice, investigators, prosecutors, public defenders, and other court officials. U.S.-sponsored programs also support the nascent public defender's office and a legal aid clinic at the national law school. U.S. programs provide training for NGOs to assist victims of gender-based violence in navigating the justice system and support a pro bono mediation specialist to develop training materials and conduct mediation training and law workshops. The U.S. Government provided a resident legal advisor to assist the government on anticorruption issues. In addition, the United States has funded an NGO project that assists the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to fulfill its mandate of investigating human rights violations during the 14-year civil war.
The United States promotes freedom of speech and press in the country. U.S. Government assistance funded the travel of a local reporter to the United States in advance of former President Bush's visit to the country. Another reporter was sent to observe a primary election in Minnesota. U.S. officials also promoted human rights and democracy messages through taped or live UN radio programming and interviews on anticorruption and human rights. The U.S. Government also organized a roundtable with an American expert on the business challenges facing media. In addition, the United States funded a program through an American university to strengthen media institution management and business planning.