Institutional and attitudinal change key to Liberia's development, says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

(Monrovia, Liberia) - Institution-building and attitudinal change are the biggest challenges facing Liberia, visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said today. Stressing the importance of an independent and professional judiciary, Mrs. Arbour said the dysfunctional judicial system is severely impacting on the creation of a human rights environment in Liberia.

In a country that has experienced the total collapse of state institutions, rebuilding the judicial system must be prioritized as the peace-building effort cannot be accomplished without the establishment of the rule of law, the High Commissioner said.

Referring to recent achievements, Mrs. Arbour said -we must never forget to acknowledge the tremendous progress that has been accomplished in this country since the establishment of peace. The credit to that goes to ECOWAS, UNMIL, but for the most part I think it goes to Liberians themselves who have demonstrated enormous resilience in their determination to live in peace." In the area of human rights, the High Commissioner commended the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Independent National Commission on Human Rights.

The High Commissioner said the issue of corruption was raised at virtually every meeting she had with Government, national and international stakeholders in Liberia. -Parallel to combating corruption and displacing the culture of impunity, I think it is also very important to ensure that there are incentives to support integrity," she added. Speaking about attitudinal change, Mrs. Arbour said it is important to -reinforce the view that power is about responsibility, not about personal rewards." She stressed that -fighting impunity and rewarding integrity is therefore key to reconstruction and to building donors' confidence." The High Commissioner pointed out that the weakest link in the process of fighting impunity is the dysfunctional justice sector. -Human rights and the rule of law is a precondition to peace and security," she added.

During her four-day visit to Liberia, Mrs. Arbour met with the National Transitional Government of Liberia Chairman, Charles Gyude Bryant, the Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Chairman of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, national and international non-governmental organizations, members of the Diplomatic Corps and Senior UNMIL Officials. The High Commissioner also visited ex-combatants illegally occupying the Guthrie Rubber Plantation bordering Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties and the detention centre in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.