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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

The Advocates for Human Rights Submits Report on Diaspora Experience
to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission

First TRC to Include the Diaspora in Its Final Report

 

 

Minneapolis / St. Paul, MN (June 30, 2009) – From 1979 to 2003, more than 1.5 million Liberians were forced from their homes to escape from the violence and destruction of a protracted civil conflict. Many Liberians eventually made their way to the United States in their flight from war, including some 30,000 who settled in Minnesota. Most of their stories have never been told before. The report on the experience of the Liberian diaspora, entitled A House with Two Rooms, is the culmination of three years of work in the United States, the United Kingdom and Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana. The report has been submitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia, the body charged by the Liberian government with determining the facts of the human rights violations that occurred during the civil war. The Liberian TRC officially completes its mandate today.

 

The Executive Summary of the Report and Priority Recommendations may be found at The Advocates’ website: www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org. The report documents the experience of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law that forced Liberians to leave the country. It is based on an analysis of more than 1600 statements, fact-finding interviews, and witness testimony at public hearings held in the United States. The report also tells the story of the “triple trauma” experienced by members of the diaspora during their flight through Liberia and across international borders, while living in refugee camps in West Africa, and in resettlement in the U.S. and U.K. In addition, the report summarizes the views of Liberians in the diaspora on the root causes of the conflict and their recommendations for systemic reform and reconciliation.

 

Key Recommendations from The Advocates’ Report to the TRC of Liberia include:

 

  • Prioritizing the ongoing physical and mental health needs of victims;
  • Addressing the immediate needs of refugees and the displaced, including those in protracted refugee situations in the sub-region such as Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana;
  • Adopting immediate measures to assist and protect children, women, and older persons;
  • Ensuring that civil and political rights are guaranteed immediately;
  • Ensuring justice and ending impunity;
  • Eliminating corruption;
  • Ensuring economic and social rights and development;
  • Dedicating adequate resources, financial support, and political will to implement the TRC’s recommendations;
  • Taking steps toward reconciliation; and
  • Providing United States and international community assistance to Liberians with resettlement and family reunification, as well as support for peacebuilding and foreign aid.

 

The Diaspora Report will be summarized in Vol. II of the Liberian TRC’s Final Report and published in its entirety as an appendix in its Final Report. The TRC’s Final Report is in production and expected to be released on the TRC’s website www.trcofliberia.org. The Advocates’ report A House with Two Rooms will be available at http://liberiatrc.mnadvocates.org/Final_Report.html. It will also be published independently in the United States. As the first TRC to include documentation and recommendations from a diaspora population, the TRC of Liberia and The Advocates for Human Rights’ work will serve as an example for all future truth and reconciliation commissions.

Please call The Advocates for Human Rights for more information.

Robin Phillips                                                                Jennifer Prestholdt
Executive Director                                                          Deputy Director

612-341-3302, ext. 109                                                   612-341-3302, ext. 111 rphillips@advrights.org                                                                                    jprestholdt@advrights.org

 

 

About The Advocates for Human Rights: The Advocates for Human Rights is a non-governmental, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of internationally recognized human rights. With the help of hundreds of volunteers each year, The Advocates investigates and exposes human rights violations; represents immigrants and refugees in our community who are victims of human rights abuses, trains and assists groups that protect human rights; and works through education and advocacy to engage the public, policy makers and children about human rights and cultural understanding. The Advocates holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.

 

About the Liberia TRC Diaspora Project: At the request of – and under a Memorandum of Understanding with, the TRC of Liberia – The Advocates coordinated the work of the TRC in the Liberian diaspora beginning in 2006. The Advocates recruited, trained, and supported the more than 600 volunteers who took statements from Liberian refugees in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana. The Advocates also assisted the Liberian TRC in holding public hearings in the U.S. in 2008, marking the first time any nation had ever conducted such hearings outside of their country. The Advocates did not receive funding from the TRC, but instead facilitated the contribution of more than $10 million in pro bono services to the project. While more than 30 countries have implemented some form of truth and reconciliation after periods of conflict and gross human rights violations, The Advocates’ Liberian TRC Diaspora Project created a new model of transitional justice. This was the first TRC to make a concerted effort to solicit from diaspora communities both their stories of what happened to them and their families and their recommendations for reconciliation and systematic change. This groundbreaking project gave Liberians in diaspora a voice in the promotion of international justice and human rights as part of the post-conflict peacebuilding process in Liberia.