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Liberia - Human Rights Committee - Pretrial Detention - February 2018

Liberia’s Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights: Detention Conditions and Lengthy Pre-trial Detention

Partner: The Liberia Law Society

This report focuses on Liberia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the “Covenant”). Specifically, it addresses the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in deplorable conditions, as well as the serious problem of prolonged pre-trial detention in Liberia.

While Liberia has repeatedly acknowledged its substantial deficiencies in prison overcrowding, appalling prison conditions and prolonged pre-trial detention, its efforts to address these problems have been woefully insufficient. The prison system as a whole is at 165.7% capacity, with some prisons and detention centers at two or three times their capacity. Corrupt or arbitrary arrests continue to aggravate the situation of prison overcrowding. Prisoners lack adequate food, medical care and sanitation.

The problem of pre-trial detention in Liberia is devastating in scope. Pre-trial detainees make up the majority of the population in Liberian prisons and detention centers. Multiple factors contribute to Liberia’s pre-trial detention problem. Rights to due process and fair trial, including the rights to counsel and speedy trial, are rarely enforced. There is a shortage of judges, magistrates, prosecutors and public defenders. Pre-trial detainees languish in prison for years with no access to a court.