Death Penalty Database

Liberia

Information current as of: July 8, 2015

General

Official Country Name

Republic of Liberia (Liberia). [1]

Geographical Region

Africa (Western Africa). [2]

Death Penalty Law Status

Abolitionist de facto. The last execution was carried out in 2000. [3]

Methods of Execution

Hanging. [4]

References

[1] BBC, Country Profiles: Liberia Profile, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13729505, May 21, 2013.
[2] U.N., Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm, Oct. 31, 2013.
[3] UN ECOSOC, Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, Report of the Secretary-General, para. 18, U.N. Doc. E/2015/49, Apr. 13, 2015.
[4] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 31.1(2), Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973. Jamil Ddamulira Mujuzi, High Crime Rate Forces Liberia to Reintroduce Death Penalty and Put International Treaty Obligations Aside: What the Critics Missed? pp. 343-344, African Journal of Intl. & Comparative Law, Vol. 17, p. 342, 2009.

Country Details

Language(s)

The major languages are English and 29 African languages belonging to the Mande, Kwa, and Mel linguistic groups. [1]

Population

4.2 million (UN, 2012). [2]

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death

At least 9.

Liberia reintroduced the death penalty in 2008. [3] Since then, courts have handed down at least 20 death sentences, [4] but some may have been overturned on appeal or benefitted from a pardon. In February 2015, Liberia stated to the UN Human Rights Council that there were 9 people on death row. [5] A coalition of NGOs working on death penalty issues, however, reported that there were 16 people under sentence of death around the same time. [6]

Annual Number of Reported Executions

Executions in 2017 to date (last updated on December 6, 2017)

0. [7]

Executions in 2016

0. [8]

Per capita execution rate in 2016

Executions in 2015

0. [9]

Per capita execution rate in 2015

0 executions.

Executions in 2014

0. [10]

Per capita execution rate in 2014

0 executions

Executions in 2013

0. [11]

Per capita execution rate in 2013

0 executions

Executions in 2012

0. [12]

Per capita execution rate in 2012

0 executions

Executions in 2011

0. [13]

Per capita execution rate in 2011

0 executions

Executions in 2010

0. [14]

Executions in 2009

0. [15]

Executions in 2008

0. [16]

Executions in 2007

0. [17]

Year of Last Known Execution

2000. [18]

References

[1] BBC, Country Profiles: Liberia Profile, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13729505, May 21, 2013.
[2] BBC, Country Profiles: Liberia Profile, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13729505, May 21, 2013.
[3] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, p. 19, ACT 50/003/2009, Mar. 24, 2009.
[4] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 22, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 34, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 49, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 43, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 44, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 27, 2014. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, p. 58, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2014.
[5] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Liberia, para. 34, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/22/LBR/1, Feb. 18, 2015.
[6] FIACAT, ACAT-Liberia & World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Submission to UN Human Rights Council for Liberia’s Second UPR, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_22_-_mai_2015/js1_upr22_lbr_e_main.pdf, 2015.
[7] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[8] Amnesty International, Death sentences and executions in 2016, ACT 50/5740/2017, Apr. 11, 2017.
[9] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[10] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[13] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, ACT 50/001/2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/001/2012/en, Mar. 27, 2012.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 5, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[15] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/001/2010/en, Mar. 30, 2010.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, p. 8, ACT 50/003/2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/003/2009/en, Mar. 24, 2009.
[17] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/001/2008/en, Apr. 15, 2008.
[18] UN ECOSOC, Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, Report of the Secretary-General, para. 18, U.N. Doc. E/2015/49, Apr. 13, 2015.

Crimes and Offenders Punishable By Death

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.
Murder is punishable by death under the 1976 Penal Law [1] but was not reintroduced as a capital offense under the 2008 criminal law amendment. [2] The status of capital provisions under the 1976 law is ambiguous (see Comments below).

We believe, however, that in practice courts continue to treat murder as punishable by death. In 2009 and 2010, Liberian courts handed down death sentences for crimes of murder, [3] and in 2013 sentenced a man to death for murder and rape. [4]

Under Liberian law, causing the death of a person while committing, attempting to commit or fleeing after committing certain felonies or a felony “involving force or danger to human life” leads to a presumption that the death was caused “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.” If this presumption is not rebutted, this indifference meets the level of intent required for murder. [5]

Other Offenses Resulting in Death.
Armed robbery resulting in death of a victim is subject to the death penalty by hanging. [6] Armed robbery resulting in death was punishable by death under the 1976 Penal Code and the 2008 amendment which reintroduced capital punishment made only minor changes to its definition (expanding the definition of force to the use of harmful chemical or biological substances). [7]

Liberian law defines the crime of “mercenarism” as supporting or participating in armed forces intent on invading the territory of another state or opposing its process of self-determination solely for material gain. Mercernarism was punishable by death under the 1976 Penal Law when it results in the death of a non-mercenary, [8] but it was not reintroduced as a capital offense under the 2008 criminal law amendment. [9] The status of capital provisions under the 1976 law is ambiguous (see Comments below). It is possible that, in practice, mercenarism resulting in death is a capital offense in Liberia.

Terrorism and hijacking resulting in death are also death-eligible even in the absence of an intent to cause loss of life (see section below on Terrorism-Related Offenses). [10]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
Discharging or attempting to discharge a firearm, explosive or lethal device likely to cause bodily injury is punishable by death “if a death occurs during the commission of the crime.” [11] Hijacking, defined as commandeering a vehicle or airplane at gunpoint or by threatening life by any other means is also punishable by death if a death occurs during the commission of the offense. [12] Both offenses may also result in a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. [13]

Both terrorism and hijacking were punished by death under the 1976 Penal Law. [14] The status of capital provisions under the 1976 law is ambiguous (see Comments below). Terrorism and hijacking were both reintroduced as capital offenses in 2008 with amended definitions. [15] Under the 1976 law, the law used mandatory language to impose capital punishment, did not provide alternative sentences, and mandated that the hanging would be carried out in public. Moreover, hijacking was punished by death regardless of whether death, personal injury or property damage ensued. [16]

Treason.
Treason resulting in death was punishable by death under the 1976 Penal Law, [17] but was not reintroduced as a capital offense under the 2008 criminal law amendment. [18] The status of capital provisions under the 1976 law is ambiguous (see Comments below). It is possible that, in practice, treason resulting in death is a capital offense in Liberia.

Treason consists of war, rebellion, or mutiny against the state, assisting an enemy, and crimes abrogating or undermining the Constitution. [19]

Espionage.
A treasonable act of espionage resulting in death was punishable by death under the 1976 Penal Law [20] but was not reintroduced as a capital offense under the 2008 criminal law amendment. [21] The status of capital provisions under the 1976 law is ambiguous (see Comments below). It is possible that, in practice, espionage resulting in death is a capital offense in Liberia.

Comments.
In 2005, Liberia acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. [22] Under the Protocol, Liberia was required to impose a moratorium on executions and amend its laws to eliminate the death penalty. However, Liberia’s Constitution requires that international agreements be ratified by the legislature. [23] Liberia’s Ministry of Justice stated that while the accession was a legitimate exercise of executive authority, the agreement does not legally bind Liberia until its legislature ratifies it. [24] In 2008, Liberia reintroduced the death penalty only for armed robbery, terrorism, and hijacking resulting in death, all offenses which had been death-eligible under the 1976 law [25] In allowing the 2008 law to pass, the President (relying on legal analysis by her Justice Minister) determined that the 2005 accession had been improper and the Protocol has no effect until it is properly ratified by the legislature. [26] As a result, the status of offenses that were capital offenses before 2005 but were not reintroduced by the 2008 amendment is unclear. For instance, in 2009 and 2010, Liberia handed down death sentences for crimes of murder [27] and in 2013 sentenced a man to death for murder and rape. [28] It appears, therefore, that courts are not ruling as if the 2008 law was necessary to reintroduce the death penalty, at least with regard to murder. The courts may have construed the 1976 Penal Code as unaffected by the 2005 accession to the Second Optional Protocol.

The Liberia Penal Law states that the death penalty may not be imposed unless enumerated aggravating circumstances are found and there are no substantial mitigating factors that merit leniency. [29]

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

No. Under the 1976 Penal Law, only aggravated capital offenses are punishable by death, and the jury must consider whether mitigating factors call for leniency. The court can deliver a lesser sentence even if the jury recommends a death sentence. [30]

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

None, there is no mandatory death penalty (see answer on the mandatory death penalty).

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

No-one has been judicially executed in Liberia since 2000. [31]

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty:

Individuals Below Age 18 At Time of Crime.
The Penal Law prohibits the execution of individuals for crimes committed while under the age of 18. [32] This appears to conform with Liberia’s international obligations as party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which prohibit executions of juvenile offenders. [33]

Several sources, however, raise doubts about the applicability of this legal exclusion. In its 2012 review of Liberia’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Rights of the Child “deeply regret[ted] that despite the … ratification of the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, … the death penalty is still applicable to children aged 16 and 17 years according to the Penal Code in its current form, in contravention of article 37 of the Convention [on the Rights of the Child].” [34] More recently, Liberia reported to the UN Human Rights Council in February 2015 that the Ministry of Justice had initiated a bill in 2014 to abolish the death penalty and life imprisonment for juvenile offenders, suggesting that juveniles are not exempt from capital punishment. [35]

Mentally Ill.
A person suffering from “mental disease or defect” may be exempt from criminal liability. [36] Moreover, “[n]o person under sentence of death who as a result of mental disease or defect lacks capacity to understand the nature and purpose of such sentence shall be executed so long as such incapacity endures.” [37] We found no legislation providing that individuals who become severely mentally ill after their conviction are exempted from execution.

Intellectually Disabled.
A person suffering from “mental disease or defect” may be exempt from criminal liability. [38] Moreover, “[n]o person under sentence of death who as a result of mental disease or defect lacks capacity to understand the nature and purpose of such sentence shall be executed so long as such incapacity endures.” [39] This language, however, is not broad enough to protect individuals with intellectual disabilities from the imposition of the death penalty.

Comments.
We did not find any laws prohibiting the execution of pregnant women or women with small children. Liberia has acceded to the ICCPR and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which prohibit the execution of pregnant women, [40] and to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which prohibits the execution of nursing mothers. [41] Liberia is a dualist state, however, where international treaties only assume force of law on a domestic level after they are ratified by the legislature. [42] We do not know whether any of these treaties have been legislatively approved, and we did not find any legislation incorporating these prohibitions into national law.

References

[1] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 14.1, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976.
[2] Liberia Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[3] WCADP, UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, 9th Session, November 2010: Liberia, http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/session9/LR/WCADP_WorldCoalitionagainsttheDeathPenalty.pdf, Nov. 2010.
[4] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 44, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 27, 2014.
[5] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 14.1(b), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976.
[6] Liberia Penal Law, secs. 15.32 & 15.34(4), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[7] Liberia Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, secs. 15.32 & 15.34, Jul. 22, 2008.
[8] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 11.13, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976.
[9] Liberia Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[10] Liberia Penal Law, secs. 15.54, 15.33 & 15.34(4), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[11] Liberia Penal Law, secs. 15.54 & 15.34(4), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[12] Liberia Penal Law, secs. 15.33 & 15.34(4), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[13] Liberia Penal Law, secs. 15.54, 15.33 & 15.34(4), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[14] Liberia Penal Law, secs. 15.33, 15.54 & 15.34(2) and (3), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976.
[15] Liberia Penal Law, secs. 15.54, 15.33 & 15.34(4), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[16] Liberia Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, secs. 15.54, 15.33 & 15.34(4), Jul. 22, 2008.
[17] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 11.2, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[18] Liberia Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[19] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 11.1, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[20] Liberia Penal Law, secs. 11.1-11.2, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[21] Liberia Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[22] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en , last accessed Mar. 29, 2014.
[23] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 34(iii)(b), Jan. 6, 1986.
[24] WCADP, World Coalition calls on Liberia to regain its leading abolitionist role, http://www.worldcoalition.org/World-Coalition-calls-on-Liberia-to-regain-its-leading-abolitionist-role.html, Oct. 2, 2008. Cllr. Phillip A. Z. Banks, III, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Memorandum Opinion, DPW Doc. No. Memo-1, Sep. 1, 2008.
[25] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 15.34(4), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[26] WCADP, World Coalition calls on Liberia to regain its leading abolitionist role, http://www.worldcoalition.org/World-Coalition-calls-on-Liberia-to-regain-its-leading-abolitionist-role.html, Oct. 2, 2008.
[27] WCADP, UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, 9th Session, November 2010: Liberia, http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/session9/LR/WCADP_WorldCoalitionagainsttheDeathPenalty.pdf, Nov. 2010.
[28] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 44, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 27, 2014.
[29] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 51.3, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[30] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 51.3, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[31] UN ECOSOC, Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, Report of the Secretary-General, para. 18, U.N. Doc. E/2015/49, Apr. 13, 2015.
[32] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 51.3, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[33] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015. Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3, Nov. 20, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/child/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[34] U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Liberia, adopted by the Committee at its sixty-first session (17 September-5 October 2012), para. 37, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/LBR/CO/2-4, Dec. 13, 2012.
[35] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Liberia, para. 35, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/22/LBR/1, Feb. 18, 2015.
[36] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 4.3, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[37] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 6.1, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[38] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 4.3, Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008.
[39] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 6.1, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[40] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/women-protocol/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[41] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/women-protocol/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[42] Hanatu Kabbah, A Guide to the Liberian Legal System and Legal Research, GlobaLex, http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/liberia.htm, Sep. 2008.

International Commitments

ICCPR

Party?

Yes. [1]

Date of Accession

September 22, 2004. [2]

Signed?

Yes. [3]

Date of Signature

April 18, 1967. [4]

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

Party?

No. [5]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Yes. [6]

Date of Signature

September 22, 2004. [7]

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Party?

Yes. [8]

Note that while Liberia deposited its instrument of accession to the Second Optional Protocol in 2005, [9] it has not ratified the Protocol on a domestic level. [10] Liberia’s Constitution requires that international agreements be ratified by the legislature. [11]

Under the Second Optional Protocol, Liberia is required to impose a moratorium on executions and amend its laws to eliminate the death penalty. In 2008, however, Liberia “reintroduced” the death penalty by amendment to the Penal Law, relying on legal analysis by the Justice Minister that the Protocol has no effect until it is properly ratified by the legislature. [12]

Date of Accession

September 16, 2005. [13]

Signed?

No. [14]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

American Convention on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

Party?

Yes. [15]

Date of Accession

August 4, 1982. [16]

Signed?

Yes. [17]

Date of Signature

January 31, 1983. [18]

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

Party?

Yes. [19]

Date of Accession

December 14, 2007. [20]

Signed?

Yes. [21]

Date of Signature

December 16, 2003. [22]

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Party?

No. [23]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Yes. [24]

Date of Signature

May 14, 1992. [25]

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [26]

Vote

Abstained. [27]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [28]

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [29]

Vote

Abstained. [30]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [31]

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [32]

Vote

Abstained. [33]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [34]

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [35]

Vote

Abstained. [36]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [37]

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [38]

Vote

Abstained. [39]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [40]

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [41]

Vote

Abstained. [42]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [43]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[4] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[5] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[6] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[7] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[8] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[9] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en , last accessed Jul, 6, 2015.
[10] Cllr. Phillip A. Z. Banks, III, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Memorandum Opinion, DPW Doc. No. Memo-1, Sep. 1, 2008.
[11] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 34(f), Jan. 6, 1986.
[12] WCADP, World Coalition calls on Liberia to regain its leading abolitionist role, http://www.worldcoalition.org/World-Coalition-calls-on-Liberia-to-regain-its-leading-abolitionist-role.html, Oct. 2, 2008.
[13] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[14] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[15] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/achpr/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[16] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/achpr/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[17] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/achpr/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[18] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/achpr/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[19] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/women-protocol/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[20] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/women-protocol/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[21] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/women-protocol/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[22] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/women-protocol/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[23] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/child/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[24] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/child/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[25] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/child/ratification, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[26] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[27] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Recorded Vote on A/C.3/71/L.27 Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty, Nov. 17, 2016.
[28] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Note Verbale dated 7 September 2017, U.N. Doc. A/71/1047, Sep. 13, 2017.
[29] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, para. 141, U.N. Doc. A/69/488/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2014.
[30] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, 73rd Plenary Meeting, pp. 17-18, U.N. Doc. A/69/PV.73, Dec. 18, 2014.
[31] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Note Verbale dated 28 July 2015, U.N. Doc. A/69/993, Jul. 29, 2015.
[32] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 95-96, U.N. Doc. A/67/457/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2012.
[33] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[34] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[35] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, p. 5, U.N. Doc. A/65/456/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2010.
[36] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010.
[37] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011.
[38] U.N.G.A., 63rd session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/63/430/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2008
[39] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008.
[40] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009
[41] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/62/439/Add.2, Dec. 5, 2007.
[42] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007
[43] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008.

Death Penalty In Law

Does the country’s constitution make reference to capital punishment?

The Constitution provides: “No person shall be deprived of life…except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law.” [1]

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

No. [2]

Have there been any significant changes in the application of the death penalty over the last several years?

In 2005, Liberia acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. [3] Under the Protocol, Liberia was required to impose a moratorium on executions and amend its laws to eliminate the death penalty. However, Liberia’s Constitution requires that the legislature ratify international agreements. [4] As of June 2014, the legislature has not to our knowledge ratified the Second Optional Protocol. Liberia’s Ministry of Justice stated that while the accession was a legitimate exercise of executive authority, the agreement does not legally bind Liberia under national law until its legislature ratifies it. [5]

Due to a sudden increase in violence committed during armed robberies, politicians began to broadcast public hearings on the “crime wave.” There was a public outcry and a demand for governmental action. [6] In this context, on July 16, 2008, the legislature passed a criminal amendment “making the crimes of armed robbery, terrorism, and hijacking, respectively, capital offenses” when they result in death, amid international criticism. [7] In considering whether to allow this amendment to pass, the President (relying on legal analysis by her Justice Minister) determined that the 2005 accession had been improper and that the Protocol has no effect until it is properly ratified by the legislature. [8]

The 2008 law applies the death penalty more restrictively than the law previously in effect. [9] Under the 1976 Penal Law, these three offenses were capital offenses together with murder, treason, and mercenary actions resulting in death. In 2009 and 2010, however, Liberian courts handed down death sentences for crimes of murder, [10] and in 2013 they sentenced a man to death for murder and rape [11] – offenses which do not fall within the scope of the 2008 amendment. Although the legislature recognized the need to pass a law in order to make previously capital offenses death-eligible once more, courts are apparently issuing death sentences based on the Penal Code prior to the 2005 accession and the 2008 amendment – at least when it comes to murder convictions.

In its national report to the Africa Commission on Human and People’s Rights in 2012, Liberia recognized that the accession of the Protocol “obligates each state party to ensure that no one within its territory is executed and to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty in its jurisdiction.” [12] It also indicated that since the accession, the President had commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment. [13] It stopped short, however, of acknowledging an obligation to instruct courts to cease issuing death sentences, or of mentioning any efforts to remove capital punishment from national laws. Since Liberia “reintroduced” the death penalty in 2008, it has pronounced at least 20 death sentences. [14]

In its report to the UN Human Rights Council in February 2015, Liberia “acknowledge[d] its international obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” but added that there had been no executions since 2008. [15] Liberia also stated that it was “taking steps toward a legal abolition of the death penalty,” noting that the Independent National Commission on Human Rights had advocated for a constitutional amendment prohibiting capital punishment. [16]

Is there currently an official moratorium on executions within the country?

There is a de facto moratorium in place, but the government stopped short of calling it an official moratorium in its February 2015 report to the UN Human Rights Council. [17]

In 2005, Liberia acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. [18] Under the Protocol, Liberia was required to impose a moratorium on executions and amend its laws to eliminate the death penalty. However, Liberia’s Constitution requires that the legislature ratify international agreements, which it has not yet done. [19] Liberia’s Ministry of Justice stated that while the accession was a legitimate exercise of executive authority, the agreement does not legally bind Liberia until its legislature ratifies it. [20]

Liberia’s legislature reinstated the death penalty beginning in 2008. [21] President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed the bill into law, relying on the legal position that the country’s accession to the Second Optional Protocol was not binding in the absence of a domestic legislative enactment. [22] In response to international criticism, the Ministry of Justice explained that there has been a longstanding unwritten moratorium on executions, and that the government favors continuing the moratorium until legislative abolition is accomplished. [23]

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

In Otto v. Republic of Liberia, [24] the Supreme Court of Liberia emphasized the importance of protecting the rights of capital defendants who suffer from inadequate legal representation. In this case, the defense counsel failed to file the required documents for an appeal, a fatal procedural error which should have resulted in the court striking the appeal from its docket. Because this was a capital case, however, and the case’s procedural defect was attributable to the negligence of the defense lawyer (who had since been suspended from legal practice), the court ordered a retrial, stating that courts, “while never forgetting the duty to guard with jealous care the rights of litigants in general, should watch with special care every incident of a trial where human life is at stake.”

Since Liberia “reintroduced” the death penalty for some offenses resulting in death, [25] Liberian courts have pronounced death sentences for murder offenses, [26] and this could indicate judicial agreement with the position that Liberia’s 2005 accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR had no binding domestic effect because it was not properly ratified by the legislature. [27]

Where can one locate or access judicial decisions regarding the death penalty?

The Liberia Legal Information Institute (LiberLII) hosts a large collection of judicial decisions from the Supreme Court beginning in 1861 (available at http://www.liberlii.org/lr/cases/LRSC). This database is searchable by year or by party name.

The first 27 volumes of the subject index of the Liberia Law Reports are available on the website of Cornell University’s Law Library (http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/library/WhatWeHave/SpecialCollections/LiberianLaw/Reports.cfm#C)

Reportedly, cases from the United States may be used as precedent when Liberian precedent is not available. Much of Liberia’s legislative revisions are derived from federal or state law from the United States, as a result of the involvement of a Cornell University law professor, Milton Konvitz, in a national codification project in the 1960s and 1970s. [28]

What is the clemency process?

No death sentence can be executed without the approval of the President. [29] The President has the constitutional authority to grant clemency. [30] The President also has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, and commutations to those convicted of “public offenses,” and may request the Board of Parole to investigate the applications and to make recommendations. [31] We did not find any definition of “public offenses.”

Are jury trials provided for defendants charged with capital offenses?

There is a constitutional right to a jury trial for capital or “infamous” crimes. [32] Trials are by jury at the circuit level, where capital cases are tried. [33] Trial by jury cannot be waived in cases where the death penalty may be imposed. [34]

Brief Description of Appellate Process

Circuit Courts try serious criminal cases. [35] A defendant has the right to appeal against a conviction or a sentence on grounds that it is illegal or excessive. [36] The Republic may appeal as of right against a dismissal or acquittal by a court order granting a motion. [37] An appellant has sixty days to file a bill of exceptions after the judgment indicating the grounds for appeal. [38] The court’s review is limited to considering legal issues contested at trial and the sufficiency of the evidence established at trial. [39] Exceptionally, the court may base legal review on a “plain error apparent in the record” and, where the defendant has been sentenced to death, shall review the evidence to determine “if the interests of justice” warrant a new trial whether or not insufficiency of evidence was a grounds for appeal. [40]

References

[1] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 20(a), Jan. 6, 1986.
[2] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, Jan. 6, 1986.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en , last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[4] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 34(iii)(b), Jan. 6, 1986.
[5] WCADP, World Coalition calls on Liberia to regain its leading abolitionist role, http://www.worldcoalition.org/World-Coalition-calls-on-Liberia-to-regain-its-leading-abolitionist-role.html, Oct. 2, 2008. Cllr. Phillip A. Z. Banks, III, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Memorandum Opinion, DPW Doc. No. Memo-1, Sep. 1, 2008.
[6] WCADP, UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, 9th Session, November 2010: Liberia, http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/session9/LR/WCADP_WorldCoalitionagainsttheDeathPenalty.pdf, Nov. 2010.
[7] Liberia Penal Law, sec. 15.34(4), Liberian Codes Revised 1973-75, Jul. 19, 1976, as amended by Act to Amend the New Penal Law of 1976, Jul. 22, 2008. Jamil Ddamulira Mujuzi, High Crime Rate Forces Liberia to Reintroduce Death Penalty and Put International Treaty Obligations Aside: What the Critics Missed?, p. 343-344, African Journal of Intl. & Comparative Law, Vol. 17, p. 342, 2009.
[8] WCADP, World Coalition calls on Liberia to regain its leading abolitionist role, http://www.worldcoalition.org/World-Coalition-calls-on-Liberia-to-regain-its-leading-abolitionist-role.html, Oct. 2, 2008.
[9] Jamil Ddamulira Mujuzi, High Crime Rate Forces Liberia to Reintroduce Death Penalty and Put International Treaty Obligations Aside: What the Critics Missed?, p. 343-344, African Journal of Intl. & Comparative Law, Vol. 17, p. 342, 2009.
[10] WCADP, UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, 9th Session, November 2010: Liberia, http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/session9/LR/WCADP_WorldCoalitionagainsttheDeathPenalty.pdf, Nov. 2010.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 44, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 27, 2014.
[12] Government of Liberia, General Report on the Human Rights Situation in Liberia, para. 19, http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/55th/state-reports/1-1982-2012/intial_peroidic_report_eng.pdf, Sep. 2012.
[13] Government of Liberia, General Report on the Human Rights Situation in Liberia, para. 19, http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/55th/state-reports/1-1982-2012/intial_peroidic_report_eng.pdf, Sep. 2012.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 22, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 34, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 49, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 43, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 44, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 27, 2014.
[15] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Liberia, para. 34, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/22/LBR/1, Feb. 18, 2015.
[16] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Liberia, para. 35, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/22/LBR/1, Feb. 18, 2015.
[17] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Liberia, para. 34, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/22/LBR/1, Feb. 18, 2015.
[18] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en , last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[19] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 34(iii)(b), Jan. 6, 1986.
[20] WCADP, World Coalition calls on Liberia to regain its leading abolitionist role, http://www.worldcoalition.org/World-Coalition-calls-on-Liberia-to-regain-its-leading-abolitionist-role.html, Oct. 2, 2008. Cllr. Phillip A. Z. Banks, III, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Memorandum Opinion, DPW Doc. No. Memo-1, Sep. 1, 2008.
[21] WCADP, UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, 9th Session, November 2010: Liberia, http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/session9/LR/WCADP_WorldCoalitionagainsttheDeathPenalty.pdf, Nov. 2010.
[22] Amnesty Intl., Liberia: Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, p. 8, AFR 34/001/2010, Apr. 12, 2010.
[23] WCADP, World Coalition calls on Liberia to regain its leading abolitionist role, http://www.worldcoalition.org/World-Coalition-calls-on-Liberia-to-regain-its-leading-abolitionist-role.html, Oct. 2, 2008. Cllr. Phillip A. Z. Banks, III, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Memorandum Opinion, DPW Doc. No. Memo-1, Sep. 1, 2008.
[24] Joe Otto v. Republic of Liberia, [1972] LRSC 71, 21 L.L.R. 390 (1972), Supreme Court of Liberia, Nov. 24, 1972.
[25] Jamil Ddamulira Mujuzi, High Crime Rate Forces Liberia to Reintroduce Death Penalty and Put International Treaty Obligations Aside: What the Critics Missed?, p. 343-344, African Journal of Intl. & Comparative Law, Vol. 17, p. 342, 2009.
[26] WCADP, UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, 9th Session, November 2010: Liberia, http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/session9/LR/WCADP_WorldCoalitionagainsttheDeathPenalty.pdf, Nov. 2010. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 44, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 27, 2014.
[27] WCADP, World Coalition calls on Liberia to regain its leading abolitionist role, http://www.worldcoalition.org/World-Coalition-calls-on-Liberia-to-regain-its-leading-abolitionist-role.html, Oct. 2, 2008. Cllr. Phillip A. Z. Banks, III, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Memorandum Opinion, DPW Doc. No. Memo-1, Sep. 1, 2008.
[28] Jane L. Hammond, A National Law Library for Liberia, http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/library/WhatWeHave/SpecialCollections/LiberianLaw/Hammond.cfm, Cornell Law Forum, Vol. 16, No. 3, Mar. 1990.
[29] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 36.1, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[30] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 59, Jan. 6, 1986.
[31] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 25.1, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[32] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 21(h), Jan. 6, 1986.
[33] U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Trial Procedures, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014. Hanatu Kabbah, A Guide to the Liberian Legal System and Legal Research, GlobaLex, http://www.nyulawglobal.org/Globalex/LIBERIA.htm, Sep. 2008.
[34] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 20.2, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[35] Hanatu Kabbah, A Guide to the Liberian Legal System and Legal Research, GlobaLex, http://www.nyulawglobal.org/Globalex/LIBERIA.htm, Sep. 2008.
[36] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 24.2, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[37] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 24.3, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[38] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 24.9, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[39] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 24.18, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.
[40] Liberia Criminal Procedure Law, sec. 24.18, Jan. 1, 1969, Liberian Codes Revised Vol. I, Title 2, Feb. 1, 1973.

Death Penalty In Practice

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

We do not know where death-sentenced prisoners are incarcerated. Liberia reportedly has fifteen prisons and detention centers, and approximately half of the country’s 1,827 prisoners are held in Monrovia Central Prison. [1] An older media report suggests that at least some death row inmates are held in Monrovia Central Prison. [2] A report by the UN’s Country Team in Liberia stated in December 2014 that the known death row inmates were held in prisons across the country. [3]

Description of Prison Conditions

We do not know the conditions specific to death row, but prison conditions in Liberia, as a whole, are harsh and in some instances, life-threatening. Facilities are severely overcrowded and understaffed. In 2009, half of the country’s prisoners were held at Monrovia Central Prison, which is overcrowded to more than four times its capacity, in part due to the large number of pretrial detainees who are held with convicted prisoners. Men and women, juveniles and adults, and pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners are held together. [4] Prison staff is poorly paid. Although seventy correctional officers were hired in 2013, they are unlikely to receive any training until early 2014. [5]

Prisoners do not have access to adequate food, water, hygiene, or medical care. [6] Many prisoners must purchase food at the prison or receive food from visitors. Harsh prison conditions sometimes cause prisoner deaths—the Bureau of Corrections reported seven deaths in 2013. Because medical care at the facilities is inadequate, the UN and NGOs provided medical services and medicines. However, necessary medications such as those for malaria and tuberculosis are restocked only when they are completely exhausted. The Monrovia Central Prison’s vehicle is often not operable, which causes difficulty transporting prisoners and detainees to court or a hospital. [7]

Prisons are also poorly equipped and lack security. Guards and prisoners have been reported to abuse women and juveniles. [8] The local press has reported that prison officials threatened prisoners with death and some prisoners were raped by others prisoners. [9] Security problems result in frequent prisoner escapes. [10]

Prisoners are allowed regular visitations and religious observances. Officials from the Human Rights Division of the Ministry of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation visited the facilities to monitor conditions and collaborated with prison staff to make improvements. According to the Ministry of Justice, recordkeeping on prisoners is adequate. The government worked to improve recordkeeping by training court clerks and issuing case registration logbooks. The Corrections Advisory Unit of the UN Mission in Liberia worked with the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide mentoring and advising and to renovate the facilities. However, funding for food, maintenance, and employees in the prison facilities lapsed in the last quarter of 2013. [11]

Are there any known foreign nationals currently under sentence of death?

According to a media report, a Liberian court sentenced two Chinese nationals to death in October 2010, and ordered that they be deported. [12] We do not know whether they have been deported. We did not find any other reports confirming foreign nationals are currently on death row. [13]

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

According to a media report, a Liberian court sentenced two Chinese nationals to death in October 2010, and ordered that they be deported. [14] We do not know whether they have been deported. We did not find any other reports confirming foreign nationals are currently on death row. [15]

Are there any known women currently under sentence of death?

We did not find any reports of women currently on death row in Liberia. A report by the UN’s Country Team in Liberia stated in December 2014 that all 9 known death row inmates were men. [16]

Are there any reports of individuals currently under sentence of death who may have been under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed?

We found no reports of individuals under sentence of death for crimes committed while under the age of 18. Amnesty International reports that there have been no known executions of juveniles in Liberia since it started keeping records in 1990. [17]

Comments regarding the racial/ethnic composition on death row

We did not find any information on the racial/ethnic composition of death row.

Are there lawyers available for indigent defendants facing capital trials?

Liberia’s Constitution provides for the right to counsel at pretrial and trial stages. [18] A person accused of a criminal offense has the right to counsel of his or her choice, and the Republic must provide legal aid services to those without legal representation. [19]

The government, however, does not always observe this right. [20] In 2009, the government had difficulty assuring access to public defenders, and with the help of international aid agencies was able to provide 13 public defenders. (It should be noted that Liberia had only 17 qualified prosecutors during that year.) [21] Some local NGOs and the Liberian National Bar Association offer legal services to indigent defendants, but there has been difficulty recruiting experienced lawyers due to financial challenges. [22]

Are there lawyers available for indigent prisoners on appeal?

The Constitution states that individuals have the right to representation “[i]n all trials, hearings, interrogatories and other proceedings where a person is accused of a criminal offense,” and the government shall provide an attorney where the defendant is unable to secure one. [23] We do not know whether the 13 public defenders provided by the government and international aid agencies in 2009 [24] (or other attorneys) were appealing capital sentences imposed on indigent defendants.

Comments on Quality of Legal Representation

Trial delays occur frequently due to poorly trained attorneys. Moreover, the quality of legal representation is limited by the government’s frequent failure to observe defendants’ constitutional right to be present at trial, consult with a defense lawyer in a timely manner, and access government-held evidence. [25]

A report by the Danish Institute for Human Rights (2007) observed that “a number of NGOs have formed an Association of Legal Aid Providers (ALAP), but it is overwhelmed by the needs.” Penal Reform International, at that time, had decided to implement a “nationwide project in Liberia to provide legal aid services delivered by paralegals.” The PRI initiative was funded by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, and aimed to provide 40 paralegals to assist accused individuals at pretrial stages, running clinics in prisons and providing “general advice to all court users.” [26] According to the DIHR, in 2007 the justice sector was “in shambles” in rural areas, [27] and the non-availability of legal aid led to serious delays and the denial of due process and fair trials. [28]

Other Comments on Criminal Justice System

Rights to due process are often violated due to judicial inefficiency, corruption, insufficient court facilities and judicial personnel, out of date rules of procedure, and poor case management. Because of the courts’ failure to adequately process cases, hundreds of prisoners experience lengthy pretrial detention. [29] According to Amnesty International, approximately 92 percent of the prisoners in Liberia are pretrial detainees. [30]

Unprofessional, corrupt and even criminal practices by the country’s judicial staff and police also contribute to rights abuses. [31] The Liberian police engage in extortion, bribery, and armed robbery. Absenteeism is also common, and the police often fail to conduct effective investigations. [32] Human Rights Watch reports that police corruption is especially rampant, impeding Liberians’ access to justice. Arrests and releases are often done through bribes and extortion and corruption occurs at every stage of an investigation. The police often require a “registration fee” to file a case, which is an unlawful but common practice. Other “fees” include transportation fees to get to the scene of the crime, “walking fee” for officers to respond to complaints on foot, and payments for release from police custody or detention. [33]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014.
[2] All Africa, Liberia: Death by Hanging, http://allafrica.com/stories/201003221829.html, Mar. 22, 2010.
[3] UN Country Team Liberia, Report by the United Nations in Liberia, Liberia Universal Periodic Review Second Cycle, para. 20, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_22_-_mai_2015/unct_liberia_upr22_lbr_e_main.pdf, Dec. 2014.
[4] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International submission for the UPR of Liberia: Ninth session of the UPR Working Group, p. 4, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_9_-_november_2010/aiamnestyinternationalshortened.pdf, Nov. – Dec. 2010.
[5] U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014.
[6] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International submission for the UPR of Liberia: Ninth session of the UPR Working Group, p. 4, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_9_-_november_2010/aiamnestyinternationalshortened.pdf, Nov. – Dec. 2010.
[7] U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014.
[8] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International submission for the UPR of Liberia: Ninth session of the UPR Working Group, p. 4, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_9_-_november_2010/aiamnestyinternationalshortened.pdf, Nov. – Dec. 2010.
[9] U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014.
[10] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International submission for the UPR of Liberia: Ninth session of the UPR Working Group, p. 4, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_9_-_november_2010/aiamnestyinternationalshortened.pdf, Nov. – Dec. 2010.
[11] U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Prison and Detention Center Conditions, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014.
[12] Augustine N. Myers, Liberia: Two Foreign Residents Sentenced to Death, Shout-Africa, http://www.shout-africa.com/news/liberia-two-foreign-residents-sentenced-to-death/, Oct. 17, 2010.
[13] Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, Jan. 19, 2013.
[14] Augustine N. Myers, Liberia: Two Foreign Residents Sentenced to Death, Shout-Africa, http://www.shout-africa.com/news/liberia-two-foreign-residents-sentenced-to-death/, Oct. 17, 2010.
[15] Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, Jan. 19, 2013.
[16] UN Country Team Liberia, Report by the United Nations in Liberia, Liberia Universal Periodic Review Second Cycle, para. 20, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_22_-_mai_2015/unct_liberia_upr22_lbr_e_main.pdf, Dec. 2014.
[17] Amnesty Intl., Executions of Juveniles Since 1990, http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty/executions-of-child-offenders-since-1990, last accessed Mar. 31, 2014.
[18] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, arts. 21(c), 21(i), Jan. 6, 1986.
[19] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 21(i), Jan. 6, 1986.
[20] U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014.
[21] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Denial of Fair Public Trial, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135961.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[22] U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Trial Procedures, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014.
[23] Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, art. 21(i), Jan. 6, 1986.
[24] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Denial of Fair Public Trial, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135961.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[25] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2014: Events of 2013, p. 137, Jan. 21, 2014. U.S. Dept. of State, 2013 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220129.htm, Feb. 27, 2014.
[26] Danish Institute for Human Rights, People’s Access to Rights in Liberia, pp. 53-54, Mar. 2007.
[27] Danish Institute for Human Rights, People’s Access to Rights in Liberia, p. 39, Mar. 2007.
[28] Danish Institute for Human Rights, People’s Access to Rights in Liberia, pp. 39, 56, Mar. 2007.
[29] Human Rights Watch, Universal Periodic Review: Liberia, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/04/12/universal-periodic-review-liberia, Apr. 12, 2010.
[30] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International submission for the UPR of Liberia: Ninth session of the UPR Working Group, p. 4, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_9_-_november_2010/aiamnestyinternationalshortened.pdf, Nov. – Dec. 2010.
[31] Human Rights Watch, Universal Periodic Review: Liberia, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/04/12/universal-periodic-review-liberia, Apr. 12, 2010.
[32] Human Rights Watch, Universal Periodic Review: Liberia, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/04/12/universal-periodic-review-liberia, Apr. 12, 2010.
[33] Human Rights Watch, “No Money, No Justice”: Police Corruption and Abuse in Liberia, pp. 20-23, Aug. 22, 2013.

Decisions of International Human Rights Bodies

Decisions of Human Rights Committee

Liberia became a party to the ICCPR in 2004. [1] Liberia has not yet submitted its first periodic report for review by the Human Rights Committee, which has therefore not issued any observations on the country. [2]

Decisions of Other Human Rights Bodies

The Human Rights Council recommended at Liberia’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review that the country amend or repeal the 2008 capital punishment amendment, adhere to its international treaty obligations, establish a moratorium on the death penalty, abolish capital punishment, and commute death sentences to life imprisonment. [3] Liberia “neither accepted nor rejected” the recommendations. [4] While acknowledging its international obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Liberia noted that the government and the people are in the process of consultation “in the form of raising awareness and sensitization.” [5] Liberia also claimed that in spite of the 2008 law, the Supreme Court has recently commuted death sentences to life imprisonment and the President has not signed any warrants to carry out executions. [6]

At its second Universal Periodic Review in May 2015, Liberia chose not to respond to the recommendations that it abolish the death penalty and/or institute a formal moratorium on executions. It undertook to provide a response to these recommendations before the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council. [7]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jul. 6, 2015.
[2] U.N. OHCHR, Reporting Status: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: Liberia’s reporting round: 1, http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/5038ebdcb712174dc1256a2a002796da/80256404004ff315c125638c005f6276?OpenDocument, last accessed Jul, 6, 2015.
[3] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Liberia, paras. 78.6-78.9, 78.14-78.20, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/16/3, Jan. 4, 2011.
[4] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Liberia: Addendum, paras. 8-9, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/16/3/Add.1, Mar. 15, 2011.
[5] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Liberia: Addendum, para. 8, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/16/3/Add.1, Mar. 15, 2011.
[6] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Liberia: Addendum, para. 9, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/16/3/Add.1, Mar. 15, 2011.
[7] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Liberia, para. 100, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/22/L.2, May 6, 2015.

Additional Sources and Contacts

Direct member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture in Liberia (ACAT Liberia)
Mr. Dale N. Tokpah
Executive Director
Garnett Building, Carey Street
Monrovia, Liberia
+231 5641752
acatliberiamail@yahoo.com

Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL)
Mir. Sam M. Nimely, Program Coordinator
1st Floor, Apt. 1, Benson Street
Monrovia, Liberia
Mobil: +231 777104823/770202940
papliberia@yahoo.com
rescuealternatives.org

Other non-governmental organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy surrounding the death penalty

A 2010 report indicates that there are four coalitions of human rights groups: the National Human Rights Center of Liberia with nine member organizations; the Network of Human Rights Chapters with eight groups; the Human Rights and Protection Forum, an umbrella organization of 70 to 80 groups; and the National Civil Society Organization formed by approximately 40 groups. [1]

Helpful Reports and Publications

Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International submission for the UPR of Liberia: Ninth session of the UPR Working Group, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_9_-_november_2010/aiamnestyinternationalshortened.pdf, Nov. – Dec. 2010.

Danish Institute for Human Rights, People’s Access to Rights in Liberia, Mar. 2007.

FIACAT, ACAT-Liberia & World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Submission to UN Human Rights Council for Liberia’s Second UPR, http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/liberia/session_22_-_mai_2015/js1_upr22_lbr_e_main.pdf, 2015.

Human Rights Watch, “No Money, No Justice”: Police Corruption and Abuse in Liberia, Aug. 22, 2013.

Human Rights Watch, Universal Periodic Review: Liberia, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/04/12/universal-periodic-review-liberia, Apr. 12, 2010.

WCADP, UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, 9th Session, November 2010: Liberia, http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/session9/LR/WCADP_WorldCoalitionagainsttheDeathPenalty.pdf, Nov. 2010.

Additional notes regarding this country

None.

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Reports: Liberia, Official Corruption and Government Transparency, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135961.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.

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