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Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits such practices; however, police and security forces frequently tortured, beat, and otherwise abused and humiliated citizens. Detainees continued to charge that they were tortured while in detention particularly at a security-training base in Gbatala where victims and witnesses reported beatings, torture, killings, and sexual abuse. LURD forces overran Gbatala in early October. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that government forces tortured LURD captives during interrogation in conflict zones.
David Moore and James Kollie, members of the security forces charged with the 2002 assault of lawyer Tiawan Gongole, were released and there was no further information on the case.
Security forces targeted and abused critics of the Government, including journalist, students, and human rights activists (see Sections 1.d., 1.f., and 2.a.). In June, the Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA) stated that alleged government security forces and irregular elements targeted journalists and human rights activists in Monrovia for systematic looting, arson, and rape.
Law enforcement personnel, including the security forces, were implicated in numerous reports of harassment, intimidation, and looting (see Sections 1.f. and 1.g.). There were many credible reports that government security forces, LURD, and MODEL harassed travelers, displaced persons, and humanitarian aid workers at checkpoints throughout the country throughout the year. There have been few reports of any disciplinary actions for such harassment.
There were numerous reports that security forces raped persons during the year (see Section 1.g.).
Violent clashes among rival security personnel at times resulted in civilian injuries. In June, various units of government troops clashed in Sanoyea during which several civilians were reported killed and others injured.
Clan chieftains continued to use the traditional practice of trial-by-ordeal to resolve criminal cases in rural areas. The Supreme Court ruled that trial-by-ordeal--commonly the placement of a heated metal object on a suspect's body in an attempt to determine whether the defendant is telling the truth--is unconstitutional; however, the practice continued under an executive order.
Prison conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. There were credible reports of unofficial detention facilities, including one at the Executive Mansion, in which detainees were held without charge and in some cases tortured. The Government did not provide detainees or prisoners with adequate food or medical care. Cells at Monrovia Central Prison were overcrowded, mostly with detainees awaiting trial. Similar conditions existed in the Barclay Training Center military stockade. In some counties, the structure that serves as a jail is a container with bars at one end. There also were reports that local officials forced prisoners to work for them.
Women, who constituted approximately 5 percent of the prison population, were held in separate cells. Their conditions were comparable to those of the male prisoners and detainees. There were no separate facilities for juvenile offenders. Women and particularly juveniles were subject to abuse by guards or other inmates. Convicted prisoners and detainees awaiting trial were not held in separate facilities.
The Government generally permitted the independent monitoring of prison conditions by local human rights groups, the media, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC often was allowed to visit persons held in prison facilities and police detention centers without third parties present and to make regular repeat visits, including to Gbatala. Access generally was denied to unofficial detention centers.
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