27 September 2007While Liberia has made considerable progress in areas such as security and economic development, it still faces many challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights, an independent United Nations expert said today. During the course of her 10-day visit to the West African nation which is rebuilding after a brutal 14-year civil war, Charlotte Abaka met with representatives of the Government, civil society, United Nations agencies and the diplomatic community, who shared with her the “most pressing human rights issues facing the country today.”Ms. Abaka – the UN Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights, Technical Cooperation and Advisory Services in Liberia – noted progress in several areas, including an amendment to the country’s labour law which was a “significant step” in guaranteeing workers’ rights.“There are however, still many challenges that impede the promotion and protection of human rights,” she stated, expressing concerns with delays in setting up both the Independent National Human Rights Commission and the Law Reform Commission.The implementation of the rape law was another serious issue. “I am appalled to hear from almost all the interlocutors that rape remains one of the most frequently reported crimes in the country.”She said that data on the prosecution of rape cases could not be made available due to lack of facilities, and police and prosecutors relied too heavily on medical evidence in rape cases. “This reality discourages victims of rape reporting the cases to the police.”In addition, Ms. Abaka noted that harmful traditional and customary practices continue to be carried out, including female genital mutilation which is still commonly practiced.