Constitutional Provisions

According to the 1986 Constitution, everyone has certain natural, inherent and inalienable rights, among which are the right of enjoying and defending life and liberty".Art. 11(a), 1986 Constitution.These rights belong to everyone "irrespective of ethnic background, race, sex, creed, place of origin or political opinion ... subject to such qualifications as provided for" in the Constitution.Art. 11(b), 1986 Constitution.Everyone is "equal before the law" and is "therefore entitled to the equal protection of the law".Art. 11(c), 1986 Constitution.Further, everyone,Art. 17, 1986 Constitution.

at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations.

It is stipulated in Article 21 that no one:Art. 21(b), 1986 Constitution.

shall be subject to search or seizure of his person or property, whether on a criminal charge or for any other purpose, unless upon warrant lawfully issued upon probable cause supported by a solemn oath or affirmation, specifically identifying the person or place to be searched and stating the object of the search; provided, however, that a search or seizure shall be permissible without a search warrant where the arresting authorities act during the commission of a crime or in hot pursuit of a person who has committed a crime.

No oneArt. 21(b), 1986 Constitution.

charged, arrested, restricted, detained or otherwise held in confinement shall be subject to torture or inhumane treatment.... The Legislature shall make it a criminal offense and provide for appropriate penalties against any police or security officer, prosecutor, administrator or any other public or security officer, prosecutor, administrator or any other public official acting in contravention of this provision; and any person so damaged by the conduct of any such public official shall have a civil remedy therefore, exclusive of any criminal penalties imposed.

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 Not party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints No
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights State Party
1998 Protocol to the African Charter on the African Court Signatory
Article 34(6) declaration regarding individual petitions N/A
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties at Regional Level
Malabo Protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights Not party

National Legislation

The 2016 Liberia National Police Act provides only generally that the "National Police shall have and exercise such power as are necessary for the execution of its functions under the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Liberia".S. 22.73 (Police Powers),  2016 Liberia National Police Act.Surprisingly, the Act does not regulate directly the use of force, which remains governed by the 1978 Penal Code, along with the protections afforded by the 1986 Constitution. 

The 1978 Penal Law allows use of force when a police officer is making or assisting in making an arrest and the officer "believes that such force is immediately necessary to effect a lawful arrest".S. 5.6.1, 1978 Penal Law.The use of "deadly force"According to s. 5.5.1(b) of the 1978 Penal Law, “deadly force” means force which a person uses with the purpose of causing, or which he knows to create a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury. Purposely firing a firearm in the direction of another person or at a moving vehicle in which another person is believed to be, constitutes deadly force. A threat to cause death or serious bodily injury by the production of a weapon or otherwise, so long as the actor’s purpose is limited to creating an apprehension that he will use deadly force if necessary, does not constitute deadly not justifiable to effect an arrest unless all the following circumstances are present:S. 5.6.3, 1978 Penal Law.

(a) The arrest is for a felony; and
(b) The person effecting the arrest is authorized to act as a peace officer or is assisting a person whom he believed to be authorized to act as peace officer; and
(c) The actor believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; and
(d) The actor believes that the crime for which the arrest is made involved conduct including the use or threatened use of deadly force; or there is a substantial risk that the person to be arrested will cause death or serious bodily harm if his apprehension is delayed.

This provision omits the crucial notion of imminence, meaning that recourse to firearms may be lawful even if the escapee poses no imminent threat of death or serious injury to another. The Independent National Commission on Human Rights has reported that violent police action during arrest was the most common complaint of misconduct alleged against police officers.

The use of force to prevent the escape of an arrested person from custody is justifiable when the force could justifiably have been employed to effect the arrest under which the person is in custody. A guard or other person authorized to act as a peace officerS. 5.6.4, 1978 Penal Law.

is justified in using any force, including deadly force, which he believes to be immediately necessary to prevent the escape of a person from a jail, prison, or other institution for the detention of persons charged with or convicted of a crime.

This provision omits the crucial notion of proportionality, meaning that recourse to firearms may be lawful even if the escapee poses no imminent threat of death or serious injury to another. 

Police Oversight

Under the 2016 Police Act, the Liberia National Police Civilian Complaints Review Board shall ("until a civilian complaints authority is established for all the Security Agencies"): "Receive, process, and determine any complaint made against the Liberia National Police, any Police Officer, or Civilian Personnel".S. 22.85(c), 2016 Police Act.The Act stipulates that it shall be misconduct for a member of the Liberia National Police:S. 22.90(b)(xv) (Discipline), 2016 Police Act.

To do any other act without reasonable excuse which contravene this Act or any other law applicable to the Liberal National Police or amounts to a failure to perform in a proper manner any duty imposed on him or her as such.



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Liberia, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern at allegations of "excessive use of police force, notably in the context of dispersing demonstrators". It called on Liberia to ensure

that the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force are adequately reflected in the State party’s legislation and policies, in line with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.


Despite the existence of accountability mechanisms and the duty to prosecute under the Constitution, it is reported that prosecutions are rarely successful. According to the United States Department of State's Human Rights Report on Liberia for 2016, on 27 February 2016, three officers belonging to the National Police Emergency Response Unit responded to a call from a rubber plantation in Mount Barclay, where they fired several shots during a confrontation, one of which hit Stephen Bordor, a local resident, in the back of the neck. He later died of his injuries. The three officers were charged with manslaughter and were dismissed from the National Police. They were released on bail while their cases were submitted to the Montserrado County Court for prosecution. The prosecution dismissed charges in October 2016 and the officers were subsequently reinstated.


1986 Constitution

2016 Police Act

1978 Penal Law

National Police Civilian Complaints Review Board Regulations of 2016

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Liberia (2018)

CEDAW Committee Concluding Observations (2015)

US Department of State 2016 Human Rights Report on Liberia