Liberia is a constitutional republic with a population of approximately 3.5 million. After 14 years of civil war and 2 years of an interim government, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was declared the winner of multiparty presidential elections on November 23, marking a significant milestone in the country's transition to democracy. Domestic and international observers considered the elections generally free and fair. President Johnson-Sirleaf replaced Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant, who led the interim National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) since October 2003. In August 2003 the former government and the country's two rebel groups--Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL)—-signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the 1999-2003 civil war. Approximately 15 thousand peacekeepers deployed by the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and 1,100 international police (CIVPOL) had primary responsibility for maintaining security, while the Liberian National Police (LNP) and Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were being retired and retrained. Unlike in the previous year, former rebel combatants no longer retained control of some rural areas. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces.
The NTGL generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the government passed legislation during the year to strengthen human rights; however, problems persisted in some areas. Poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy were widespread, and the country's infrastructure was severely damaged as a result of the war. The educational system barely functioned, and the country had no public electricity, potable water, sewer system, or postal service.
The following human rights problems were reported:
• ritualistic killings and deaths from mob violence
• police abuse, harassment, and intimidation
• harsh prison conditions
• arbitrary arrest and detention
• lengthy pretrial detention
• denial of due process and fair public trial
• incidents of trial-by-ordeal
• official corruption and impunity
• violence and discrimination against women, especially rape
• female genital mutilation (FGM)
• neglect and abuse of children
• trafficking in persons
• societal ethnic discrimination
• child labor
During the year the NTGL established an Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate human rights violations and war crimes committed during the civil war. By year's end more than 25 thousand disarmed and demobilized former combatants were required to enroll in reintegration programs, including vocational training, psychosocial counseling, or school; approximately 15 thousand former combatants were employed. Some former combatants were responsible for human rights abuses during the year; however, there were considerably fewer reports of such incidents than in previous years.