In a departure from the overt violence and election rigging of the past, many authoritarian leaders now prefer to quietly manipulate the legal framework, silencing dissent and limiting civil liberties to ensure that they remain in power.
Large-scale corruption and economic crimes often go hand in hand with mass human rights abuses in authoritarian countries. The two are mutually reinforcing: Dictators gain and maintain power—and perpetuate impunity—through a combination of violent repression and the distribution of patronage and graft opportunities. The plunder of public wealth serves as both an incentive for retaining power by force, and a means of rewarding those who carry out or cover up regime crimes. Despite this connection, the mechanisms of transitional justice have not adequately dealt with the legacy of authoritarian corruption nor remedied its far-reaching socioeconomic effects.
Freedom House applauds the Liberian government’s move to temporarily release imprisoned journalist Rodney Sieh, and urges the government to review his case and take action to ensure Liberia’s compliance with freedom of expression norms. Today’s move by the government of Liberia is the latest in the ongoing saga of Sieh, editor and publisher of FrontPage Africa, imprisoned in August following his failure to pay $1.5 million in damages imposed by the Liberian courts after a former Minister of Agriculture succeeded in a libel suit against his paper. The Ministry of Justice ordered a 30-day “compassionate release” for Sieh, who has been in poor health, but the resolution of the case remains unclear.