Samuel Kofi Woods, II is New Narratives media lawyer and legal trainer. Woods is one of Liberia’s most prominent human rights lawyers. Woods currently serves as a Legal Consultant at the Liberia Law Society. He also served as Minister of Labor and later the Ministry of Public Works in the administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. He resigned in 2013 to return to private law practice.
Woods started as a youth and student leader later became a student leader at the University of Liberia in 1986. He was imprisoned, banned from employment and travel by the regime of President Samuel K. Doe in 1987 for his commitment to academic freedom and social justice. As a youth and student leader, he led the re-organization of the national student movement and championed the call for academic freedom and social justice.
In 1991, Woods worked with the Catholic Bishops in Liberia to establish the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission which later became Liberia’s Foremost Human Rights Institution. The Commission documented abuses during Liberia’s brutal civil war, represented indigent people including journalists and became the focus of human rights advocacy and established various regional structures throughout Liberia. In 1994, and under Woods Leadership, the Press Union of Liberia and the Catholic Justice and Peace entered a landmark Memorandum of Understanding which included among other things the provision of free legal representation for journalists rights were violated.
After several threats to his life, Woods left for exile in 1998 and studied in the Netherlands where he earned a Masters’ Degree in Public International Law (emphasis Human Rights and Humanitarian Law) from Leiden University and received various academic diplomas. In 2001, Woods joined the International Human Rights Law Group now Global Rights based in Washington DC and traveled to Sierra Leone to assist with the setting up as well as supporting efforts on the transitional justice process (Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Special Court).
In 2002, he founded the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND) where he served as Regional Representative until being asked to join the Government of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2006. FIND is a regional organization which he founded in June 2002 to focus on the plight of refugees and displaced communities in the Mano River Region (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone). FIND has offices in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Woods has pursued a case of precedence against the Liberian Government with the African Commission Human and People’s Rights on behalf of detained journalist, Hassan Bility, in 2002 and in 2005 he was part of local Liberian Organizations who filed the first international lawsuit against the Firestone Rubber Company on child and exploitative labor in Liberia.
In 1994 Woods received the Reebok Human Rights Award for work as a Human Rights Lawyer while serving as National Director of the Catholic Justice and Peace commission in Liberia.
In 1999 he received the Benemerenti Award of Merit from Pope John Paul II for service to humanity. In 2004 he was honored by the Special Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In addition, he has been honored in several capacities and received an award from the American Bar Association, among others. Additional information about Mr. Woods can be found on various Websites including: www.speaktruthtopower.org, www.reebok.org, www.globalrights.org, www.worldnews.com,www.daylife.com,www.mpw.gov.lr, www.afraf.oxfordjournal.org, www.allafrica.com, etc.
Woods is currently serving as Legal Consultant of the Liberia Law Society in Liberia. The Society is a consortium of Lawyers and Law Firms dedicated to using the law as a vehicle for social transformation. It provides and engages in strategic litigations on human and women rights, law reforms, engages the ECOWAS Court based in Abuja, addresses issues of land and inheritance rights especially for traditional women, work with various civil society organizations on issues relating to the fair distribution of forest revenues, community rights, social benefits and review of concessions.