Saturday, February 13, 2010

“Free the people, if…”

-JPC warns govt.

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) has warned that the government of Liberia stands the chance of setting free dozens of potential rapist and other alleged criminals due to their (government) inability to provide sufficient evidence for prosecution.
JPC’s National Director, Cllr. J. Augustine Toe said if the government seeks to life in conformity with the constitution of the Republic of Liberia it must ensure that those arrested and in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison and prison facilities are speedily prosecuted in accordance with the law.
Article 21 (f) of the Liberian Constitution states, “Every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and prosecuted before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty-eight hours. Should the court determine the existence of a prima facie case against the accused, it shall issue a formal writ of arrest setting out the charge or charges and shall provide for a speedy trial.”
“I was recently in a meeting at Justice Ministry and the Chief Prosecutor of the special unit set up by the government of Liberia to speedily prosecute sexual and gender based violence cases in country, the SGBV Crimes Unit, confirmed that there are currently over 90 rape cases at the Monrovia Central Prison that the government is finding very difficult in getting sufficient evident to prosecute; this I say is human rights violation. The JPC has no interest in seeing potential rapists being set free, but if you do not have evident to prosecute the people than set them free because that’s what the law says,” Cllr. Augustine Toe said.
He made the statement on Friday, February 12, 2010 at the Ministry of Gender and Development during the celebration of the first anniversary of the Journalists Against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (JASAGBV).
Cllr. Toe told partners in the fight against sexual and gender based violence in Liberia to go beyond mere workshops where according to him ‘people will only come to get the setting fees that will be provided and leave without understanding the dynamics of sgbv in their communities and homes’ but rather fine means of sustaining program that will help provide the needed education and training for families especially young people to understand the issue of sgbv in the country.
Also speaking, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Rule of Law, Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu said the establishment of the media group to join the fight against sgbv indicates that the wine of change is blowing over the Liberian media.
“I am convinced that the simple but profound theme-Together We Will Report Gender Based Violence- is a powerful indicator of your commitment to eradicate our societies of the kind of behavior that dehumanizes the women and children in our homes, in our families and in our communities,” the UNMIL Deputy boss said.
Madam Mensa-Bonsu recounted that in January & February of 2008 out of the over 200 rape cases that were reported for those months, 17 cases involved infants (babies) from 5 years and below.
She said rape and other forms of SGBV are still most frequently committed serious crimes in the country and the tendency to quietly settle these cases out of court offers sanctuary to perpetrators and inhibits the willingness of victims to seek redress which is factors that best promote the continued commission of SGBV in the country.
The UNMIL Deputy boss said a recent report on rape sponsored by the UN Response to Rape Group (December 2009) underscored that there is serious distinct divide between the urban and rural communities in reporting rape cases.
The report indicated that during the period under review, 68% of rape cases were reported in the urban areas while 34% were reported in rural areas, which indicate the need for more awareness in the rural parts of the country.
Serving as guest speaker, the Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), T. Nelson Williams challenged the media to go beyond reporting the issue of SGBV in the country.
For his part, JASAGBV’s President, Lawrence Fahnbulleh stressed the need for support to the media group to enable it take the SGBV awareness to every parts of the country.
The Journalists Against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (JASAGBV ) formally the Anti-Rape Reporters Association of Liberia (ARRAL) was established on February 12 2009, by the Government of Liberia in collaboration with the United Nations Mission Liberia (UNMIL) to join the fight against gender based violence, especially rape that continue to be on an alarming rate in the country.