— A relative tells her story, as UN Joint Rule of Law Programme supports local structures
The UN Joint Rule of Law Programme seeks to address key developmental challenges by promoting the rights of women, gender equality, and children’s rights, while ensuring that physical and legal protection, as well as the psychological wellbeing of people, communities and civil society and access to justice are enhanced.
In response to the prevalence of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), the Programme supported the Judiciary of Liberia to establish specialized Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Criminal Courts E to provide accountability to survivors of SGBV.
In addition to the Court E in Montserrado county, two of such courts were established in Bong and Nimba counties with funding from Sweden and Ireland.
To ensure the efficiency of Courts E, the Programme has supported the establishment of a network of women Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Bong and Nimba counties to sensitize the public on the services provided by the Court, support to survivors of SGBV and witnesses to access the courts and monitor the efficiency of the courts and referral pathway.
Furthermore, local structures specifically women and communities are being supported through the referral pathway to enable them report SGBV cases identified in their communities.
Through the support of the network of CSOs, convictions are increasingly being secured in the courts. Some of the survivors who have received justice in the courts have been telling their stories.
Yah Gono (not real name) aged 11 years was raped by Ezekiel Gonyon, 31 August 2021 in Zontuo, Nimba County.
Yah is the daughter of Joseph Gono (not real name) and Yei Gono (not real name) and was born in Nimba County. She was later sent to live in Paynesville, Montserrado County with her older sister Princess Gono (not real name) and another woman known as “Aunty”.
Due to hard living conditions in Paynesville, Princess moved back to Saclepea, Nimba County leaving little Yah with Aunty. Yah did not like the idea of living alone with Aunty. Yah cried all night demanding that she wanted to return to Nimba County to reunite with her sister Princess.
Based on Yah’s demand, Princess asked her boyfriend Ezekiel Gonyon, 31 a Nimbian to take Yah to Saclepea, Nimba County.
While enroute to Saclepea, Ezekiel Gonyon took Yah to Zontuo, Gbao Administrative District, Nimba County where he raped her overnight and threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone.
On the morning of the next day, Yah was heard by the house owner crying due to severe pains. When asked, she told the house owner that she was raped by Ezekiel Gonyon.
Yah was supported by Efficient Research and Development Institute (ERDI) who contacted the Police. ERDI forms part of a network of CSOs established and supported by the UN Joint Rule of Law Programme to support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and ensure that they receive justice in the courts.
Ezekiel Gonyon was arrested and detained in Saclepea. The case was investigated and forwarded to Sanniquellie in Nimba County for prosecution at Criminal Court E. The Court was established by the Judiciary of Liberia with support from the UN Joint Rule of Law programme with funding from Sweden and Ireland.
ERDI provided legal support and transportation for Yah and her parents to ensure that they attended the court proceedings. Yah was also supported with medical treatment.
Judge Hector Quiguah found Ezekiel Gonyon guilty of rape and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment during the October term of court in 2021. Yah who is now 12 years old is currently living in Ganta Nimba County with her mother where she is being provided with tuition fees and other academic materials by ERDI to ensure that she remains in school and acquire quality education.