By George Harris & Robin Dopoe
Children rights advocate and former speaker of the Liberian Children’s Parliament Satta F. Sheriff has brought to the attention of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government the displeasing attitude toward children’s justice in the country.
In a statement released yesterday, Ms. Sheriff said the government, through its distinct agency, must go beyond words to bring child abusers to justice.
“According to the 2017 SGBV report from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection 1,685 cases of Sexual Gender Based Violence, of which 1,082, about 64.2% were children under the ages of 0-17years,” she said.
She added that the number accounted for a significant portion of the rape figure reported in 2017. In 2016 1,413 SGBV cases were reported, with about 1,555 SGBV cases being reported in 2015. “These statistics are too alarming and I hope that it also provokes state-actors and policy-makers to push further in the interest of Liberian children,” she stated.
“The statistics of Sexual Gender Based Violence cases have proven that children are mostly victims of rape; we must take stricter measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Therefore, I urge the government, through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Ministry of Justice to go beyond talking and bring [child abusers] to justice,” she said.
Ms. Sheriff cautioned the government about “handpicking” cases involving child abusers, an issue she observed under the leadership of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
She however termed the release of the former president of the Liberia National Students Union Varney Jersey as unfair to child justice.
“I am completely disappointed in the manner and form the Morais Waylee case was handled by the Liberia National Police and the judicial system; today 13-year-old Raggie is yet to be found. What a shame, when we as a nation should be protecting children, we are busy endangering their lives by being selective in the fight against rape,” she said.
She said the Ministry of Justice owes “the public an explanation on the indefinite release of Varney Jersey allegedly accused of statutory rape (first-degree felony). He was released on medical bail in recent weeks; what is the surety and criminal bond of Varney Jersey?
“Let Justice be done to all! There are many other men merely accused of rape that are behind bars but have never gotten the chance to go through court trial due to the over-crowdedness of cases at the Criminal Court E which should not be so,” she said.
Moreover, she noted that the way forward is to fast-track judicial proceedings of rape cases that rest in the expansion of Criminal Court E and to other counties’ magisterial courts.
Ms. Sheriff termed last year’s amended Rape Law by the senate as a reflection of selfishness that has the propensity to cripple the fight for a free and fair rape trial in Liberia.
“It is my hope that the government will ensure that the amendment of the New Rape Law is in the best interest of Liberian children. We must hunt and search every length of Liberia to ensure that perpetrators pay for their gruesome actions against children,” she said.
Ms. Sheriff is a child rights advocate and an award-winning teenager in Liberia. She started her advocacy for children when she was 9 years old. She is the founder of Youth in Action for Peace and Empowerment, a child and youth-driven charity non-governmental organization. Sheriff was the first female speaker of the Liberian Children’s Parliament that is now the Liberian Children’s Forum.