Justice Assured for Girls from Lebanon

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has assured fourteen Liberian girls who were taken to Lebanon by Lebanese businessmen and were brought back home by her government that they will receive justice.
President Sirleaf gave the assurance on Monday at her Foreign Ministry office, saying that her administration will do everything possible to ensure that justice prevails and those responsible for the women’s ordeal face the full weight of the law.
The girls, according to the Executive Mansion, had gone to the President’s office to express appreciation for government’s efforts that paved the way for their return home.
The President informed the young women that they did not deserve the kinds of treatment meted out to them, especially in light of the circumstances under which they were lured out of the country in search of uncertain greener pastures.
She said the government through the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection will work with them to identify areas of interest aimed at self-empowerment.
President Sirleaf called on the young women to exercise patience in view of the usually long drawn out judicial process. She was quick to add that in respect of the independence of that Branch of Government it would be wise to follow the process in order for justice to be served.
The President’s assurance comes against the backdrop of many calls, especially from professional women’s groups such as the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia [AFELL] and the Female Journalists’ Association of Liberia [FeJAL] for the Judicial Branch of government to ensure that the case goes to court soon. The groups have expressed disappointment over the delay in prosecuting those accused of subjecting the girls to ill-treatment.
The president of the AFELL, who has been one of the most vocal in this case said more needs to be done to ensure that justice is delivered as soon as possible, although it has become totally embarrassing to hear that the young women, who were returned home over five months ago are yet to have their day in court.
“We are calling on the government of Liberia and the judiciary to take full responsibility to send those girls to court. Let us hear their side and the side of the accused. We want to know both sides of the story. As a women’s organization this is a case of interest to us. We want to know who were involved and how those girls were taken (to Lebanon)” Cllr. Esther Seton-Cee of AFELL told reporters in Monrovia.
While looking at the legal side of the issue, she was also apprehensive about the well-being and safety of the rest of the girls in Lebanon who are yet to be brought home.
The Government of Liberia, since the emergence of the report, had said that it is concerned about the welfare of the Liberian girls and that efforts are being made to get the rest of the girls from Lebanon soon. The Foreign and Justice ministries said that the government is investigating the matter and would ensure that justice is done in the end.
Some of the girls, including Rema Nyepan, Ayres M. Jasper, Bernice Gbar, Muffitte N. Panma, Grace K. David, Emma T. Swaber and Patience King, have claimed that they were lured to Lebanon through deception.
“We were told by the Lebanese that we would work in Lebanon as clerks in grocery stores and boutiques or waitresses in restaurants, with opportunities to go to school once a day’s work was done,” some of them said.
As troubling as their situation is, they are lucky to be alive, as some of their colleagues lost their lives during the struggle in Lebanon. One case in point is one Patricia Joe, who lost her life to injuries she sustained, according to one of her colleagues.
“She was just 26 years-old when she died. They raped her too much. She died from all those things they did to her. If we do not get justice her soul will never rest in peace. She is the driving force for our fight,” Panma told a news outlet in Monrovia.
Since their return from Lebanon, the women’s parents have not been able to see them because government has kept them in seclusion in Margibi County for their protection.

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