The deputy head of the Women and children Protection Unit of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Nimba Detachment, George Zogon Cooper, has said that the lack of logistical support is one main factor hampering the police fight against rape in the county.
Officer Cooper, who spoke in Karnplay, Gbelay-geh District on June 14, at the launch of the Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment (RICCE) project under the titled, “Access to Justice Project”, said there is the need for the police to rapidly respond to rape cases, at least within 24 hours, but the lack of logistical support remains the key factors undermining the fight.
“We do not have the capacity to move swiftly to handle reported rape cases by getting any alleged perpetrator(s) to justice, because of no car or motorbike, since the motorbike and a vehicle assigned to the police to fight crimes are grounded for mechanical faults. We don’t have the resources to repair the motorcycle and the vehicle,” Cooper said.
“When those cases are reported to the police, the alleged perpetrator cannot be found in time, because of no vehicle syndrome,” according to Charlotte Tarwoe, another LNP officer.
On June 14, RICCE launched the Access to Justice for Survivors of Rape Program through pro bono legal service and support to survivors.
The project, funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is targeting Gbehlay Geh and the Buu -Yao districts from where cases of rape is said to be alarming.
The occasion was local opinion leaders, including a representative from the Gender office in Nimba, the Assistant County Attorney of Nimba, the Administrative Commissioner of Gbehlay, who also served as chief launcher, representatives from the various women groups, including Gbehlay Geh women and Buu-Yao women.
Officer Cooper gave the tally of about 279 rape cases reported in Nimba in the last quarter, with 87 being classified as “statutory” and, up to May, 27 cases have been reported so far, where one of the perpetrators was in the age range of 70.
However, the Assistant County Attorney, George Davis said there were 68 rape cases on docket this term of court at the 8th Judicial Circuit Court, but warned that juries need to be educated on rape-related issue, especially statutory rape.
“Juries take wrong decisions in some of our rape cases in the court, perhaps, they are not aware of statutory rape or they may have taken bribe,” Davis said.
He said there was a case involving a pastor having sex with a 13 year old girl, but the jury said the girl and the pastor were loving, because the pastor was helping her with her lesson.
Atty Davis believes the alarming rape cases in Nimba could be the cause of some traditional practices, because most of the victims are kids and also too much compromising of rape cases, either by court, where he said, a rape suspect was released from prison without any notice.
“People are saying that since former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s term expired, the issue of rape is now laid to rest, this is why rape is getting rampant again, so we want more support and awareness,” shouted an elderly lady in the audience.
Meanwhile, the District Commissioner, John Kwatoe and the Gbehlay Rural Women have praised RICCE and its’ partner for the project and pledged to support the fight against rape.