‘One Rape Court in Liberia’

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Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor has said that Liberia has only one court that handles cases of rape and gender-based violence in the country.
It is the Criminal Court E located at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, he said.
Chief Justice Korkpor noted that the act establishing Criminal Court “E” stipulates that it should be established in each of the 15 counties, and be a separate and special division of the circuit court to be called Sexual Offence Division.
He, however, admitted that due to the lack of infrastructure around the country, only Criminal Court “E” in Montserrado County is operating as a Sexual Offence Court.
“Another deficiency of Criminal Court E is that since its establishment, only one judge has been appointed so far although the act stipulates that it must be presided over by two judges.”
Chief Justice Korkpor made the disclosure on Monday during programs marking the official opening of the October Term of the Supreme Court.
It was quite recently that Judge Joseph S. Fayiah was inducted as the second judge to preside over Court “E” with Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson to mend it.
In his address, Chief Justice Korkpor said rape continues to be a menace in the country. “Conviction records show that girls as young as two years old have been assaulted and brutally abused through this heinous and despicable act.”
It may be recalled that Criminal Court ‘E’ Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson admitted releasing on a US$25,000 bail a Lebanese national (Jaafar Bashir, 44), who was charged for raping young Liberian children within the age range of 7 and 15.
Judge Johnson also released on a similar bail another Lebanese national, (Ali Saksouk, 21), who was accused of raping a 13-year old child.
Two other Lebanese rape convicts, Anthony Kassabli and his father Dib Edmond Kassabli, were also released by Judge Johnson on bail. Anthony was released for health reasons, while his father was given executive clemency by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Chief Justice Korkpor reminded his listeners, including President Sirleaf, that the judicial system would accord people accused of all crimes, including rape, the rights provided under the law, especially the right of presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the right to be represented by counsel, but no effort will be spared in dealing with this crime, he said.
He noted that another problem that is hindering speedy and effective prosecution of rape cases is that victims and their parents or relatives are compromising their cases by refusing to provide “material evidence” to prosecute rape cases.
“Rape, being a crime is committed against the state and not against an individual; even though the individual is the victim of the physical act,” he declared, adding, “only the state can decide whether or not to proceed with a trial in a criminal case. It is therefore utterly wrong for any victim or his or her parents or relatives to compromise the case. And refusing to provide essential evidence against the accused leaves room for the wrongdoer to go free.”
Chief Justice Korkpor assured his audience, “We are working in close partnership with the government and the United Nations Joint Program Initiative to prevent and respond to sexual gender based violence and harmful traditional practices, to construct facilities in a number of judicial circuits to pave the way for the appointment of judges to preside over those courts.”
He named some of the counties where the courts are expected to be constructed as, Bong, Nimba and Grand Bassa.

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