A locally-based humanitarian organization known as “Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment/RICCE on June 14, 2018, launched an access to justice for survivors of rape.
The program, under the title “Accelerating access to justice for survivors of rape through pro bono legal service and support to survivors,” was launched in the border town of Karnplay, Gbehlay Geh, where the presence of frequent rape cases is said to be alarming.
According to Executive Director Salome Gofan, one of the major obstacles to justice is the absence of legal services and representation for survivors in court.
She said most of those victimized by rape are from parents who are said to be very poor, thus depriving them from pursuing their case in court.
Madam Gofan explained that legal aid is a major component of the project, and her organization will support survivors until they have received their due justice from the court.
“Studies have shown that support to rape survivors seeking legal redress will create access to justice and strengthen the rule of law,” she said.
She added that RICCE will team up with lawyers and paralegals, to ensure that survivors of rape seeking justice find legal remedies to their cases. She noted that the project will also support survivors and families, including witnesses, to follow up rape cases.
“RICCE will provide transportation to and fro as well as other services if so required,” she said.
Some of the activities in the project include training and awareness of local communities, to identify the danger of rape and report cases to the police while building the capacities of women, among others.
Those attending the launch included women organizations from both Gbehlay and Buuyao, where the project will be focused, due to a high presence of rape reports in these two districts.
“This project costs about US$ 40k and it is an eight-month project, funded by the UNDP,” said Laretta George, Gender Officer of RICCE.
The alarming rate of rape in Nimba County has also raised concerns among those attending the ceremony. They pledged their support in reporting rape cases and have promised to refrain from compromising them.
“We the women are in total support of RICCE, because when IRC left there had been no organization to help survivors seek legal redress in their cases. As a result, most of the rape cases have been compromised, leaving the victims helpless and vulnerable,” said Musu Tour, a concerned citizen.
Citing the Biblical Book of Amos 5:24, Rev. Moses Wonbeankeh of Inland Church in Karnplay, said: “We the Christians stand for justice, because in the absence of justice there are evil, wickedness, so we want for rape to be abolished, not even curtailed.”
However an officer representing the Women and Children Protection Unit of the Liberia National Police (LNP) at the program, George Zogon Cooper, said about 297 cases of rape were reported in Nimba last year, with 87 of those cases being statutory rape; so far this year 27 statutory rape cases have been reported.
He said one of the constraints in combating rape in the county is the lack of logistics, such as a car or motorcycle. “But even if there is a car or bike, having gasoline or fuel readily available is another obstacle,” he said.
RICCE was founded in August, 2005. It is involved in several activities, including food security, gender equality and women empowerment; environmental safety and biodiversity conservation, income generation activities, peace building and reconciliation.
RICCE has trained local farmers around the Arcelor Mittal concession areas in “Conservation Agriculture.” This new method of farming is said to be gaining momentum around mining zones in Nimba County.