Justice Minister Sannoh’s First Major Case

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The brutal rape and murder of 12 year-old Musu Morris in Brewerville last Sunday was the subject of the last paragraph in yesterday’s editorial.  We made a strong appeal in that paragraph to the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian Judiciary to handle this case “efficiently and expeditiously  . . .  in order to send a strong message to such wickedly demented people that they will be punished for such heinous acts.”

On the front page of yesterday’s edition our Women and Family page producer, Claudia Sara Smith, wrote a detailed story about this most tragic crime allegedly perpetrated by the 49 year-old man whom the victim pointed out to her family before she died. The suspect, Musa Kromah, is commonly known in Brewerville as “CDC Musa”.

We think the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian Judiciary have a very serious case on their hands.  Here is an opportunity to show that there is justice in Liberia.

In addition, Counselor Benedict Sannoh, our newly appointed Justice Minister, has been landed his first case of barefaced Police cruelty and negligence.   On the night of the rape, the hapless parents took Musu from hospital to hospital and they all refused to admit and treat the severely assaulted child because they said she was “bleeding too much.” 

Understandably, bleeding is one of the signs of Ebola infection and the medical staff may have turned the child away for that reason.  But it begs the question, where were their PPEs to do an examination of the victim?  

But then here is another deeply disturbing phenomenon:  the cruel and inept police behavior.  After being refused treatment by both Redemption Hospital in Monrovia and Faith Clinic in Brewerville, the deeply distressed and hapless parents continued their rush for medical treatment for the bleeding child.  They decided next to try the John F. Kennedy

Medical Center (JFK) in distant Sinkor.  But when they got to the police checkpoint at the old Ministry of Health on Capital By-Pass, they were reportedly stopped by police who arrested the car.  The parents and driver pleaded with these policemen to allow the car to reach the JFK with their bleeding daughter, but, said Edward Johnson who represented the parents, the Police at that checkpoint “got aggressive and started getting violent with us.”

Unable to reach the JFK, the bewildered and terrified parents returned to Brewerville, by which time the child was in her last moments of life.

The parents also said that on the very night of the crime, they immediately reported the incident to the Brewerville police who they say did nothing about it and attempted no investigation.

Justice Minister Sannoh has a very serious case on his hands and is faced with a two-fold investigative challenge: first, getting all the facts of the case, ensuring that the accused is kept in police custody and does not escape until the case lands before a judge; and second, the behavior of the Police in Brewerville and at the old Health Ministry Check Point.

What will it take for our Police officers to recognize a life-threatening case when they see one?  Where is their professionalism, their commitment to serving the public interest, their compassion, most especially in the case of a life-threatening attack on an innocent child?  Had the police responded to the report of the rape and even accompanied the family to the hospital, young Musu’s life may have been saved. You mean our police have no compassion, no real concern about a wicked crime committed against a 12 year-old girl?  These officers should not forget that they, too, have daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and sons who could be the victims of the hideous crime of rape.

We pray that the Prosecutors in the Ministry of Justice and the officials of the Liberian Judiciary handling this case, will remember that God has given them daughters, too.  

We further pray that Justice Minister Sannoh will not rest until this case is effectively and successfully presented to the courts and that justice, at long last, will NOT be delayed.  We do not want the file of this case pushed under the pile until three years later when the President, showing up at the Central Prison, will spot the culprit and tell him you have served your turn and are free to go.

We hope that Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell, too, will immediately take a very serious interest in this case and follow it until justice is fully and decisively served.   Beyond that, the Gender Minister must work in close collaboration with MOH, LNP, MOJ and the plethora of NGOs and civil society entities to provide more prevention, protection and response to rape and other crimes against women and children.         

Before she ended her Cabinet Retreat yesterday, even the President should have said something about this terrible   tragedy.

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