South Korea Accuses Liberian Maritime Officials of Rape
South Korea has detained two employees of the Liberian mission to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for allegedly raping two Korean teenagers.
The two senior employees of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), who were accused by South Korean police, have had testimony taken while awaiting a judge to determine whether there is probable cause for prosecution.
The officials — Moses Owen Browne, Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in the UK — and Daniel Tarr, Director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection at the LiMA, have been detained in Busan, South Korea.
They are yet to pair and are yet to be formally charged. A Korean judge has taken statements from them to determine probable cause for a formal rape charge.
If no probable cause is found, they will be released from police custody and allowed to leave the country immediately. But if there is probable cause, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to review whether the accused men are entitled to diplomatic immunity and, if not, they will remain behind bars and face prosecution.
Browne and Tarr were in South Korea attending the IMO GHG SMART Practical Training and Study Visit (September 19-23, 2022) when this alleged incident occurred, according to reports in Korean media.
It is alleged that the victims informed Busan police that they are 14 and 16 years old, constituting the crime of statutory rape under South Korean criminal law. The two men were arrested at a hotel in Busan after a friend of the alleged victims reported the case to the police, Busan police said.
They are being held by Korean police while investigations are ongoing. The investigation is expected to last for ten days. Statutory rape, according to South Korean Law, occurs when an individual has consensual sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 20 in Korean age. The age of consent in South Korea is 20 years old, at which time an individual is considered legally old enough to consent to participation in sexual activity. Individuals aged 19 or younger in South Korea are not legally able to consent to sexual activity, and such activity may result in prosecution for statutory rape or the equivalent local law.
And in a video shown on Korean media, Busan police are seen trying to forcefully enter the hotel room of Browne and Tarr to rescue the alleged rape victims. However, the arrest took place after some minutes of persuasion, which led to the men voluntarily opening the hotel door.
Meanwhile, a release from the Liberia Maritime Authority has described the allegation against its officials as grave and views their alleged conduct as having no place in any civilized society.
“LiMA unequivocally maintains a zero-tolerance stance on any types of sexual and gender-based offenses, and views these allegations of the conduct of its Officials as most egregious, having no place in any civilized society,” the release said.
“[We] will fully cooperate with the Government of the Republic of South Korea in the investigation of this incident and vow to take appropriate actions, pursuant to national and international Law.”
The LiMA employees’ alleged action came just a day after President George Weah told the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly on Sept 22, that his government is working assiduously to end harmful traditional practices against women while at the same time making gender equality a top priority of his administration.
Ministry of Gender Condemns
The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection has also disclosed that it finds the allegations of rape disturbing, distressing, and a matter that goes completely against the mores of Liberia’s commitment to fighting the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence.
According to the Ministry, Liberia has a Presidential declaration on rape as a national emergency and, as such, it condemns these alleged sexual misbehaving acts by government agents and considers the same unacceptable and inexcusable.
“If confirmed, this will have the propensity to further undermine Liberia’s fight against rape and poses a setback in achieving Goal 5 of the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which highlights the urgent need to end violence and exploitation of women and girls.
“Gender Ministry calls on the Liberia Maritime Authority to, where applicable, immediately recall these Officials, and if found guilty, LiMA should not hesitate in taking appropriate actions against them, including dismissal and the pursuance of sentencing, as is allowed under the laws and jurisdictions of both South Korea and Liberia.
“MGCSP admonishes all government officials and the Liberian populace at large, to be circumspect in daily interactions at home or abroad, and to continue to join hands with GoL in the fight against Sexual and Gender-based Violence.”