At least 50 health practitioners and police investigators from three of Liberia’s 15 political sub-divisions, including, Lofa, Nimba and Bong Counties have been trained in investigation, collection, handling and storage of Sexual Gender Based Violence evidence.
The workshop which climaxed over the weekend was organized by the Sexual Gender Based Violence Crimes Unit of the Ministry of Justice (SGBVCU), with funding from the Austrian Aid international. The Austrian Aid international, is one of Liberia’s outstanding developmental partners in the fight against SGBV across Liberia.
The two separate workshops for investigators and health workers managing SGBV cases in the country were held under the theme: “Building Skills for Proper Investigation, Collection, Handling and Storage of Evidence to Support Prosecution and Improving Skills for Interviewing Child Witnesses and Effective Health Care Response to SGBV Cases.”
During the one week event, several topics relative to the handling of evidence and survivor safety and interview were highlighted.
With venue at the Justice and Security Regional Hub Training Center in Gbarnga, the workshop attracted creams of professional lawyers and investigators some of whom included Cllr. George Saybeh, Liberia Deputy Chief Prosecutor Sexual Gender Based Violence Crimes Unit and Mr. Linsey Gould Chief Investigator, Women and Children Protection Section, Liberia National Police (LNP).
Others were Madam Elizabeth Kerkula, a professional nurse at the Duport Road Clinic, Cllr. Robert Gbarbea, Senior Legal Associate/ The Carter Center, Cllr. Lemuel Reeves, a prolific Liberian lawyer as well as Madam Linda Saygbe, Chief Training Officer Sexual Gender Based Violence Crime Unit, Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
Speaking at the close of the workshops, Cllr. George Saybeh said the workshops were part of government’s efforts to ensure the tightening of screw on SGBV fight.
“A new war is now taking place in Liberia,” he said. “That war is rape and SGBV, and we all must serve as actors to combat this virus,” he added. “We remain unbending when it comes to the fight of SGBV in Liberia,” he stated further.
“Many out there don’t believe that SGBV has taken place in Liberia. Indeed, it has taken place and we will go after those involved despite status and location,” he assured.
He then lauded the efforts of participants and challenged them to use the knowledge acquired wisely in the discharge of their duties across the country. “Thank you for the best efforts applied and all we can say is that we are in the same boat to fight this virus.”
Thereafter, participants praised government and Australian Aid for the opportunity aimed at boosting their capacity. They also vowed to use the skills acquired in the discharge of their duties in combating SGBV. Matthew Dogbe, Physician Assistant at the Tellewoyan Memorial Hospital said, “This workshop has built our capacities and we are now prepared to go back to our work places to use them wisely.”
Records show that the sexual violence against women and girls pervades households and communities throughout the country. It is estimated in Liberia, that two out of three women and girls throughout the country experienced some form of Sexual Gender Based Violence during the country’s 14-year conflict.
At the same time, the 9th Judicial Circuit Court in Bong County in collaboration with the Sexual Gender Based Violence Crimes Unit of the Ministry of Justice, has brought down a guilty verdict against two men accused of statutory rape.
The two men, Prince Cooper and Prince Paye believed to be in their late 20’s were found guilty last week following a unanimous verdict by the grand Jury sitting during its term of court.
Prince Cooper was accused of raping a 12-year old girl last year in Bong County while on her way to visit her aunt. Prince Cooper who later confessed to the commission of the crime said he raped the victim several times in a rubber farm despite several attempts for her to escape. The court has however sentenced him to seven years in prison.
For his part, Prince Paye, was accused of raping a ten-year old girl in the Joy Creek Community in Bong County minutes after she collapsed as a result of epilepsy. Although, the accused denied the allegation, Bong County Attorney Cornelius Flomo Wennah said government was able to prove beyond all doubts that the accused did commit the crime as evidenced by medical reports which showed that the victim was abused five times during the incident.
He said Paye raped the alleged epilepsy victim for several days in his room. Meanwhile, the court is expected to handle down a sentence this week.