In Liberia, supporting courts to provide justice for survivors of sexual violence
GRAND GEDEH COUNTY, Liberia - Badio Quiah has been the Clerk of Court for the Ministry of Justice at the 7th Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Gedeh County for over 15 years. He has seen firsthand the challenges that the court system has faced in addressing cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), particularly rape.
"Before the intervention of the Spotlight Initiative, most cases of SGBV were left uninvestigated." - Badio Quiah, Clerk of the Court
"Before the intervention of the Spotlight Initiative, most cases of SGBV were left uninvestigated," Mr. Quiah said. "Victims' statements or evidence were being condemned, and victims were left being more victimized with no proper care or safety."
A 2016 UN study found that only 2 per cent of rapes cases reported in Liberia resulted in a conviction, a figure that is consistent with global statistics.
This lack of justice led to a culture of silence around SGBV and rape. Survivors were afraid to come forward and perpetrators were rarely held accountable.
Spotlight Initiative is working to achieve better outcomes for rape survivors by providing funding and support to the court system in Grand Gedeh County and by helping to improve the knowledge of magistrates and court workers on how to handle SGBV cases. Magistrates, clerks of court, bailiffs, national police and some members of civil society organizations have completed training on how to handle sexual and gender-based violence cases in a coordinated way.
"Citizens are now satisfied to come to the court with rape or domestic violence cases." - Mr. Quiah
The Initiative has also established a one-stop centre to provide medical, legal and justice support for survivors of SGBV and renovated a Criminal Court to better handle SGBV cases. For example, an “in-camera” (closed door) victim protection room has been built on the court premises, allowing survivors privacy during trial proceedings.
As a result, the court system in Grand Gedeh County is now better equipped to address SGBV cases, uphold the rights of survivors and hold perpetrators to account.
"The court system in Grand Gedeh County has benefited a lot and it is functioning well in all its operations and duties," Mr. Quiah said. "Citizens are now eager and satisfied to come to the court with SGBV, rape or even domestic violence cases."
"Education is also key to understanding the danger and harm of SGBV and how to report or stop it," he continued. "Thanks to the Spotlight Initiative for providing our citizens with the knowledge and understanding they need to fight or stop SGBV and rape."
He believes that more funding is needed for mobility and transportation, so that the courts are able to reach remote areas of the county, and that more equipment would help courts to quickly document cases.
"I am hopeful that the Initiative will continue to support the court system in Grand Gedeh County, so that we can continue to provide justice to victims of SGBV and rape,” he said.
By Garmai Garyah