The story of UNMIL [Book]: Special Court takes on SGBV cases

A young victim of rape at a safe house in Monrovia. Photo: Staton Winter | UNMIL | 29 Oct 12

23 Apr 2018

The story of UNMIL [Book]: Special Court takes on SGBV cases

To address cases of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) related crimes in a speedy manner, a Special Court, with jurisdiction over sexual offences, was established in Monrovia in 2009. The court provides both psychological and legal support, in addition to the deployment of the SGBV Crimes Unit of the Ministry of Justice. The Unit enables a rapid investigative and prosecutorial response to complaints of sexual offences including rape and sexual assault. The SGBV unit also ensures support for the medical, psychological and justice needs of survivors of sexual and gender based violence.

As soon as an incident of SGBV is reported to the police, the victim is referred to the SGBV Crimes Unit for psycho-social counselling to both the victim and family. Other material, educational and medical needs are provided, and in some cases, victims may be relocated during trials to prevent further attack.

But the performance of the Special Court and the reality surrounding SGBV in Liberia remains a serious concern. According to an UNMIL study, the court had 137 rape cases on its docket in August 2015, including rape, sexual assault and corruption of a minor. However, only one case went to trial during that period, and in 2015, only two convictions were obtained. According to court data, between 2009 and 2014, only 38 rape cases went to trial, of which 24 resulted in convictions. During the same period, 286 cases of rape were dismissed by nolle prosequi motions. A majority of rape cases are dismissed due to the lack of proper evidence gathering by police, corruption, and the lack of will or diligence on the part of police and prosecutors, including those of the special SGBV Crimes Unit.