Women Under Siege: Liberia conflict profile

Earlier this month, Women Under Siege published a Liberia conflict profile, written by Pamela Scully, Sabrina Karim and Erin Bernstein.  The piece outlines a brief history of Liberia and its civil war, describes and provides data on how sexual violence was used as a weapon of war, and outlines the legal precedents that have been established in the aftermath.

As the report highlights, although a National Gender-Based Violence Plan of Action has been written and laws have been amended to widen the definition of rape, issues of implementation still exist.

The authors write:

The Liberian National Police (LNP) has established the Women and Children Protection Sections in more than 21 locations in Liberia to improve the protection of women and children, particularly against sexualized violence. Liberia has developed an all-female civil police unit with special commitment to cases of sexualized violence.

But there remains a gap in access to legal remedy.

According to reports, 40 percent of survivors accessed the LNP, but only 23 percent accessed the courts. This suggests a fairly significant gap between a woman’s initial reporting of an instance of sexualized violence and that case being carried to the courts. There are several obstacles that prevent access, such as the costs and authority of traditional leaders to mediate disputes.

An Amnesty International report in 2011 found that other barriers exist for prosecution, including low rate of prosecution of rape cases; excessive pretrial prison time for accused perpetrators; shortage of social workers in health facilities to support survivors of gender-based violence; fast turnover of staff trained in clinical management of rape; high number of rape cases being dismissed; magistrates trying rape cases not under their jurisdiction; poor selection of jurors; delays in evidence collection and investigation; poor linkages in the justice delivery system; and lack of transportation to convey prisoners to prison.