-Want trafficked girls released
A local advocacy group under the banner “Concerned Liberians” has petitioned the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia to prevail on the Government of Liberia to turnover over 10 Liberian girls, who were brought back to the country recently from Lebanon where they were trafficked, to their parents.
“Concerned Liberians” is also calling for those behind the trafficking of the girls to Lebanon were they used as sex slaves and domestic laborers to be prosecuted by the Liberian authorities.
Concerns over the plight of the girls have been mounting here after some of them were brought back home by the Liberian Minister of Labor, Neto Zarzar Lighe’ but shielded from the public.
Reading the petition Tuesday, 28 April before the U.S. Embassy, Liberian female broadcast journalist and lead campaigner, Mrs. Tetee Gebro, appealed to the Government of the United States to intervene in having the girls released to their families, while investigation and subsequent trial of the alleged culprits were underway.
“We, the Concerned Liberians have come to petition the Government and People of America, to: prevail on our government to bring our girls back from Lebanon; that the 10 girls brought back to Liberia and being kept away from their families is a clear violation of their rights; that those girls be immediately released to their families while investigation and subsequent trial of the culprits continues; that our government provides information on the whereabouts of one ABASS DEBES, owner of the Speedo Printing Press, who the government has described as a person of interest in the case; and that the US’ intervention is necessary to stop people taking advantage of the poverty stricken situation to continuously exploit, abuse and use our girls as slaves”, Mrs. Gebro read.
She further urged the U.S. government to use the Trafficking Victims Protection Act passed in 2000, which is the cornerstone of Federal human trafficking legislation, to directly intervene in rescuing the girls both in Lebanon and in Liberia.
She pointed to several international instruments against human trafficking and abuse such as the United Nations Convention against Transitional Organized Crime, adopted by the General Assembly Resolution55/25 of November 15, 2000 and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, also adopted UN General Assembly Resolution 55/25, among others as basis for the group’s advocacy.
In a press chat with media managers, publishers, editors and foreign correspondents recently in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia, President Sirleaf said government is currently gathering all facts surrounding the girls going to Lebanon where they were allegedly exploited sexually.
“The 10 girls are safe and placed under witness protection”, President Sirleaf told the local media in Monrovia.
Also speaking at the U.S. Embassy Tuesday, a Liberian lawyer and former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, said she had gone there to identify with the group of “Concerned Liberians” in its advocacy for the girls.
Cllr. Bull stressed that whenever someone or people are taking group of citizens out of the country, there should be an agreement between those taking them and the government, detailing why and where they are carrying them.
She also stressed the need for the Government of Liberia to open an embassy in Lebanon that would seek the interest of Liberians in that country.
Receiving the petition on behalf of U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac, the Chief for Public Affairs at the embassy, Madam Sally Hobgfom welcomed the advocacy by the “Concerned Liberians” and noted that human trafficking is a very serious issue.
According to her, embassy authorities have already started talking with the Government of Liberia on this issue and they will leave it with the Government of Liberia to prosecute the alleged perpetrators, and if found guilty, the law should take its course.
She then promised to give the petition to Ambassador Malac, stressing that the embassy takes it very seriously.
In a recent press statement, Liberia’s Labor Minister Neto Zarzar Lighe’ said, 62 of the girls were reportedly taken from Liberia by some Lebanese businessmen, in collaboration with some Liberians under the guise of giving them a greener pasture.
According to reports, the girls were taken to Lebanon by a Lebanese businessman- Abbas Debs, owner of the Speedo Printing Press in Monrovia.
Mr. Debs is reported to have put the girls under the impression that they were being taken to Lebanon to work at his brother’s business center which needed more workers. But upon their arrival in Lebanon, it was a different story, as people who had paid $250.00 for them were already at the Beirut airport to receive and use them house girls and sex slaves.
The release added that a government Task Force has maintained that keeping the girls in safe homes is important and necessary as government collects their testimonies to help with the prosecution of the alleged traffickers.
By Bridgett Milton