A renovated specialized Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Court in Bong County has been turned over to the Judiciary by UNDP after two months of renovation work as part of a Joint Rule of Law Program implemented by UNDP and OHCHR in Liberia.
Funding was made available by the governments of Sweden through its Embassy near Monrovia and Ireland through Irish Aid. The program according to a UNDP release was designed and implemented in close collaboration with the Judiciary, the Ministry of Justice and other relevant institutional counterparts.
It seeks to enhance the capacities of judicial personnel and build public confidence in the various justice and security institutions with the aim of strengthening access to justice, security and protection services, especially for women and girls.
Due to the increase of SGBV cases and the need to prioritize timely and specialized prosecution, the Judiciary of Liberia decided to establish specialized courts that will deal exclusively with such cases.
Subsequent to the establishment of the first SGBV court in Monrovia, a decision was made to expand the reach of such courts to Bong and Nimba counties with support from the UNDP/OHCHR Joint Rule of Law Program.
The renovation and furnishing of the court in Nimba were completed in February 2020, and trainings of 63 justice sector actors including judges, prosecutors, police officers, court clerks, judiciary case liaison officers, victim support officers, psycho-social counsellors, gender coordinators and human rights monitors were conducted in Bong and Nimba to strengthen capacities for specialized services.
These trained personnel have been deployed to support the courts. The Joint Program also provides technical and capacity building support to Women and Children Protection Sections (WACPS) of the Liberia National Police which provides specialized investigation services and protection in SGBV cases.
Similar support is provided to the SGBV Crimes Prosecution Unit of the Ministry of Justice. The establishment of the courts in Bong and Nimba counties will reduce the pressure on the SGBV court in Monrovia, where all such cases were previously referred.
Bong County Gender Coordinator AnnitaRennie extends commendations to UNDP and the Ministry of Justice for the job well done. “We are grateful to them for seeing the need to help create access to justice especially when it comes to SGBV issues,” she says.
By Joseph Titus Yekeryan–Edited by Winston W. Parley