Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia has declared war against sexual gender based violence of any kind. The Ministry of Justice in response to this mandate from the President seized the opportunity to create an SGBV Crimes Unit which was officially begun on February 27, 2009, by her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Unit initially prosecutes cases in a Special Court (Court E) created only for the adjudication of sexual offenses. Moreover, the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) objective 4, under the rule of law and governance pillar, further challenges the Ministry of Justice, the Judiciary and the Ministry of Gender, Development & Social Protection to “develop and implement measures to ensure protection of vulnerable groups within the Justice system, in particular during detention, to address the particular needs of children, young people, women, the elderly and those with disability”. This Unit is a monumental step forward and clearly seeks to uphold Liberia’s obligations under United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 and uphold the rule of law.
The Unit is Staffed by personnel specially trained in prosecution of sexual offenses, and will investigate and prosecute criminal offenses arising from incidence of sexual assault and abuse, incest, rape, Gang rape, and sexual exploitation.
The SGBV Crimes Unit is a specially trained Unit to provide rapid investigative and prosecutorial response to complaints of sexual assault, abuse, and exploitation in order to justly and fairly hold perpetrators accountable and provide support to victim.
The unit in six (6) years, has made tremendous progress in achieving the overall aims and objectives of its mission statement and can now categorize its mode of operations in the following phases below.
Phase 1 - The Unit will continue to coordinate and prosecute cases in Montserrado County, exclusively in the newly created criminal Court E, and also within the newly established security HUB REGIONS to include: HUB-1(Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties), HUB-2 (Maryland, River-Gee and Grand Kru Counties), and HUB-3 (Grand Gedeh and Sinoe Counties).
Phase 2 - The Unit will expand its staff to handle a larger number of cases in the current areas where it is now providing services. The unit in collaboration with its partners will continue to recruit and employ capable staff to manage its affairs as it prepares for the upcoming HUB REGIONS in the country.
Phase 3 - The Unit will be replicated in other parts of the country as the Judiciary contemplates on the creation of SGBV Courts in the circuits outside of Montserrado County.
Through the initiatives of the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), phase three of the project has been implemented, the Unit has extended its operation in prosecuting sexual cases in eight counties namely; HUB 1 (Bong, Nimba & Lofa Counties), HUB 2 (Maryland, River gee & Grand Kru Counties) and HUB 3 (Grand Gedeh & Sinoe Counties).
- To improve the Justice sector’s response to sexual assault and abuse cases and provide support to victims;
- To improve the prosecution of SGBV Crimes.
- To provide a Victim-Centered Approach to sexual violence cases and assist victim in dealing with the criminal justice system
- Effective prosecution of SGBV Crimes with a focus on vulnerable women, men, girls and boys and young children
- Provide a victim centered approach to sexual violence crimes including victims and their families
- Reduce the incidence of sexual violence
- Coordinate with police, health professionals and psychosocial counselors to help in alleviating or minimizing trauma to victims
- Prosecute fairly and ethically to enhance the public trust in the criminal justice system
- Educate the public about SGBV thru public awareness and encourage reporting offenders
The SGBV Crimes Unit is staffed with a specially trained team to provide a holistic response to sexual assault crimes and the victims of such crimes
- The Director overseas all aspects of the Unit (legal and administrative) in Montserrado County and the HUB REGIONS of the Country
- The Chief Prosecutor manages cases in Montserrado County through supervision of lawyers and other staff. Prosecutors provide “vertical prosecution” handling of cases; from arrest and magistrate courts through trial and appeal so that victims get to know and trust one prosecutor.
- The Program Officer is responsible for all projects and solicits funds for the Unit and collaborates with partners in implementing those projects.
- Case Liaison Officers staff a 24 hour Hotline to respond to complaints immediately and travel to meet the victim where he/she is and coordinate response throughout the trial;
- Victim Support Officer is available for referrals and emotional support throughout the case to help the victim through the legal process.
- Outreach & Training Coordinator manages public relations identifies and builds relationship with partners and coordinate trainings for the Unit and its legal and health partners
- The Administrative Team including the Administrative Assistant coordinates and handles all administrative matters. An IT Officer creates and maintains all network and database files. A Finance Officer sets up financial planning, record keeping and reporting systems in compliance with standards according to the Ministry of Justice and donor requirements. A Receptionist greets and assists visitors to the SGBV Crimes Unit. An Office Assistant assist the Unit by providing office services