Inter’l Community Lauds Liberia for Stance Against Rape -Says Death Penalty Won’t Deter Rape, but Practices Approaches

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In the wake of the ongoing debate in Liberia regarding the adoption of the death penalty as a response to heinous crimes, including rape and all acts and forms of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and against the Liberian government’s concerted effort to eradicate rape and SGBV, the International Community has commended the government and people of Liberia for their recently renewed vigorous stand against violence to human life in any form and particularly against gender-based abuses.

“Above all, we appreciate the leadership of President George Weah  and his Government in addressing rape and other forms of SGBV, including  through the development of the Roadmap to End Sexual and Gender-based Violence; the development of the Comprehensive Prevention Strategy; piloting of gender-responsive planning and budgeting in key line Ministries to increase commitment and resource allocation to address SGBV; the collaboration with traditional leaders in the fight against SGBV; the setting up of a 24/7 toll free Call Centre; and the provision of targeted interventions to support SGBV survivors amongst others. We look forward to collaborating with the Government and people of Liberia to ensure the effective implementation of these measures,” the international community said on September 2, 2020 in a joint statement signed by diplomatic missions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), Ireland, Spain Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK).

The joint statement from the international community also welcomed the fact that, recently, SGBV has mobilised large parts of the Liberian society, and that in this matter, citizens, civil society, the Government of Liberia and the international community all stand together, side by side, against something which a mutually-identified societal problem.

“Fighting SGBV and rape requires many different interventions, at many different levels. Focus only on punishment will not solve the matter. While the entire international community joins the Government and people of Liberia to strongly deplore the much-publicised magnitude of rape and other forms of SGBV in the country, it should be worthwhile to also note the that studies all over the world on the phenomena of violent crimes indicate that there is no conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent to serious crimes, including rape and SGBV,” the international community stated, noting rather, that the consensus is that a well-functioning and victim-focused law enforcement and justice system that promptly and fairly investigates; timeously prosecutes; strongly supports survivors of SGBV to give their best evidence; legally punishes perpetrators of crime, including rape and other SGBV; and strengthens offender management and rehabilitation is the best holistic and human rights-compliant approach to dispense justice and reduce crime rates.

“It is therefore in this context that we applaud the progressive steps taken along the years by successive administrations to abolish the death penalty, in addition to the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia which guarantees the right to life of all persons within its territory. Actions in this direction have included ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2004 and acceding to the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR on the Abolition of Death Penalty in 2005. Both treaties subscribe to imposing the death penalty only on the most serious crimes, it being understood that their scope should not go beyond intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences, and imposing a moratorium on executions, respectively. In the words of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, “the death penalty has no place in the twenty-first century,” the statement noted.

The international community further noted that although sexual offences not resulting directly and intentionally in death, while serious in nature, can never serve as the basis for the imposition of the death penalty within the framework of the ICCPR, the community underscore the magnitude of these crimes and the importance of adequately holding perpetrators of SGBV to account.

 

“In this context, we the undersigned, urge the Government and people of Liberia to strategically integrate the fight against SGBV, including rape, into the country’s commitment to the respect of human rights. Such a strategy should encourage the international community to strengthen and expand its partnership with Liberia and assist the latter to access strategic international resources available for the advancement of human rights, human welfare and national development,” the joint statement concluded.

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