MONROVIA: Spotlight Initiative in Liberia implemented by the Government of Liberia, with funding from the European Union through UNDP, has handed over the newly renovated Criminal Court E in Lofa County to the Government of Liberia.
The handover ceremony held August 14, 2023, at the Judiciary Circuit Court in Voinjama, Lofa County, represents a significant milestone in Liberia’s pursuit of justice, human rights protection, and legal infrastructure advancement.
Criminal Court E, a crucial pillar in Liberia’s justice system, has undergone extensive refurbishment aimed at creating an improved and conducive environment for the fair and efficient handling of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) related cases.
The renovation project included the establishment of an in-camera victim protection room, prioritizing the rights and privacy of survivors during trial proceedings.
The handover ceremony witnessed the formal transfer of responsibility and ownership of Criminal Court E from UNDP to the Government of Liberia. It serves as a success to the joint efforts and commitment to strengthening Liberia’s justice system, as well as advancing the protection of vulnerable individuals’ rights, particularly survivors of SGBV.
Speaking during the ceremony, the Assistant Court Administrator Counselor William Kollie urged party litigants to make use of Criminal Court E in settling SGBV cases, instead of their homes.
Counselor Kollie expressed appreciation to the European Union (EU) and its partners including UNDP, for the support and reaffirmed the Judiciary’s commitment to the training of its staff as it is a specialized area of work to uphold the confidentiality of the court.
Also making remarks at the event, UNDP Liberia Pillar Head for its Inclusive Governance Portfolio James Monibah, stressed that the renovation of the court is part of the agency’s overall support to the Government of Liberia in strengthening access to Justice and the Rule of law especially addressing sexual violence.
Monibah urged the citizens, to report cases of rape and reiterated that it should not be made a home matter. He reminded the Judiciary of its responsibility to take care of the assets and sustain the programme and the CSOs to increase awareness and engagement with the communities on SGBV issues.
The CSO Coordinator of PYCOSI Liberia working in Lofa County, Mohammed Kamara emphasized the need for increased support to the witness protection programme.
Kamara said the absence of witnesses especially with the difficult economic situation in the country, is one of the contributing factors to delays in the judicial process of SGBV cases.
On behalf of the Gender theme group, Beatrice Kanneh reiterated the need for citizens to trust the system by reporting cases of sexual violence. “The Court will help us protect the identity of survivors and bring dignity to them,” Kanneh noted.
The handover of the renovated Criminal Court E represents a significant step forward for Liberia’s justice system and its dedication to safeguarding the rights of its citizens. This event marks a clear demonstration of collective efforts in promoting access to justice, protecting the vulnerable, and ensuring that the voices of survivors are heard, and their rights upheld.
The event recognizes and appreciates the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders involved, including the European Union/United Nations Spotlight Initiative, UNDP, government officials, judiciary representatives, Civil Society Organizations, and community members, who contributed to the rehabilitation and refurbishment of Criminal Court E.
Within the Spotlight Initiative in Liberia, UNDP works to strengthen institutions to deliver quality and essential services in the prevention and response to Sexual and Gender Based Violence and harmful practices at the national, sub-national, and community levels.
The Spotlight Initiative funded by the European Union, is a multi-national partnership designed to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, as well as increase access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. The United Nations System implements various activities under the Programme.