European Union (EU’s) Ambassador to Liberia, Laurent Delahousse, has asserted that impunity is a poison to society.
He made the assertion last Tuesday, at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center, at a ceremony marking the turnover of EU/UN donated assorted forensic pathologist equipment, including a DNA machine to the Government of Liberia (GoL).
The donation aimed to buttress the EU’s/UN’s focal project, Spotlight Initiative, which seeks the abolition of all forms of violence against women and girls.
Making remarks at the turnover ceremony, Ambassador Delahousse intimated that the impact of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is not only devastating for survivors at an individual level, but for the communities and society as a whole, stressing that “It is a threat to the stability of peace and development in the society.”
He noted that while there is an increase in the number of reported SGBV and rape cases annually, the number of unreported cases remains very high as well, indicating, “We know SGBV offenses remain hidden and unnoticed, as SGBV is often stigmatized and considered a private matter.”
However, the EU envoy stressed that the lack of public trust in the ability of state security forces and the country’s justice system to uphold the rule of law also inhibits survivors of violence to report crimes.
Therefore, Ambassador Delahousse stated that it is of paramount importance to strengthen the prosecution of sexual offenses.
“Reinforcing the investigation capacity inside the criminal justice chain is clearly imperative to enhance the prosecution of cases of rape and other forms of SGBV,” the EU ambassador recommended, stating that lack of evidence is one key challenge, and that it is therefore crucial to support pathologists to improve the gathering of forensic evidence, alongside efforts to strengthen the investigation capacity of service providers such as the Liberia National Police (LNP), the Women and Children Protection Service, and the Sex Crimes Unit.
“We are aware that an increase in the number of reported cases does not necessarily mean a negative result in the short term,” he pointed out, adding, “On the contrary, it can be a sign of increased confidence, on the part of the victims, that the authorities will take their plight more seriously and that actions towards perpetrators will be taken.”
He added: “Of course, in the long run, the numbers should and will go down, if a higher number of convictions are being made.”
He intoned that the fear of being caught is a greater preventer of offenses than the fear of punishment, adding that deterrence against crime lies not in the severity of the punishment, but in the percentage of convictions – “Impunity is a poison to society,” he stressed.
He expressed the hope that the GoL will make full use of the forensic pathologist equipment provided by the EU and the UN, while stressing that the Government also fully utilizes the technical support and training programs within the EU/UN initiated Spotlight Initiative – “This equipment will assist pathologists, service providers and the Government of Liberia to carry out the essential duty of preventing violence and ensuring justice for women, girls, men, and boys,” Ambassador Delahousse said, emphasizing that “We trust that all of you will take good care of this very delicate equipment for years to come.”