-Swedish envoy says rapists; other perpetrators of SGBV crimes can now be caught, as EU, UN hand over DNA machine to GoL
MONROVIA – Swedish envoy accredited to Liberia, Ambassador Urban Sjöström, has sent out a stern warning to rapists and perpetrators of other Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) crimes in the country, that with the turning over to the Government of Liberia (GoL), of forensic equipment and a modern DNA machine by the European Union and the United Nations, they will be caught, if they do not desist.
Speaking Tuesday at a ceremony marking the handover of a sophisticated HT DNA machine and forensic equipment at the JFK Medical Health Center, in Sinkor, Monrovia, Ambassador Sjöström stressed that the donation of the equipment is key to gathering evidence, noting that this will now help to put an end to impunity in the country.
He stated that with the newly turned over forensic equipment and DNA machine, evidence would now be gathered regarding the perpetration of SGBV, which he said is a crime, emphasizing that rape is even more a worst kind of crime.
“Now, the message should be clear; there is no impunity, you can be caught, because evidence would be there,” Amb. Sjöström warned perpetrators of SGBV related crimes in the country, indicating that Sweden is very happy to have contributed toward the equipment donation, which he termed as a step [in the right direction], but acknowledged that it’s also a journey.
The forensic equipment and DNA machine turnover ceremony was graced by several GoL’s officials including Minister of Gender, Williametta Saydee-Tarr; Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, Minister of Health; Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, Minister of Justice; as well as partners of Liberia including Amb. Laurent Delahousse of the EU Delegation in Liberia; UNFPA Liberia Officer-In-Charge, Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Sesay; and UNDP’s Stephen Rodriques.
Making remarks at the ceremony, Gender Minister Saydee-Tarr, stated that her Ministry is the happiest of all for the handover of the equipment, noting that in the Gender Ministry’s role of lobbying and advocacy, while the message remains prevention, the Ministry has always sought for justice on behalf of victims and survivors.
She expressed the hope that more persons would be trained to operate the equipment to benefit of the country.
She made specific reference to the importance of DNA machine, which she said will not only be used to solve SGBV related crimes, but other crimes such as murder and issues of paternity.
For her part, Health Minister Dr. Jallah, who spoke earlier, stated that the equipment will make a big difference in government’s drive towards solving crime.
Like other officials of government that spoke at the occasion, Dr. Jallah thanked Liberia’s partners, particularly the EU and UN for the donation of the forensic equipment and DNA machine, but emphasized that the country needs an entire forensic unit.
She recommended that the country’s focus in the fight against crime should be prevention, stating that “We don’t want to see the victim, no longer we will have to go to court, so part of our strategy should be prevention.”
She wants perpetrators of SGBV related crimes, especially men, to be talked to, as a way of finding out what their issues are, suggesting that following years of war, Ebola and Covid-19 outbreaks, there is a need for psychological counseling, which she believes could help unravel why such crimes are being perpetrated in the country.
“Why should a man rape a five-year-old?” She wonders, adding that it cannot be because of the minor’s dress code, saying no clothes that five-year-olds and babies’ dress code should not be tempting to the point that will lead anyone to molests of rape children.
She said Liberians should spend on educating females on ways to prevent being victimized by perpetrators of SGBV, recommending, to the applause of many at the occasion, that as she is currently doing; females begin to learn self-defense (martial arts).
Justice Minister Dean, for his part, said in its resolve to fight crime, Liberia has come a long, acknowledging that though the country is yet miles away [from achieving its desired goal].
“We’ve come from the days when people thought they could abuse the rights of our women, of our girls, with impunity,” Justice Minister Dean said, adding that it’s gotten to a point that if you abuse our women, if you abuse our girls, you will called to account.”
He said government has taken the issue of rape to a level that people now know that it is a serious offense that represents a serious violation that is a crime that perpetrators will pay for.
He expressed joy that Liberia is making progress aimed at solving crime scientifically, appealing to donors of the country to be patient with the GoL – “please bear with us, we will continue to make progress, and we will get to the place where as we say, the goal is to eliminate violence against women, against our girls and against the populace.”
He said although the donors have presented to the GoL forensic equipment and a DNA machine, the country is now confronted with the lack of a forensic laboratory, for the proper storage and usage of the donated equipment.
Earlier, the Resident Coordinator of the UN System in Liberia, Mr. Niels Scott made a welcome statement and delivered a special remark, while JFK Medical Center’s Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jerry Brown and one of Liberia’s two pathologists, Dr. Benedict Kolee, also made remarks at the ceremony.
Other speakers at the occasion were UNFPA’s Officer-In-Charge, Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Sesay and Stephen Rodriques, UNDP Resident Representative to Liberia.
Following the indoor exercises of the handover ceremony, attendees were taken on a guarded tour to view the donated items and a facility provided by the JFK Administration to be developed and used as a forensic laboratory for Liberia.
Meanwhile, the handover of the forensic equipment and a DNA machine to the GoL is an undertaking buttressing the EU/UN driven Spotlight Initiative, which seeks for the abolition of all forms of violence against women and girls.