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Liberia: UN-backed anti-rape campaign reaches country’s north

Liberia: UN-backed anti-rape campaign reaches country’s north

Deputy Special Representative Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu
A United Nations-backed campaign to stamp out rape in Liberia, the highest reported crime in the West African country as it recovers from a devastating civil war, has been extended to the north with a senior UN official calling for full implementation of the law.

Families of rape victims must not compromise to reach private settlements with rapists or their families, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Rule of Law Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu said at the launch of the nation-wide campaign in northern Lofa County, the fourth of the country’s 15 regions that it has so far reached.

“Such a rapist would go on to rape other children and women,” she added. “Compromising rape amounts to betrayal of the victim and endangering other girls as well… the law must be allowed to take its course when this crime is committed.”

She called for individuals and communities to expose all rapists to allow the law to deal with them, urging Liberians to seek a clear understanding of what the rape law is about because explaining and publicizing the law cannot be left to the Government alone.

“Passing the rape law was a very progressive move by the Liberian Government, but passing the law does not stop a crime if the law is not enforced,” Mr. Mensa-Bonsu declared.

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), with some 14,000 uniformed personnel on the ground as of January, was set up in September 2003 to help implement a ceasefire ending years of civil war.

With the democratic election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in November 2005, the Missions has focused on civil and social issues and in a report earlier this month called for legal prohibitions of all forms of violence against children, more resources for rural education and better human rights training for national police.

A drawdown plan for UNMIL’s military and police components to be carried out in several stages allows for 9,750 peacekeepers on the ground by the end of 2010. One of the benchmarks for the drawdown is the creation of a 500-person quick reaction force in the country’s National Police, set to be established by July 2009.