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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Human Resource Manager Goes free After Allegedly Raping 14-Year-Old Girl

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According to data from the Ministry of Gender, River Cess County in Southeast Liberia exhibits one of the highest rates of Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases.

This prevalent issue is particularly pronounced in remote areas of the county, such as mining camps, where women and girls are reported to experience a range of SGBV incidents, spanning from domestic violence and early marriage to rape.

In response to these alarming statistics, women in the region, fed up with the situation, are demanding urgent steps be taken for stringent actions against perpetrators who they believe are escaping accountability for their harmful acts against women and girls.

A distressing incident in the county underscores these concerns where a 14-year-old girl recently fell victim to alleged rape, as reported by River Cess County SGBV Focal Person, Magretta Lewis. The victim was reportedly assaulted both vaginally and anally in a village within the county.

Magretta Lewis detailed the severity of the situation, saying, “This child was penetrated twice, both vaginally and anally, leaving her with serious health complications. Since the incident, the child has been undergoing treatment at a medical facility but continues to face health complications.”

Adding to the worrying scenario involves Francis Geeply, the Human Resource Manager of the River Cess County Health Team, who was arrested in April 2022 for allegedly raping a 12-year-old girl in Cestos City. Despite the gravity of the accusation, the case appears to have reached a standstill, with no trial taking place.

Sources reveal that Mr. Geeply was released by the court on medical grounds. However, nearly a year later, there is no information on the status of the case.

A source close to the prosecution hinted on June 27, 2023, stating, “Geeply has been on medical leave for three months now,” highlighting the abnormality of the situation.

River Cess Gender Coordinator, Henry K. Jabbie, confirmed Geeply’s arrest on April 8, 2022. The survivor’s parents learned of the incident in March of the same year when their daughter, experiencing discomfort, was taken to the hospital. Medical practitioners confirmed she had been raped.

Jabbie explained, “According to her parents, the incident occurred around January this year. The survivor’s mother, a psychosocial counselor, observed a change in behavior and decided to seek medical attention, where it was established that she was raped.”

The suspect, Francis Geeply, was reportedly 49 years old at the time of his arrest and had been an employee of the Ministry of Health since 2017. The survivor’s father, also an employee of the same ministry, was reportedly a close friend of Geeply.

Women in the county are advocating for a thorough and timely investigation into reported cases, as well as actions from individuals to curb the fast-spreading cases of SGBV. With this year’s 16 Days of Activism, there is a heightened call in the county, especially by local radio stations, to raise awareness about the importance of bringing perpetrators to justice and ensuring fair trials.

One source within the local government structure of River Cess County blamed the increase in SGBV cases on “zero collaboration with local law enforcement to ensure cases are properly documented and evidence is preserved”. “Let’s talk about Healthcare and Support, not to mention working towards improving healthcare services for survivors of SGBV, ensuring they receive necessary medical attention, counseling, and support. They are all lacking across the county,” the source added, saying “to address the serious health complications faced by survivors, the government must work at the local level to provide long-term healthcare solutions and collaborate with healthcare professionals, NGOs, and government agencies to establish comprehensive support systems.”

This case has garnered significant public interest, with scores of citizens gathering daily at the police station and the Cestos City Magisterial Court.

However, confusion looms over how Francis Geeply, the accused, left prison despite facing a non-billable offense.

In River Cess County, there is a lack of awareness and community engagement to educate residents about SGBV, its consequences, the importance of reporting such incidents, and promoting community-based initiatives to prevent and respond to SGBV cases, involving local leaders, educators, and community organizations.

The legal system is also a challenge, with serious reforms needed to ensure that cases of SGBV are prosecuted in a timely manner, and survivors receive justice, as well as improved awareness about the importance of witness protection and addressing any issues that may lead to the release of alleged perpetrators without due process.

In River Cess, there is also a need for the implementation of policies and measures that protect vulnerable women and girls who are left at the mercy of ruthless men, many of them illegal miners spread across the county.

In towns and villages, even in the city-Cestos, there are no established mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on the progress of investigations and legal proceedings related to SGBV cases that could encourage the community to report any instances of intimidation or corruption that may hinder the pursuit of justice.


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