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Liberia’s Sex Crimes Court - Still Limited in Scope and Effectiveness

Jeremy Levitt

Dr. Jeremy Levitt is a distinguished professor of international law at Florida A&M University, with a particular emphasis on Pan-African humanitarian issues and women’s rights. Among Dr. Jeremy Levitt’s accomplishments, he helped guide the reconciliation and accountability frameworks of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Republic of Liberia and worked the Liberian Ministry of Justice to re-interpret anti-rape legislation and conceptualize the creation of the country's first Sexual and Gender Based Violent Crimes Unit (SGBV-VU)and sex crimes court - Circuit Criminal Court E.

Created in 2008, the court was an outgrowth of a 2005 law that made rape a crime carrying with it the maximum of a life sentence. This stemmed from a civil conflict lasting 14 years in which more than 270,000 were killed and many women and girls raped. Unfortunately, despite a cessation of war, rapes committed with impunity persisted as a major social issue.
In late 2015, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor addressed deficiencies in the system, noting that, to date, only a single Liberian criminal court, in Monrovia, addresses gender-based violence and rape cases. This despite a charter mandating the creation of such courts in 15 counties across the country. This deficiency points toward significant challenges that remain in Liberia in ensuring that women have access to a fair court process in cases of sexual violence.

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