14 February 2013

Liberia: No Release for Rapists

At the opening of Criminal Court E, exclusively dealing with rape cases in a country where rape is becoming chronic, Judge Cianneh Clinton-Johnson, Thursday expressed reluctance about granting nolle prosequi in rape charges.

Section 18.1 of the criminal procedure law allows state prosecutors the right to drop cases under nolle prosequi they deem to have insufficient evidence to prosecute.

"Restoring rape suspects' freedom after being indicted was a serious embarrassment for the court. If the state does not have sufficient evidence to prosecute, I will be very reluctant to plead for nolle prosequi," she insisted Wednesday during the opening of the February Term of Criminal Court 'E' which had a separate opening ceremony on grounds of being a Special Court.

In the past few years, state prosecutors had dropped 208 rape indictments under nolle prosequi.

According to her, the dismissal of such a huge number of indictable offenses embarrassed and frustrated Criminal Court 'E'.

She questioned why prosecuting attorneys would indict people and later somersault for nolle prosequi for such defendants.

"It's just hard to believe, and it beats my imagination to see state prosecutors who are knowledgeable of the law after indictment to come back to the court to set them (defendants) free," she stressed.

Since the establishment of Criminal Court 'E' on 9 February 2009, it has recorded 34 cases for trial, 18 of which were found guilty while 15 suspects were not guilty.

But records at the court show that 208 cases were thrown out due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Meanwhile, there are 23 cases on the docket of Criminal Court 'E' for this term. Six are primary docket, while 15 are on the secondary docket, sexual offense cases.

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