Liberia: 'Liberia Cannot Go Back to Capital Punishment'

Rape, murder, violence against women.

-- UN Resident Coordinator Dr. Amaning stresses, frowns on public officials calling for death penalty for rapists

The UN Resident Coordinator for Liberia has vehemently opposed calls by some public officials for instituting the death penalty law as a solution to minimize or eliminate the increasing rape cases across the country.

Dr. Kingsley O. Amaning says he is sickened by public officials calls for the reintroduction of Death Penalty as a means of curtailing rape despite Liberia being a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights that abolish Capital Punishment.

Amid the high prevalence rate of rape cases across the country, Dr. Amaning said the situation does not warrant the reintroduction of the death penalty that many see as the best punishment for rapists.

"Liberia cannot go back to capital punishment," he warned. "And speaking for the UN, we do not subscribe to capital punishment, which is not the solution to the issues of rape in Liberia."

"We cannot live in a society where people believe that violence is the only way to resolve issues. I can tell you that it is not durable, sustainable and the only sustainable resolve that can be achieved is the one that comes through none violence," Dr. Amaning said in a remark when served as a keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony of COHORT TWO students from the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation (KAICT) at the University of Liberia.

Acknowledging Liberia's struggle to end sexual and gender-based violence, Dr. Amaning noted that it was inappropriate for public officials to use the situation to push for death penalty as a means to curtail rape.

"We cannot continue to live in a society where the high percentage of the people are vulnerable to danger," he said. "[However] even by saying this, I do not subscribe to capital punishment as the solution for rape. We should promote a principle where survivors agree to forgive and let go. That will be the only way to sustainable peace," Dr. Amaning said.

Preceding Dr. Amaning was Elisabeth Hårleman, an outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission of the Swedish Embassy in Liberia. In her view, Madam Hårleman said a strong justice system and rule of law will be effective in fighting rape than Capital Punishment.

Support for Death Penalty

Dr. Amaning's outburst comes few weeks after the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Major General Prince C. Johnson, President George Weah, and other private citizens including Liberia 173rd Independence Day orator, Rev. Simeon L. Dunbar suggested Death Penalty for perpetrators of rape.

In his call for Death Penalty, Major Johnson, acknowledge that though Liberia's international partners would not be in favor of a death penalty for rapists, however, tougher actions must be taken to help end the menace against women and girls. Also, President Weah has lent his support to his officials and private citizens who are calling for capital punishment for rapists.

President Weah at a ministerial taskforce meeting on SGBV vowed to act decisively against perpetrators and pledged his unflinching support for capital punishment for those violating minors. "With an increasing spike of rape and other sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) crimes against women and girls in the country, the President of Liberia, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, has stepped up his focus and attention to tackle the issue," he said.

As for Rev. Dunbar, capital punishment should be introduced due to the alarming number of rape cases involving minors, which he believes will serve as a means of curtailing the harmful act.

"Rape is perpetrated by inhumane men who claim to be citizens of this God-fearing nation. IT IS SAD AND IT NEEDS TO STOP. If that means introducing the death penalty on these evil perpetrators, so let it be," Rev. Dunbar said.

Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor and 2011 Nobel Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, have also called for tougher actions against perpetrators of rape--although the latter is against capital punishment.

Father Kroma Priest Disagress

But in support of Dr. Amaning, the Priest of St. Kizito Parish, Rev. Father. Ambrose Kroma argues that resorting to capital punishment will amount to institutionalizing barbarism and a culture of death.

"Yes, resorting to the death penalty will certainly be counter-productive to efforts in breaking the existing culture of silence against rape," the Catholic Cleric said in his sermon recently.

Father Kroma and proponents think that capital punishment is not the way forward as it does not guarantee a sustainable solution to the problem. According to Catholic prelate, the call for the death penalty is more of an outcome of "an outrage than a serious reflection and thought as to what can change the prevailing situation."

"I therefore categorically differ and reject the call for the death penalty as a deterrent or solution to rape," he said. "Yes, rape in any form and against anyone-male or female; babies, minors, teenage, adult or youth is intrinsically evil; it is diabolical; and must at all times be denounced in the strongest terms and perpetrators, irrespective of who they are; status or position must be given their due process before the law."

"Our hearts go out in prayer for the victims of such heinous crime; we desire counseling, financial and moral support leading to total healing from the damages, harm, and trauma caused by rape. We must fast track rape cases and strengthen the relevant agencies in bringing justice to the victims," he said.

Father Kroma is of the strongest conviction that the implementation of the already existing law in its letter and spirit is the best way of securing the interest of the victims.

"May God in His mercy enlighten our consciences as a people and a nation not to resort to institutionalizing the death penalty as a false and quick fix unworkable solution to the prevailing evil of rape in our society," he added.

With his sermon, the catholic cleric joins Samuel Sakama, a Liberian based in Australia, in denouncing capital punishment. Sakama argues that the death penalty is not the answer to Liberia's rape problem but a need for leadership to confront what he terms as "the elephants in the room."

He called on Liberians to press pause and ask themselves whether the death penalty is a solution to alarming rape situation in the country--and for him, he does not think so as there are not any academic consensus or advocacy over the past 50 years that validate that death penalty does deter violent crime.

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