Rape allegations against priest reawaken memories of Liberia's civil war

 

Rape allegations against priest reawaken memories of Liberia's civil war

Author: 

George Conger

The suspension of an Episcopal priest of the Diocese of Liberia for allegedly raping a ten year old girl dominated the headlines of the country’s newspapers yesterday -- reawakening memories of the country’s brutal civil war. In a statement issued on 6 January 2016, the Most Rev. Jonathan Hart, Archbishop of the internal province of West Africa and Bishop of Liberia (pictured) reported that one of his clergy assigned to Grand Kru County in the southeast of the country had been suspended pending an investigation into the charges. Bishop Hart said he was appalled by "this barbaric and heinous act." The news, which appeared on the front pages of the country’s newspapers, had led the bishop to invoke Canon XXIX and convene an ecclesiastical court to investigate the charges. Pending the outcome of the proceedings, the unnamed priest had been suspended. The bishop said the church would cooperate fully with the police in their investigation. The bishop urged all Liberians to condemn this “savage” act and as a country take a stand against gender violence. During the Liberian civil war, rape was a weapon used by members of the warring militias to intimidate the local populations under their control. According to the results of a government survey in 10 of Liberia's 15 counties for the period 2005-2006, 92 percent of the 1,600 women interviewed said they had experienced some form of sexual violence, including rape. Rape was criminalized for the first time in December 2005 in Liberia, previously only gang rape was subject to criminal proceedings. However, successful prosecutions for rape are infrequent in Liberia as most cases that come to the attention of the police are settled out of court. The new law forbids bail and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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