(LINA) – The Criminal Court ‘E’, a specialized court for rape and sexual violence cases, was built and dedicated in 2017 in Saniquellie, but has never heard any case as it remains closed to official duties.
But Public Defender assigned to Nimba County, Cllr. Robertson Mehn, said it was important that normal legal activity starts at the court to alleviate the burden being experienced by the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in terms of speedy adjudication of rape cases that flood the docket for the May Term of Court.
Established in 1972, Criminal Court ‘E’ has exclusive original jurisdictions of the crimes of rape, aggravated involuntary sodomy, voluntary sodomy, gang rape, corruption of minors, and sexual assault.
Such court has been functional at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, having being dedicated in 2008, the first court dedication in post-war Liberia.
Though rape is a second degree felony, but the legislation that empowers Court ‘E’ makes the crime non-bailaible as a form of deterrence for alleged and would-be perpetrators.
In the meantime, Cllr. Mehn said statutory rape cases pending on the docket of the Circuit Court in Nimba account for 29 of the total of 71 criminal cases, and there was need to expedite plans to dedicate the sex crimes court – the Criminal Court ‘E’.
He also told reporters that the over crowdedness of prison facilities in the county can largely be attributed to the lack of a specialized courts to try rape and other such cases.
“One Circuit Court in the county cannot adjudicate the number of cases that come here in a given term,” Mehn said, adding that, “this is why we have been advocating for the rape court to open soon.”
Nimba has a total of 18 active courts that transfer cases above their jurisdictions to the Circuit Court, which is highly likely to cause burden on the court of record, a development Cllr. Mehn said could trample on the rights of pre-trial detainees.