Liberia: Local Human Rights Group Alarms over Release of 39-yr-old School Teacher Accused of Raping 13-Yr-old Student without Court Trial

The Fasia Kromah Public School in David Cooper Town, Margibi County was one of the venues Jessie Smith allegedly used to sexually abuse his 13-year old student

Kakata, Margibi County – A pro children protection group, the Liberia Institute for Legal Access and Counselling for Children (LILACC), has alarmed over the release of a 39-year male teacher accused of raping his 13-year-old student multiple times in Margibi County without trial.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

Jessie Smith, who teaches at the Fasia Kromah Public School in David Cooper Town in Margibi, was arrested by police in June 2019 for and forwarded to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Kakata, the county’s Capital. There, he was placed behind bars pending trial.

However, according to LILACC, the case file was transferred to Criminal Court ‘E’ in Monrovia, while Smith was left behind bars in Kakata amid arrangements to be transferred to Monrovia.

But to the surprise of rights advocates and family of the survivor, he was set free without “stepping in court.”

In a statement released by the group, Smith has been released and is boasting in the community that the “court is under his feet.”

As a diversionary tactic, the group claimed that Smith and his family are in turn accusing the survivor’s 17-year old brother of committing the crime.

“The Liberia Institute for Legal Access and Counselling for Children is Justice and calling other advocacy groups and the government of Liberia to help find justice for the 13-year old girl child allegedly rape by her teacher,” the group pleaded in the statement.

Smith was placed under investigation in June 2019 when the survivor and friends reported him to her (survivor) Grandmother whom she stays with.

Meanwhile, copies of the medical reports from the CH. Rennie Hospital in Kakata, in possession of this paper show that the 13-year-old student was actually raped.

The report quotes the survivor as saying her teacher abused her on several occasions in the rubber farm and the school campus. Her Grandmother, speaking to reports days after Smith’s arrest also said that her granddaughter admitted to being raped by her teacher but was strictly warned not to tell anyone.

The release of the alleged perpetrators comes amid the increasing waves of sexual abuse cases in 2020. The Ministry of Gender says it has documented more than 900 gender-based violence cases including rape in 2020 alone.  

The unprecedented surge in cases led thousands of people, including men and women, dressed in black, to stage series of protests in Monrovia, calling for government’s support towards the fight against the menace.

President George Weah’s refusal to receive the protesters’ petition in person sparked outrage among the activists, with some accusing his government of not doing enough to combat alarming wave of sexual violence cases mostly perpetrated against women and children.

In response, President Weah released a statement on September 11, 2020, declaring rape a national emergency in the country and introduced a set of new measures to address the menace.

The President, among other things, designated a specific prosecutor to handle rape cases and announced the setting up of a national sex offender registry. He also announced the constitution of a national security task force to handle sexual and gender-based violence cases with a US$2 million budget to address the issue.

Meanwhile, in Liberia, thousands of students, mostly females suffer various forms of sexual abuse from mostly their male teachers. Very few of these cases are reported and often go unpunished. Despite these frequent occurrence, the Ministry of Education has not adopted any policy to protect children from their predator teachers.