Monrovia

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Domestic Case Law

Massaquoi v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellant, Power Massaquoi, was guilty of rape and reduced his sentence from life imprisonment to 50 years imprisonment. The victim, an 11-year-old girl, stated that the appellant, 38, forced her into his room and had nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her. The court affirmed the lower court’s admission in evidence of the testimony of the victim’s mother, who testified that she saw blood on the victim’s skirt and questioned the victim about the incident. The court held that the testimony qualified as an exception to the hearsay rule because statements are generally admissible “to determine the trustworthiness and reliability of statements made by child victims of abuse.” In addition, the court affirmed the lower court’s admission in evidence of the expert testimony of a physician’s assistant. The court held that even though the physician’s assistant did not have a medical degree, he qualified as an expert because of his experience with and knowledge of victims of sexual violence. The court noted that social workers trained in these areas would qualify as expert witnesses.



Fallah v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2011)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellant, Musa Solomon Fallah, was guilty of rape and upheld his sentence of life imprisonment. The appellant had been convicted previously, but the Supreme Court vacated that conviction in 2007 and ordered a de novo trial on the grounds that the appellant lacked adequate representation. The complainant, a nine-year-old girl, alleged that the appellant gagged and raped her. On appeal, the appellant contended that the testimony of the victim should be excluded from evidence because the testimony was conducted in camera. The victim testified in a closed room that allowed cross-examination by the defendant and visual access for jurors. The court held that the victim’s testimony was admissible, stating that if “a potential child victim witness would suffer ‘serious emotional distress’ and might just not be able to communicate within a reasonable fear free environment if put on the stand in the presence of the accused abuser to introduce courtroom testimony” then an in camera witness presentation is appropriate. The appellant's constitutional right to confront his accuser was preserved because he was afforded opportunity to listen to testimony and cross-examine the witness. In addition, the court referenced U.S. law on in camera testimony, citing U.S. Supreme Court cases to support its decision. The court stated: “It is the rule of general application in our jurisdiction that unless expressly contrary by the laws in vogue, common law and usages of the courts of England and of the United States, other authoritative treaties, principles and rules set forth in case law and in Blackstone and Kent Commentaries, when applicable, are deemed as Liberian Laws.” Finally, the Court held that medical testimony establishing rape, the testimony of the complainant, the appellant's admission that the complainant spent the nights in question with him, and unchallenged testimony claiming that the appellant had offered the complainant's family money in exchange for keeping the rape a secret were more than a sufficient "mountain of evidence" to sustain the conviction. It is not necessary, the Court stated, for the prosecution to produce an eye witness, "direct proof", or evidence eliminating every single possible alternative in order to meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.



Counsellor, et al. v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2008)

Harmful traditional practices, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellants, Living Counsellor, Wisdom Counsellor, and Righteous Counsellor, were guilty of rape. Their four female victims ranged from ages 7 to 12. The victims were introduced into the Kingdom Assembly Church of Africa, or the “Never Die Church,” so named because it promised followers eternal life on earth. It also promoted free sexual relations among its members. The victims testified that they were beaten and raped by members of the church. The court stated that “the evidence adduced during the trial show that rape is institutionalized in the Never Die Church. The testimonies given by the prosecution witnesses also points to a situation where the victims were living in a condition of servitude almost identical to slavery.” The appellants argued that “they did not rape the girls but that they only share love with their sisters because they have no earthly mother or father but only Wonderful Counsellor.” They argued that their conviction should be overturned because they were also charged with gang rape, but the trial judge failed to instruct the jury on that charge. Still, their conviction was upheld because they were convicted of rape nonetheless.