Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson has admitted releasing on bail two Lebanese rape convicts and two others suspected of the same crime, despite media reports putting the number higher.Rape is a non-bailable offense under the new law, but Judge Johnson, who is one of the few female judges in the country, yesterday defended her decision, blaming it on the Liberian government.According to her, the prosecution informed her that government was not interested in continuing with the cases.A Lebanese national Jaafar Bashir, 44, who was charged for raping young Liberian children within the age range of 7 and 15, was released on a US$25,000 bail by Judge Johnson.Another Lebanese, Ali Saksouk, 21, was accused of raping a 13-year old child, but he was also released on bail by Judge Johnson.Two Lebanese rape convicts, Anthony Kassabli and his father, Dib Edmond Kassabli were convicted of gang rape, but also released by Judge Johnson on bail. Anthony was released for health reasons, while his father was given executive clemency by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.However, in her charge to lawyers, judges, prospective jury and party litigants yesterday at the August 2015 opening of Criminal Courts A, B, C, D and E, Judge Johnson in a strongly worded statement said, “the press published that Lebanese nationals were the only ones who were granted bail in Court ‘E,’ but from the records of the court, out of the forty-two bails granted, only three were Lebanese nationals.”Criminal Court ‘E’ is solely responsible to hear and decide rape cases.Judge Johnson clarified that the three Lebanese were freed based upon a state application to ‘nolle prosequi’ (to waive the case), “but the news was that the court was just freeing criminals.”‘Nolle prosequi’ is an admission made by prosecution that they cannot prove the charges against the defendants, because available evidence demonstrates that an accused is innocent.The declaration can be made either before or after the start of a trial, meaning the case against the defendant will then be dropped.Further, in her charge Judge Johnson said the Criminal Court E’s decision was also based on what she considered as “change of venue.”“When a change of venue was requested and granted, newspapers reported that they will be watching the judge, who transferred the case. If they were to verify the news they would have presented the truth to the general public on the case,” she averred.She also used the occasion to advise media institutions, saying, “We know that we now have the Freedom of Information Act, but the dignity of the court will, and must at all times be respected. Any reporting that has the tendency to compromise any side of a case is prejudicial to the safety of our land.”Judge Johnson continued, “We expect you to carefully check your information, balance and or verify them from the court before reporting to the general public.”Throughout her deliberation, the female Judge did not mention the name of a particular media institution.Cautioning lawyers earlier, Judge Johnson said they, too, have a responsibility to ensure that respect is given to the courts; therefore, they should avoid unjust causes of unmeritorious reporting.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Some 131 women have been trafficked between January and June 2019.This was revealed by the Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, who during remarks at the opening of a one-day training session for education personnel on Trafficking in Persons (TIP), said that the victims were from 18 reported cases of TIP.Slavery – Human TraffickingThese cases, according to the Minister, stemmed from Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara- Mahaica) and Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni). He added that sadly, these women were being trafficked mostly for the purpose of smuggling drugs, prostitution, and even forced labour.The Minister was keen to note that Indigenous persons are more at risk of being trafficked because of their vulnerability.He, nevertheless, added that the risk of human trafficking remains a real concern for all parts of Guyana.On this note, the importance of the training for education personnel, inclusive of welfare officers and guidance counsellors, was underscored.The facilitator of the training session, Daniel Griffith, explained the reason for the training of these officers.“We recognise that anyone can become a victim, including adolescents, hence the need for this training. In essence, this training today will primarily be aimed at equipping guidance counsellors and welfare officers with the working knowledge on Trafficking in Persons, victim identification, assistance and referrals,” Griffith said.ProsecutionMost victims of human trafficking, when rescued, often long to meet their families. This urge often gets in the way of prosecution, given that Guyana’s judicial system generally takes a while to handle such cases.This was pointed out by Ramjattan on the side-lines of the event. He explained, “When the trails come on it’s very difficult. We are trying to have a witness protection thing so that we can keep them in Guyana, but it is very costly because sometimes the cases take years”.When it comes to dealing with such cases in a timely manner, the subject Minister admitted that the country “needs to step up its game”.One alternative, he said, is for witnesses to “Skype” their testimonies to aid in prosecuting the perpetrators.Last year, Guyana recorded 156 cases of TIP, which already does not spell well for the country, with 131 cases already recorded.The growing phenomena is the second most profitable illegal business in the country, with drugs taking the lead spot.Just in March, the owner of Love Bar, Savita Persaud, was remanded to prison for unlawfully recruiting and transporting Venezuelans for sexual exploitation.The defendant was also slapped with two counts of Trafficking in Persons during the same period. Additionally, she was charged with employing a child on a property that sells liquor.Attorney George Thomas, in a bail submission, told the Court that his client rented the property to the Venezuelans and is innocent of the trafficking accusations.However, the Prosecutor opposed bail on the grounds of the serious nature, prevalence and the penalty that the offence attracts.