23rd July 2017
The Welfare Ministry Clears the Air on the Death of Raped Girl in Pujehun
By a press release (13/05/17)
A teenage girl recently gang raped by family members in Pujehun has died in Bo Hospital as police remanded the suspects in custody.
As investigations continue, false reports making the rounds continue to misinform the public but the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has intervened to correct the distorted facts surrounding this fateful case. Below is the verbatim reproduction of the press release by the Welfare Minister Dr. Sylvia Blyden (pictured) as she puts on her journalism hat:
NO, THE SIERRA LEONE JUSTICE SYSTEM IS NOT THAT INCOMPETENT!
Greetings to all Readers,
I have seen the report from one journalist FALSELY portraying incompetence on the part of the Justice System over a child raped in Pujehun. I wish the chap had crosschecked with Government first. Or maybe he did crosscheck but decided to skew his report to portray a FALSE imagery?
Yes, I can confirm that sadly the girl was raped allegedly by more than one man including male relatives of hers. The crime occurred in February 2017 but her family in a remote village of Pujehun initially covered it up and never reported it.
Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender & Children's Affairs (MSWGCA) learnt of the gang rape in March 2017 and with my strong personal intervention and the help of Attorney General & Justice Minister Hon. Joseph Kamara, we both together with the Police, ensured the alleged perpetrators (including a male relative) were not only arrested but were swiftly charged to the Pujehun Magistrate Court for crimes including gang rape (forced sexual penetration). All the suspects were denied Bail and remanded in custody.
Those criminal charges swiftly done with speedy help of the AG were done in the same March 2017 that we first learnt of the rape. However, back in March 2017, the poor girl was visibly unwell. So I directed for my Southern Regional Director Mr. Patrick Bangura, to immediately move both the girl and the girl's mother from Pujehun to Bo Government Hospital for better medical care.
In March 2017, myself as the Honourable Minister made my first visit to the poor child in the hospital. Since March 2017, the MSWGCA with Partners have been keeping a close eye on her in hospital whilst handling all costs of her feeding, medical and psychosocial support. Some few days back, she took a sudden turn for the worse and her health deteriorated very fast.
She died today May 9th 2017 at around midday and I immediately activated all relevant parties in Police, medical and justice sectors to have the girl's corpse protected for post mortem whilst the Attorney General's office is on alert to have the March 2017 sexual penetration charges upgraded to Murder; should the post mortem prove the May 2017 death is related to the February 2017 rape. Infact, I personally spent almost two hours this afternoon of May 9th 2017 with the Director of Public Prosecutions Suleiman Bah Esq. discussing this particular issue amongst others of concern.
The public can rest assured that both the Hon. Justice Minister and myself are going to ensure justice is done and seen to be done. It is however a fact that the country as a whole (not just Pujehun) has challenges in protection of our children and we, as a Government, continue to work towards improving on current service delivery for our children including sensitising families and communities on child rights and child protection.
Bottomline, it is very wrong for any journalist to portray a FALSE negative imagery of an incompetent justice system - giving impression the justice system merely charged for sexual penetration when it should have charged for Murder.
The rape was in February. The Government learnt of it in March. The charges of forceful sexual penetration (rape) were swiftly done in the same March; all suspects were denied Bail and remanded in custody.
The girl has died today in May and if the post mortem shows the Death which follows three months after the Rape, actually is linked to the Rape, then the charges those alleged rapists are facing, will be upgraded to include Murder.
Thank you for reading this far.
Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Minister of Social Welfare, Gender & Children's Affairs
Freetown, May 9th 2017