Statement from the United Nations Country Team in Sierra Leone over the rape and murder of a young woman at Lumley Beach, Freetown

Statement from the United Nations Country Team in Sierra Leone over the rape and murder of a young woman at Lumley Beach, Freetown

Freetown, 19 August 2015- The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Sierra Leone is shocked by the report that an 18-year-old girl, Hannah Bockarie, was brutally raped and murdered on 13 August 2015 at Lumley Beach, Freetown. The UNCT condemns this horrendous act in the strongest terms and it calls on the Sierra Leone Government to conduct a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the girl’s death and to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.

The UN Team conveys it heartfelt sympathy to Hannah’s mother and family.

The UN recalls that sexual assault against women, especially gang rape, was rampant during the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone. The UNCT is also cognizant of the fact that the Government of Sierra Leone passed legislation in 2007 making the sexual abuse of women a criminal act. In addition, it reminds the authorities that Sierra Leone ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Right of Women in Africa, a Charter that requests the state parties to protect women from all forms of violence, particularly sexual and verbal violence:

“States Parties shall adopt and implement appropriate measures to ensure the protection of every woman’s right to respect for her dignity and protection of women from all forms of violence, particularly sexual and verbal violence.” (Article 3/ 4, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Right of Women in Africa).

“Sexual violence in public spaces, like Lumley Beach, is what makes cities across the world unsafe for women and girls,” said David McLachlan-Karr, the UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone. “This horrific and barbaric act is a clear example of the kind of violence against women that limits the ability of women and girls to reach their full potential and exercise their basic human rights”.

The United Nations Country Team is encouraged to note the various actions taken by the women’s movement in the country and pledge the UN’s support to continue to stand by the women of Sierra Leone in the promotion of their social, political and economic rights.

Today the UN calls upon all stakeholders: the Government of Sierra Leone, the police, women’s organizations, men, young people, the media and the private sector to work diligently and speedily in the investigation of this case and to join forces in the fight against impunity for the violence committed too often against women. The UN System calls on the authorities to dedicate more resources to raise public awareness about such crimes and to toughen sanctions against those that commit acts of violence against women and girls.

To make the world a safer place for women and girls, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign in 2008. The campaign is managed by UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, that focuses exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The Secretary-General has also appointed a Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, a national of Sierra Leone and crusader against gender violence around the world.

“Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act.” – Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General.

Let us UNiTE to End Violence Against Women!
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United Nations Office in Sierra Leone
19 August 2015