Some Liberian ladies trafficked to Oman who reportedly exists as enslaved people in that part of the world are back in Liberia but scared of their lives as protection for them is not something that seems not a priority to the Liberian Government.
Video footage from Oman has not been encouraging recently, and some girls are to testify against their traffickers in court. Still, the sticky issue is who takes responsibility for their safety after they appear.
Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh is Liberia’s Assistant Justice Minister for litigation.
He is currently acting as Solicitor General of Liberia. This government legal arm provides legal advice to the executive, represents the relevant Government in court proceedings, and participates in constitutional matters.
Since those ladies are back and testified, many have thought that the Government would have given them protection. Still, the acting Solicitor General Wesseh has said his duty was to get the girls to testify in favor of the state against their trafficker, something he said he has accomplished.
Cllr. Wesseh said the protection and settlement benefit of the survivors is beyond his authority as Assistant Minister for Litigation.
He distanced himself and the Ministry of Justice from protection and placed it at the feet of the Ministry of Labor which is heading the National Trafficking Taskforce.
Though, survivors alleged that Cllr. Wesseh committed on behalf of the Government to ensure their protection; Wesseh denied making any commitment to that effect but admitted bringing the ladies to testify on behalf of the Government to have their perpetrator account for her actions.
Trafficking in person is in contravention of Section 2(a) (b), Section 3(a) (b), 4(c), and Section 5 of the revised trafficking Act of 2021 and title 26 Section 2:2(a)(b)(c)(d)(e) of the penal law of Liberia, indicating that it runs against the peace and dignity of the Republic of Liberia.
April 19, 2020, with the help of the two survivors, a 12 Trial Juror at Criminal Court, “A,” found Issa Konneh guilty and sentenced her to 20 years for trafficking countless Liberian women to Oman under the pretense of bettering their lives.
Issa is the first to be convicted under the reversed Human Trafficking law, which provides for a minimum jail sentence of 20 years, with restitution to victims for injuries and damages.
Under the new Human Trafficking Law, the convicts and properties knowingly used to execute the crime can be confiscated and auctioned by the court to settle restitution to victims.
The two girls who were themselves trafficked by Issa were the only two that agreed to testify on behalf of the Liberian Government at the time after the Government promised to provide them security during and after the trial to ensure their safety. Still, the Government has since reneged on its promises, leaving them vulnerable.
It has forced the survivors and their kids to relocate to an undisclosed county for safety, scared of being hunted by the family members of their trafficker (Issa).
“Only two of us agreed to testify against Issa Konneh, all of our friends were afraid to come out and testify for fear that somebody would hunt them during or after the trial but the two of us accepted to do it, but now we are left at the mercy of God without any form of security or protection,” one of them said via telephone conversation with TSM.
According to them, they are in harm’s way since they agreed to testify against incarcerated Issa.
“It is not an easy thing to testify against someone you personally know, but we stood up. Now our lives are in danger and nobody cares not even Minister Wesseh who appealed to us to do what we did, we are now in hiding and no one is doing anything about it”.
The two-state witnesses furthered that, “Before relocating to a new environment, unknown men attempted to set our house on fire.”
The Ministry of Labor is the head of the National Trafficking Taskforce, a body that should carry out some interventions but has since gone mute on the issue despite countless efforts to have them speak on the girls’ safety.
On two separate occasions, we went to Labor Minister Charles Gibson and his deputy’s offices in addition to several WhatsApp messages, but they have declined to speak on the situation.
One of the messages sent to the Liberian Labor boss date August 17, 2022, states, “We got information that the two ladies who were trafficked to Omar and testified against the traffickers in court after their return few months ago are now being threatened by the family members of the convicted trafficker.”
“Information has it that you made commitment to the ladies but has refused to live up to it. Our sources also said due to the threat on their lives and that of their family members, they have relocated from Monrovia.”
The two lines on a WhatsApp message show that a person has read or seen a message appear, but the Minister did not reply to any of the messages.
“We are now publishing our stories after several attempts to you on the matter,” TSM said in another message sent Monday, September 19, 2022, but no reply again.
The U.S. 2022 trafficking in-person report, which places Liberia on Tier 2 Watch List, recommended that the Government of Liberia Expand victim services—particularly for victims outside the capital, males, and victims requiring long-term care.
That increased efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including internal trafficking cases and officials accused of conspiracy.
The report recommends training labor inspectors and social workers on standard victim identification procedures and the national referral mechanism.
Also, Improve collaboration between anti-trafficking police units, immigration, labor, and judicial authorities and allocate financial and in-kind resources, as feasible, dedicated to anti-trafficking law enforcement activities.
The U.S. report recommends increasing financial or in-kind support to NGOs supporting trafficking victims.
Meanwhile, The Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Labour, has requested the Omani Government to halt the issuance of visas to Liberian job seekers for domestic work in Oman.
He spoke during a zoom meeting on Monday, August 29, 2022, with H.E. Humaid Al Maani, Head of Global Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry in Oman, Liberia Labour Minister Cllr. Charles H. Gibson outlined three key points on behalf of the Government of Liberia for immediate redress by the Omani Government.
He blamed recruiting agencies for being responsible for the situation of the girls in his country as well as the media for sending wrong information on the ill-treatment of Liberian women in Oman, thereby complicating issues between the two countries.
It is uncertain how long the trafficked girls will be in hiding because they testified against their traffickers.