Trafficking in persons is a form of modern-day slavery and a serious human rights problem throughout the world, including in Liberia. Trafficking victims in Liberia are typically forced to work as domestic servants, street vendors, beggars or prostitutes, and are also found working on rubber plantations or in diamond mines. The Liberian government enacted an Act to Ban Trafficking in 2005 and has taken important steps to combat trafficking. However, limited resources and lack of training of legal, judicial, and law enforcement personnel have presented challenges to Liberia in its efforts to effectively prevent trafficking in persons, protect trafficking victims, and prosecute traffickers.
From November 9 to 13, 2010, the Avon Global Center and the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic participated in a trial advocacy training program for Liberian judges and lawyers in Monrovia, Liberia. The program, led by Lawyers Without Borders, focused on criminal prosecution of trafficking-in-persons offenses. More than sixty Liberian judges, prosecutors, and public defenders participated. The delegation of trainers was headed by Honorable Ann C. Williams, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the Seventh Circuit and Avon Global Center Steering Committee member. The faculty also included Honorable Timothy Burgess of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, Honorable Virginia Kendall of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and Honorable Richard Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Representatives of the Avon Global Center and Cornell Law School and lawyers from Linklaters LLP, White & Case LLP, Shearman & Sterling LLP, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Jones & Mayer, the Cochran Firm, and the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office were also part of the training team. The program was made possible by a sub-grant to Lawyers Without Borders by World Hope International under a grant from the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking of the U.S. Department of State.
Cornell Law School Vice Dean and Professor Barbara Holden-Smith and Avon Global Center Associate Director Elizabeth Brundige developed and delivered the international law component of the training program, with the assistance of law students Jennifer Holsey and Melissa Koven. This aspect of the program addressed international law on trafficking in persons and explored how it can be used in prosecuting, defending, or adjudicating trafficking cases. Through the training, the Avon Global Center and its partners sought to combat trafficking in person by strengthening the rule of law in Liberia and improving the ability of the Liberian judicial system to effectively prosecute traffickers.
“It was a remarkable experience,” stated Judge Williams. “From the Chief Justice of Liberia to the trial judges and attorney participants, all embraced the program’s advocacy and case management techniques which will reduce the time it takes to try cases, as well as the comprehensive training on human trafficking.” Ms. Holsey noted that the program was deeply rewarding and inspiring. “I learned about trial advocacy techniques and about the logistics of holding a training program,” she said. “And most importantly, every day, I was completely overwhelmed by the perseverance, strength, and kindness of the Liberian people I met.”
Photos by Peter Glee, provided courtesy of Lawyers Without Borders.