MARSHALL ISLANDS ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE WANTS SEXUAL ASSAULT LEGISLATION

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FOLLOWING THIRD CONSECUTIVE RAPE ACQUITTAL

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (January 18, 2002 – The Marshall Islands Journal)---"While other recent cases have also resulted in not guilty verdicts, the present case is of concern because of the strong medical and circumstantial evidence that pointed to the guilt of the defendant," said Assistant Attorney General Richard Hickson, who prosecuted the rape case on Ebeye last week.

In commenting on the outcome of the jury trial, Hickson said that the AG’s office respects the jury system as enshrined in the Constitution. But he added, "It is difficult to apply, (use of juries) in the Marshall Islands in rape cases.

He said that in the three most recent rape cases it has proved impossible to get any women on the juries, "depriving 50 percent of the population a voice in deciding the guilt or innocence of sexual offenders."

Hickson also commented that the Chief Justice of the High Court, Charles Henry, in remarks to the defendant after the not guilty verdict commented on the strength of the evidence against him.

Hickson said that he’s also noted recent concerns of Marshallese about the possible exploitation of Marshallese children following adoption. But, he added, the Nitijela needed to look at its own domestic situation.

"Sexual exploitation and assault of women and children in the Marshall Islands is not effectively criminalized," Hickson said. "There are no laws prohibiting sexual assault, other than forcible rape and sodomy, and no legally enforceable age of consent."

In the Marshall Islands, "sexual assault of children is treated the same as not providing a proper diet for a child or failing to provide proper medical attention."

Hickson said that legislation is now pending with the Nitijela that provides for an age of consent, and the criminalization of sexual assault.

"These bills need the urgent attention of the Nitijela," he said.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail). 

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