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Sierra Leone News: Overhaul the Judiciary – CHRDI

The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has called on the government to overhaul Sierra Leone’s Judiciary; and immediately deal with the long list of delayed matters with speed, seriousness and fairness. According to CHRDI, many Sierra Leoneans are frustrated and concerned that some matters before the courts have taken more than five years without any judgment. CHRDI cite the 50th Anniversary corruption case for which no judgment has been given for almost 7 years. Moreover, many land cases are still pending in the court without any judgment being given. Some litigants have died during the course of their case, whilst awaiting justice. The delays in cases before the courts have largely been attributed to the inefficiency of some judges who are way past retirement age, coupled with a shortage of judges. This has increased the work load of the few judges left. “We are of the conviction that to have only 24 working judges for a country of seven million people is a recipe for injustice on a grand scale,” said a CHRDI press release. “We are therefore strongly recommending that the new Chief Justice – Justice Edwards and the Government of Sierra Leone appoint new judges to serve the populace.” According to CHRDI, there are 648 criminal cases pending in the High Court as at March 2018; 737 civil cases pending; 33 Criminal cases reserved with no judgement; 122 civil cases reserved; and the 1,540 cases currently being heard by 24 judges. “We believe that the continued detention of these citizens is unlawful, a violation of their human dignity and destroying their lives,” said CHRDI. To detain citizens without charges or judgments and with no regard for due process is in clear violation of the laws of Sierra Leone and a contravention of international Human Rights Law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one may be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or imprisonment. All defendants have the rights to a fair trial. “In Sierra Leone today, people are held without due process and prisoners are convicted in unfair trials. Corruption is undermining the judicial systems in the country and denying citizens access to justice and the basic human right to a fair and impartial trial, sometimes even to a trial at all,” CHRDI noted. “In Sierra Leone, if you are poor, your right to justice through the legal system is often denied. If you don’t have money for lawyers, it is hard to get justice. We perceive a situation where it may seem like the law is for the rich, because they have money to ‘buy’ justice.” CHRDI believes that the judiciary has not always been independent and has acted under government influence for the past several years, particularly in corruption-related cases. “We deem political interference as when politicians or staff from the Legislative or Executive branch meddle in judicial affairs or collude with judges in fraudulent schemes. We have evidence of rampant political interference in the judicial process by the Legislative or Executive branches in the recent past and are very worried that this has become quite common place,” according to CHRDI. “We also find it very troubling that despite several efforts by the country’s development partners to isolate the judiciary from politics, Judges and other court personnel still face significant pressure to rule in favour of powerful political or business entities rather than in accordance with the laws of Sierra Leone.” Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is a rights-based public social-policy advocacy organisation.

5/1/19

Monday January 07, 2019.

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