19 February 2013

Liberia: Judge Gbeneweleh Campaigns for More Money for Judiciary - for Effective, Credible Courts

The newly assigned Judge at the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Kakata, Margibi County, Peter Gbeneweleh, has called for adequate budgetary appropriation for the Judiciary Branch of Government.

Speaking during the opening of the February Term of court in Kakata recently, Gbeneweleh said the Judiciary Branch needs more budgetary supports to make the court system in the country effective, strong and credible.

Gbeneweleh said adequate budgetary appropriation to the Judiciary branch of government is cardinal to judicial reform in post war Liberia.

He at the same time disclosed that most of the counties in Liberia do not have modern judicial facilities besides Montserrado, which hosts the Supreme Court of Liberia and other subordinate Courts as well as Gbarpolu County where the first modern judicial facility is constructed.

According to him, the government has provided funding for the construction of court facilities in Sinoe, Rivergee and Grand Cape Mount counties, adding that construction is ongoing in these Counties.

He noted that Judges are being accommodated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs across the country thereby extending thanks to the Ministry.

The Judge stated that Superintendent, Chief and other local authorities have compounds but he has not seen judicial compound in Liberia.

"How do you want an effective, independent and strong judiciary branch of government when you do not put more money in the judiciary branch to make it more effective, but castigate the judiciary," he wondered.

He said though they accept criticism to correct their wrongs, they also need more budgetary support to strength the court.

The Judge narrated that there cannot be effective Judiciary in the absence of the training of personnel.

He said in order to have Judicial reform in Liberia there is the need to train the Clerical, Ministerial and Administrative staff as he call for budgetary appropriation for the judicial Institute that was established so as to carry out the training.

Gbeneweleh wondered why the judiciary branch of government before 2006 cannot boast of any modern facility in the country, from the day Liberia got her independence in 1847.

He indicated that government and court officials have traveled to many African Countries and have seen modern judicial facilities, and when they return home they do not care to improve the judiciary branch of government but they expect them to perform magic.

The Circuit Court Judge added that it is time for the current Government of Liberia which started since 2006 to continue to improve the Judiciary by constructing modern court rooms, and complexes throughout the Country, something he said will make them more comfortable as Judges.

Gbeneweleh further explained that little rooms are often given to the Judiciary in the administrative building, noting that it is too shameful to be accommodated by a ministry.

He however, commended the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led government for its effort to improve the judiciary as they (judges)can see the level of development and improvement of the judiciary branch of government since 2006.

The newly assigned Judge also raised the issue of the lack of residential quarters for Judges throughout Liberia.

Lamenting further, Judge Gbeneweleh said they do not have their own place to live upon taking assignments, but to rather go and rent.

The Liberian Lawyer pointed out that they don't need to be accommodated by anybody because it will compromise their judgments.

He maintained that Magistrates are vulnerable in the Country in that they do not have security because the state does not provide them security looking at cases they handle.

Speaking on the issue of salary, Gbeneweleh said it is incumbent upon the Government of Liberia to provide adequate, sufficient and better salary and incentive for them to live a decent live as Judges and Magistrates because the law provides that Judges and Magistrates should not do any other thing for financial gain.

He also expressed concern over the lack of retirement package for Judges and Magistrate. The Judge said when they are retired, no good benefit can be given to them that can sustain them until they die.

Gbeneweleh then called on all Magistrates and Jurors in the County to work with professionalism.

The Court opened for the February term of Court with 51 criminal cases and 58 civil cases on the docket.

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