Concord Times (Freetown)

20 December 2013

Sierra Leone: Judiciary Accused of Undermining Justice

Some aggrieved complainants who had placed their fate in the court to seek redress and be granted relief have been left crestfallen over the way and manner they have been allegedly treated by the judiciary.

They accuse members of the judiciary of mortgaging their independence to the executive arm of government as many cases that should be determined promptly and without bias by the Bench have been tainted by perceived political interference.

One of the aggrieved litigants, Abu Bakarr Conteh, who is seeking redress against a neighbour arraigned for robbery with aggravation, told Concord Times the matter has been in court for more than three years, impeded by unconscionable adjournments. He noted that such state of affairs by an institution which is supposed to mete out justice without fear or favour was both frustrating and tantamount to injustice as "justice delayed is justice denied".

A disconsolate Conteh warned that such action could only trigger extrajudicial conduct in the quest for justice.

He may not be remiss in his conclusion as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report slammed the judiciary for being one of the drivers of the bloody 11 years internecine conflict for its role in denying justice to many, by handing out controversial verdicts, including death sentences and long prison terms to individuals apparently punished for dissent against dictatorship during one-party rule.

Another complainant who preferred anonymity and whose elder brother was brutally murdered in Grafton last year, told this medium that the judiciary's role in justice administration was nothing to write home about as they only tend to secure the rich and powerful.

Since 2002, the institution has benefitted from numerous reform processes, including the United Kingdom sponsored Justice Sector Support Development Programme and its offshoot, the Justice Sector Coordinating Office. Also, an institute has been established to train members of the Bench and officers of court as calls intensify for an independent, efficient and equitable judiciary.

The office of the Chief Justice could not comment on the allegations.

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