The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI ) has called for the immediate overhaul of the Sierra Leone Judiciary, citing delay in delivering judgment on cases in court and the 'inefficiency' of some judges.
Over the years, the judiciary has been criticised by some sections of the public and few civil society organisations for lack of independence in handling certain sensitive matters.
But 56% of those interviewed in a 2018 survey carried out by Afro Barometer, in collaboration with Campaign for Good Governance in terms of public trust and confidence, commended the judiciary in that direction.
According to CHRDI Chief Executive, Abbdul M. Fatoma, many Sierra Leoneans are frustrated and concerned that some matters before the court have taken more than five years without judgement being delivered.
He cited the 50th Anniversary corruption case, for which no judgement has been given for almost 7 years now.
"Many land cases are still pending in the court without any judgement being given. Some litigants have died during the course of their case, whilst awaiting judgement," he said.
He claimed that delays in cases before the courts have largely been attributed to the 'inefficiency' of some judges, who were way past the retirement age, coupled with a shortage of them.
While calling for an immediate action by government to ensure that the long list of delayed matters before the court are addressed with the speed, seriousness and fairness they deserve,Fatoma added that the limited number of judges (24) in a country of seven million people is a recipe for injustice on a grand scale.
Reacting to the allegations, Public Relations Officer of the Judiciary, Moses Lamin Kamara, admitted that there was need for more judges to be appointed, but noted that delays of cases in court has several factors, including the non-appearance of witnesses.
He stated that the delays of matters in court should not necessarily be attributed to the inefficiency of some judges.
He told Concord Times at his Siaka Stevens Street office that the overhauling of the judiciary, which is now being trumpeted by CHRDI, had started long ago with the establishment of a Public Relations office to interface with the public.
He said the former Chief Justice, Abdulai Charm,had emphasised the need for financial support and human resource capacity to enable the judiciary to deliver as expected.
"Research has to be factual. We don't have 24 judges as stated by CHRDI. Five months back, we had 35 judges but presently we have 32 judges. I will agree with them that we need more judges, as well as overhauling of the judiciary but it is not new to us because we started it long ago," he said.
According to him, they have long since identified some of the issues, which was why they embarked on reforms, referencing sensitization on the Bail Policy, an High Court judge in Kono to treat cases expeditiously.
He added that there has been an increase in public trust of the judiciary and referred to the number of cases mentioned in CHRDI's release as totally wrong.