14 March 2019

Liberia: LNBA Ready to Defend Pre-Trial Detainees

LNBA president, Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, admitted that the country's prison facilities are violating the rights of people accused of committing crimes by not allowing them to be arraigned before a court with their legal representation.

Gongloe Assures Citizens

Pre-trial detainees in prison facilities across Liberia are said to have reached up to 69% with an international call that, if no strategy is put into place to reduce the number, it poses a risk to the country's peace and security. To this, the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), through its president, Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, has reaffirmed its commitment to defending people in jail who cannot afford legal fees to have themselves released from further detention.

Despite assuring the people of the LNBA's preparedness to help in the reduction of reported cases of pre-trial detainees, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe admonished the gathering that they should respect the rule of law and to use it as a mean of finding solution to any dispute, whether criminal or civil.

Gongloe made these remarks on on Thursday, March 7, 2019, at a one day interactive dialogue with residents in rural Montserrado County, with the purpose of educating them about the way forward in seeking justice.

The gathering, held in Bentol, the capital city of Montserrado brought together several students, community's leaders, law enforcement officers, judges, lawyers among, chiefs, traditional elders and others.

The program was divided in to three different sessions, in which the participants were able to ask questions about matters that affect them.

Speaking on the topic, "the criminal justice system and pre-trial detainees," the LNBA president admitted that the country's prison facilities are violating the rights of people accused of committing crimes by not allowing them to be arraigned before a court with their legal representation. With this, he assured the audience that the LNBA's Legal Aid Clinic in the county is ready to provide free legal services to any of them or their detained relatives.

"We have lawyers here, but the only way we can help you is [when you] come to the legal aid clinic. There, we would be able to ask the court to give your relatives speedy trial in the interest of justice, transparency and fair play, in the disposition of justice," Gongloe said, admonishing the people to take advantage of the clinic in the county.

In support, the chairlady of the program, Cllr. Joyce Reeves Woods, said her basic responsibility was to provide pro-bono (free) legal services to the general public. "All you need to do is to contact the legal aid clinic; they will come to your aid to help you solve your problem," she said.

Giving an overview of the program, Cllr. Reeves revealed that the program came into being through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) LPAC program after a proposal was written and sent to the agency. She thanked the USAID for the program, classifying it as second to none in West Africa.

"In the course of providing the free legal service, we will be looking at mediation and let the Judiciary see the need for mediation. For certain cases you need not go to court, you apply for mediation," said Reeves, who stated that Liberia has partners who are willing to help but Liberians should be willing to work.

Currently, the LNBA is operating Legal Aid Clinics in five of the fifteen counties, including Grand Bassa, Bomi, Bong, Margibi and Montserrado.

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