Liberia: 'Widespread Corruption in Judiciary Due to Delayed Salaries'

-- Judge Roosevelt Willie says

Delays in salaries and other benefits for civil servants, including judicial workers, have now become the talk of the town with judges now openly calling on the government, specifically the Executive Branch to intervene to avoid fueling corruption in the system.

Due to the unfolding economic hardship now reportedly crippling the judiciary, Criminal Court 'A' Judge Roosevelt Willie has admitted to corrupt practices in the system, but blamed its "widespread nature" to "constant delays of judges salaries and other benefits."

Judge Willie's statement comes a few days after Chief Justice Francis Korkpor reportedly pleaded with judges and other court staffs to exercise restraint, while he works with the government to ensure the payment of their delayed three months' salaries and other benefits.

Supporting his statement with the 2006 findings of the International Crisis Group (ICG), Judge Willie said the findings pointed out that the judiciary was being interfered with, to the extent that judges and magistrates were not adequately compensated, and constant delay in their salaries and benefits were prompting widespread corruption, and leading to mob-violence in the society.

"It is often said that those who forget their history do repeat the same mistakes, and development eludes them because the world is not waiting for those, who failed to learn their lessons," Judge Willie said on Monday, August 12, 2019, when he delivered his charge at the opening of the August Term of Criminal Courts, A, B, C, D and E of Montserrado County at the Temple of Justice.

"The question to us as justice actors and all Liberians is, have we learned from our past mistakes, and if so, have we taken any corrective measures," Willie rhetorically asked his audience, that included Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Gyapay Yuoh, other lower court judges and lawyers.

According to him, he deliberately intended not to provide any answer, "but to leave it with all of us in audience to ponder over it by looking at the realities and be patriotic in providing the answer to my question."

"We all need to learn from our past mistakes so that development will not elude us, because other nations and organizations will not always be there to help us in our afflictions," Willie reminded his audience.

Shortly afterwards, he reflected on a presentation he made in 2012 at the annual conference organized by the Liberian Studies Association in the US under the theme, "Building A Capable State; Looking Back, Moving Forward in Liberia."

For that theme, Willie said he spoke on a sub-theme; "The Rule of Law and The Judicial System of Liberia."

"The theme was apparently and carefully chosen in view of the many findings made and reported on the causes of the Liberia's 14 years of civil war, which devastated the very fabric of the Liberian state, and killed over 250,000 people," he recollected declaring that the war also caused Liberia to be referred to in December 2004 as a "failed state."

"The sub-theme was specifically predicated on the ICG's 2006 findings, which found that the justice system, which also includes the judiciary was one of the root causes of the civil war," Judge Willie claimed, adding, "That report spelled out a lack of support to the judiciary, thereby making it subservient to the other two branches of government to include the executive and the legislature."

Judge Willie said the report also states that as a result, the judiciary was being interfered with. Judges and Magistrates are not adequately compensated, and constant delay in their salaries and benefits is prompting widespread corruption, and leading to mob-violence in the society.

Subsequent to that theme, Judge Willie said is for Liberians to look back, and learn from their past if they wanted to move forward in the country's development agenda that has remained elusive.

Immediately after Willie rested, Chief Justice Korkpor told the gathering that if courts do not function properly to provide fair and transparent justice to everybody, the society will stand still and those with vested interests stand to suffer, to the point that citizens' rights will be trampled upon by the powerful and influential people.

Justice Korkpor then encouraged his judges saying that "No doubt the situation will change," but did not say when and how the situation would change when salaries and other benefits are delayed.

On the intervention of the government, the Chief Justice said it was now time that those considered as policy makers be able to resolve the problem quickly.

"Policy makers should be able to cater to the judiciary, especially the courts in the way that we will continue to function void of corruption, since we are the wheels that guide the society," Justice Korkpor reminded the government.

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