The trial of Palo Conteh and Others… The Judiciary Must Stand Tall

Concerned citizens are calling for the Judiciary to stand tall this time in adjudicating the trial of four (4) opposition figures held for various allegations.
They are making these appeals against the backdrop that the Judiciary has been very much insensitive to the concerns of the opposition, especially with regards hearing cases brought to them.
Since the end of March, 2018 elections, the main opposition has brought a plethora of cases to the judiciary that include challenging the very elections that brought the President to power in the Supreme Court; petitions against the Constitutional Instruments establishing the Commissions of Inquiries and against the SLPP High Court MPs, amongst others.
The Judiciary, despite several appeals from both within and outside, has failed to list these cases for hearing. The Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) and many others have also filed cases to the Judiciary on many other issues for clarifications.
While they have failed to list these cases for hearing, we have also seen where they have speedily adjudicated and delivered judgments on other matters that have to do with the ruling party.
Amidst this situation, tensions are mounting on a daily basis in the country. The Judiciary for all you know has failed to uphold the basic tenets of democracy and the rule of law thereby causing social injustice and other related problems.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) findings castigated the judiciary for failing to implement the rule of law leading to disgruntlement and aggression amongst Sierra Leoneans leading to the eleven-year-long civil conflict.
The report (TRC) had proffered recommendations for the Judiciary to be fully independent, apolitical and execute matters brought before it judiciously so as to guarantee peace and development.
Donor partners, like the Justice Sector Development Programme, sponsored by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), had pumped considerable resources into reforming the judiciary in the post-war era. But whether these reforms have yielded any positive fruits is another different kettle of fish all together.
Even though governments, including the present, have committed themselves to overhauling the judiciary and ensuring that it operates independent of government, such commitments have not been met. The issue of separating the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to provide for clear separations of power is also yet to be realized.
With the rising tensions and the high spate of lawlessness, it is the expectations of many that members of the opposition that are controversially behind bars will be provided with a fair trial by our Judiciary this time.
This is an opportunity for our Judiciary to redeem their battered image and make us proud again to our international partners.
Already, Amnesty International and many other international human rights organizations are questioning the treatment currently meted out to these political detainees that are yet to be arraigned for trial.
Reports are that they have not been allowed access to see their families, lawyers and also basic facilities. This is already undermining or pointing to the fact that they would not likely get a fair trial.
The learned Chief Justice should have the courage and put in place fair and independent systems to try these political detainees that are held merely on allegations.
The International Community is watching and we can at least have a New Direction in addressing social justice issues. The judiciary is critical in consolidating our nascent democracy; the current drift would in no way help towards achieving this.

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