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Judiciary to ensure free and fair elections

19 July 2007 at 16:11 | 552 views

Friday, 13 July 2007 saw the creation of two courts of law in Freetown, both dedicated to resolving electoral issues. The Electoral Courts have been established to safeguard the democratic structure of the judiciary and will fulfill an essential role in the achievement of accountable, transparent, free and fair elections. This is contained in a release sent to us today by the UNDP in Sierra Leone.

The envisaged court structure has two elements; the Electoral Offences Court and the Election Petition Rules Court. Both are divisions of the High Court and will address issues relating to the upcoming Parliamentary Elections.

The Electoral Offences Court will hear criminal matters with reference to offences listed in the Electoral Laws Act. All acts carried out in relation to the Parliamentary Elections, from the registration process through to the final announcement of results, will be subject to scrutiny by the courts. Those convicted of an electoral offence will face a fine or imprisonment.

The Election Petitions Courts will handle civil matters linked to the results of the election. Often referred to as ‘courts of disputed results’, these courts will provide redress to those who believe that the outcome of a given poll resulted from wrong doing. In such a case the court will investigate the poll and can remove elected candidates, if it is found that the seat was achieved through improper means.

The courts will operate side by side, with judges hearing both criminal and civil submissions. They will sit in total for six months and will be based in Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Freetown.

The creation of the Electoral Courts by the Chief Justice has taken place with collaboration from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Electoral Assistance Team and with the financial support from the international community through the Elections Basket Fund. The UN Executive Representative of Secretary General, Victor Angelo welcomes the creation of the Electoral Courts, stating that they are ‘a first in the history of the state, and a significant development in the rule of law and contribution towards the creation of a stable democracy in Sierra Leone.’

Photo: Chief Justice Ade Renner-Thomas of Sierra Leone.

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