Salone News

Sierra Leone: Turning the corner in the justice system

3 July 2020 at 04:46 | 723 views

Contributed

“Tell Court it glows and shines like rotten wood.”

This was the picture Sir Walter Raleigh painted of the partial,partisan and seriously interfered with justice system in 18th century England.This description holds true of the way justice was dispensed under the administration of former President Koroma and his APC government.

The country’s justice system was more than problematic: rogues were seen in robes; judges addicted to acting on political orders from above ; constitutional and statutory provisions violated with imprudence and impunity and constitutional and electoral cases adjudicated on the basis of party politics or on the basis of pleasing the executive. The result was the total erosion of citizens’ confidence and trust in the justice system. Even the international community took umbrage or frowned at the steep fall in judicial best practices in a democratic setting.The independence of the judiciary as well as the rule of law was a rarity .

Then came President Bio in 2018 who promised making sweeping administrative and operational changes in the country’s justice domain with a view to restoring the badly needed pride,glory and democratic best practices to the sector. The President and his New Direction administration continue to be impressive in that march.The treason trial of former Defence and Internal affairs minister Palo Conteh provides an admirable conspectus of praiseworthy steps taken by the New Direction to have the Judiciary perform its constitutional functions without any let or hindrance or without any form of arm twisting or executive intrusion. A true definition of the independence of the judiciary.

Palo who was standing trial for treason before a properly constituted court, was Monday acquitted and discharged on ALL counts of treason charges when the JURY returned a NOT GUILTY verdict.That was unprecedented,knowing Sierra Leone’s judicial past in respect of treason cases.This verdict represents a shift from that offensive past, when like it happened under Presidents Stevens and Momoh of the APC, the judge and the jurors ,acting on orders from above ,found the accused persons guilty of treason even when there were overwhelming evidences that the trials were politically motivated and devoid of merits.

In a not too distant past , former President Koroma brazenly bribed and manipulated the five judges of the Supreme Court in order to give legal backing to his unconstitutional dismissal of an elected Vice President.The constitution was butchered and the independence of the judiciary disregarded.

President Bio promised to inject hygiene in our justice sector and thus far the panning out of events calls for relief and celebrations. The country is making a rapid progress in its quest to clean up the siloed image of the judiciary and to rekindle citizens’ trust and confidence in the sector. So, comments from the opposition suggesting that the jurors rather than the judiciary are those that should be applauded are erroneous and misleading.

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