Access to Justice, a Recipe for Sustainable Peace in Sierra Leone
Following the end of the war, and it is evident in the report of the truth and reconciliation commission, a popular chorus echoed by many people claimed that the incapacity of the justice system to deliver required justice to people was one of the main causes of the civil conflict. (Photo: Richard Bockarie)
The Problem Still Lurking Around
Sadly, the problem still remains and is sickening to note that it is still causing untold damages to the genial social and political co-existence in the country and hence a possible breeding of a situation that held the country to ransom for over tens years.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
As it is, if the functional frailties and specious tendencies that characterize the country’s justice system post-conflict era as it were in the pre-conflict times are not judiciously addressed, one could mince to say that the country might relapse into the dudgeon of conflict and socio-political brawl that besieged the country’s growth and development.Â
The truth is, the enhanced delivery of justice is definitely what precludes the tendencies for Sierra Leone to relapse into conflict to which’s repercussion Sierra Leoneans are no strangers to.
It is a definite truth as has been stated time and again that it only a diligent reformation of the Justice Sector that could ensure the peace consolidation process in Sierra Leone and as such must not be with in a shoddy way.Â
What Needs to be Done!Â
Access to justice means that justice must not be centralized, functioning Courts established at various level and in various parts in the country accessible to all to hear and adjudicate the existing backlog of cases (one of the greatest impediment to justice delivery) speedily. This will also mean that there is improved functioning of the Courts so that they have the capacity to speedily dispose of new cases and prevent new backlogs from being created, which will obviously improve justice delivery and reduce Human Rights abuses that lurks around the dispensing of justice in the country.
Achieving access to justice also constitutes a proper functioning Law Officers’ Department and Prosecutorial system that has the capacity to prosecute the existing backlog of cases, speedily charge and prosecute all new cases and prevent new backlogs from being created while improving justice delivery; this will serve as interface between the now precarious situation in the justice sector and a serene dispensation of justice in the country.
Donor and technical support to the government of Sierra Leone for the achievement for such a project is very invaluable as no price will commensurate the increased to access to Justice for all, particularly Women and Juveniles and those in the remote provincial lock-hoods. This is the only thing that will serve to prevent relapsing into the dark ages of conflict the blighted existence in the country.
Thanks to its support, the United Nations Development Programme has since the end of the war instituted two programmes that are tailored towards the achievement of impartial access to peace and a reformation of the justice sector as a whole. In furtherance of ongoing UNDP support to the Government of Sierra Leone in reforming and reviving the Justice Sector in Sierra Leone, the Access to Justice Initiative has also been implemented alongside the Peace Building Fund support to Justice Sector Reform Project. According to the UNDP, the Access to Justice Initiative ties in with the special niche of UNDP in supporting justice and related systems so that they work for those who are poor and disadvantaged.
While the PBF support to Justice Sector Reform Project focuses on reforming and reviving the Justice sector, the Access to Justice Initiative has played the complementary role of supporting processes and activities the enhance access and promoting a speedy, cost effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of justice.
Although such support is manifest between the government and its development partners, much still remains to be done in actuating the essence of such projects. The clogging of cases which many have attributed to entrenched corruption in the judiciary continues to be a major hurdle to accessing justice in the country. Magistrate courts are still sparsely distributed in the country making accessibility to them a mammoth task.Â The law officers department in the country still remains ill-equipped to properly and speedily prosecute cases which definitely tells us much needs to be done to ensure that justice in the country is made available and accessible.Â
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