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THE RIGHT TO ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS PDF Print E-mail
Written by BANKOLE CLIFFORD EKUNDAYO MORGAN, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE.   
Friday, 10 March 2017 10:55

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely the thoughts of the author)

The right to access to justice is one of the fundamental human rights which must be enjoyed by all without any discrimination. It is an established fact that access to justice is a germane component of the rule of law. Access to justice as a fundamental human right can be rendered meaningless if it is not promoted, protected, respected, supported and enforced by government.

I totally and entirely subscribed to the point advanced by the Danish Institute for Human Rights that access to justice can be conceived as both a means and an end to justice. It is a means as it concerns the efficient method of enabling users of justice system to benefit from the end product of justice. Likewise, it can be conceived as an end, in the protection of an individual’s right to justice through ease of access when the need arises.

The lack of access to justice and or the unfair dispensation of justice in any state will ultimately undermine the tenets of good governance, democracy, rule of law and human rights.

WHEN A STATE REFUSES TO PERFORM ITS OBLIGATION…

In line with international human rights principle, member states to human rights treaties have the obligation to‘respect, protect, and fulfil’ provisions of that human rights treaties/instruments they have signed. When a state refuses to perform its obligation to ‘respect, protect and fulfil’ human rights, it may condescend in violating the rights of its citizen. Essentially, by law and practice the application of these minimum core obligations is incumbent upon every state party.

 

 

PRE-TRIAL AND TRIAL STAGES IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Normally,in the criminal justice system pre-trial stage is where investigation is conducted in other to gather credible evidence that will link the suspect (if it is a police investigation) and accused (if it is a preliminary investigation at the Magistrate court), with the alleged crime committed. In other words, the investigation is a way of establishing a fact that a crime has been committed, and the direction of the investigation should be “identifying party/parties to the crime/offence committed”. trial stage is where available evidence is presented to the courts. If the evidence is not sufficient enough to convict the accused, he/she will be acquitted and discharged. But if the evidence before the court is quite sufficient enough to link the accused with the alleged crime committed, the accused will be convicted. Essentially, during court proceedings, if an accused is guilty of committing an offence, he would be convicted and/or fine, but if he is not, by law he would be acquitted and discharged.

POST-CONVICTION STAGE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Post-conviction stage in the criminal justice system is very essential, and it involves sentencing. In sentencing generally, the defendant is brought before the court for the imposition of a penalty. When an accused and or defendant are convicted in a criminal prosecution, the event that follows the verdict is called sentencing. Sentence can be seen as the penalty ordered against the convicted criminal by the court. Normally, the primary goals of sentencing convicted criminals are punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

Generally, the object of criminal law is punishment, and all of the serious crimes or offences committed by offenders or criminals have the penalty of serving prison sentences. Also, most of the offences or crimes committed by offenders or criminals with the exception of the most serious have the option of fines.In criminal proceedings, sentences are an essential aspect of the criminal law. It is implied, if the offender cannot meet the financial demand of the outcome of the criminal proceedings, that is to pay fine, the result is incarceration. One major challenge I have observed with regards the laws of Sierra Leone is that most criminal laws are seriously out-dated. Most of these out-dated laws are based on British colonial laws that have long been repealed in Britain. For instance, Sierra Leone still applies laws like: the Offence against the Persons Act, 1861, the Public Order Act, 1965 and host of others. The need for these laws to be repealed and replace with laws that can match-up with global trend and human rights based approach cannot be over emphasised.

“ARREST, DETENTION, CHARGE, PROMPTLY, WITHOUT UNDUE DELAY…”

Another challenge I had personally noticedin the criminal justice system is the use of terminologies which have not been clearly defined by my estimation and whose applications have been very much problematic. Words such as ‘ arrest’ ‘detention’, ‘charge’, ‘promptly’, ‘without undue delay’, or ‘adequate time and facilities’, these words are inevitably broadly framed, and this means that there is scope for legitimate disagreement as to precisely what they mean. Due to the fact that there is no statutory definition of those words, any of them can be interpreted differently by the court based on the context of the case. However, there are widely recognized international human rights documents, which proffer standard as to how persons held in custody should be treated. The ineffective application of these human rights documents to which Sierra Leone is a signatory to, has brought to day light the problems faced by suspect at the pre-trial stage of criminal proceedings in Sierra Leone.

 

Editorial

26th IPRA Conference in Sierra Leone Ends on a High Note

The International Peace Research Association (IPRA) successfully held its 26th General Conference on ‘Agenda for Peace and Development: Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Transformation, and the Conflict, Disaster Risk and Sustainable Development Debate’ in collaboration with the 10TH Dealing With Disasters Series, Northumbria University (UK)and Sakarya University (Turkey) and  the University of  Sierra Leone at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone from November 27 to 1st December 2016.

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PARLIAMENT RATIFIES TWO AGREEMENTS TO IMPROVE ON PORTS FACILITIES

The Parliament of Sierra Leone on Monday 04th December 2017 debated and ratified two additional agreements aimed at improving and expanding Ports facilities in Sierra Leone to be at par with international best practices.

Presenting both Agreements prior to ratification, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Balogun Koroma said that the additional Agreements are geared towards addressing some of the concerns raised by MPs, in respect of expanding our Ports facilities to accommodate larger vessels, and the issuance of license with the view of combating money laundering, contra-band goods, and attracting more funds for Government.

Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Minority Leader of the House, also supported the ratification of the two Agreements, saying if our Ports are not developed, we would not be able to attract huge vessels; thus the need for the continuous improvement of our Ports facilities.

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"President Koroma is a big disappointment to press freedom" - SLAJ

Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, has said that President Ernest Bai Koroma has disappointed the media on press freedom in the country. 

“Successive governments have given us false hopes on the repeal of the criminal libel law. The politicians have lied to us. They have taken us to be big fools. President Koroma is our biggest disappointment. We had high hopes in him but he failed us woefully. So we will not trust any politician again, because when they get into office they forget about their promises,” said Nasralla.
 
Nasralla was speaking last Friday while formally launching a report on criminal defamation laws in Africa by PEN Sierra Leone at the SLAJ Harry Yansaneh Memorial Hall, Campbell Street, Freetown. 
 
He recalled that before he was first elected President of the Republic in 2007, President Koroma was a staunch campaigner against criminal libel law in Sierra Leone, but when he became President he suddenly had a different view.
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Commentary

WHO PAYS THE NOVEMBER 2017 ECOWAS COURT / V.P. SAMUEL S. SAM-SUMANA’S COURT RULING CHARGES/FINES??

Your Excellency Sir,

For over a month now, since the ECOWAS Regional Court in Abuja, Nigeria handed down their landmark opinion on the Vice President, Samuel Sam-Sumana’s appeal law suit against his “unconstitutional removal” from power by your APC government, having been legally sanctioned by the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, I have been taken, both by extreme trepidation and satisfaction, as I continue my reflection. In their ruling, (in resume,) the ECOWAS Courtoverturned” the Sierra Leone Supreme Court’s seemingly “compromised” opinion that saw Mr. Sam Sumana arbitrarily or constitutionally deposed from his position as the duly elected Vice President of Sierra Leone (alongside you,) midway your second presidential tenure in 2015; just after the infamous Ebola viral epidemic devastating scourge on Sierra Leone. The ECOWAS Court ruling therefore “ordered” the immediate reinstatement of the vice president, furthering that all backlog of his remunerations and emoluments be accorded him, from the time he was sacked, to date; along with his claim for damages of U. S. $ 250 million.

Upon the ruling by this higher regional court, I have had to do some very sober reflections and musing over the “political manoeuvres” and intrigues that originally erupted from an internal APC party wrangling that proceeded to the Sierra Leone parliament, and had to eventually culminate into what most objective and independent legal minds considered a “blatant travesty of justice and breach of our constitution.” This ruling also brought a legal embarrassment to the Sierra Leone justice system in the sub region, continent and world over. And whereas I would not want to meddle with the political ramifications and implications of that higher regional court’s “legal opinion,” I would like to briefly examine the moral and economic considerations, as I objectively see them. This then obviously takes me back to my caption question that I would summarize as “Who Pays the ECOWAS Court’s Ruling Charges??”

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View Point

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Dear Mr. President, events leading to, including the horrible aftermath of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, the twin disasters of mudslide and flooding convey unarguably a fatalistic dose of stress. Worsening is the inflation of basic food stuff and the devaluation of our Leones which has made life very difficult for the average citizens.

Mr. President,stress is increasingly becoming visible in the conduct of most Sierra Leoneans; hence stress is a pressure or worry caused by the problems in somebody's life.

Before 2007 elections, protestation songs by Emmerson Bockarie, Innocent and "Dry yai crew" assumed the role of the opposition parties against the Tejan Kabbah-led SLPP government. Today, public transport cabs/buses, ghettos and the ‘Ataya base’ have now assumed that position in venting out frustrations against your APC led government.

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News - Press Release

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation presents AWOL Awards to outgone Minister

(MFAIC Press Office, 4th January, 2018). The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Kaifala Marah has presented the All Walks Of Life (AWOL) prestigious award of ‘Best Ministry of the Year 2017’  to the outgone Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Samura M.W. Kamara at a press conference held at the Ministry’s conference Hall, Tower Hill, Freetown.

In his brief statement before officially handing over the award to the outgone Minister, Dr. Marah gave a brief overview of the introduction of performance contracts in 2014 by His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma that set in motion the process of enhancing and operational mandates in various MDAs. It is against this background that the Ministry was among the five best performing Ministries based on the outcome of the Ministry’s Performance Contract Assessment Report for 2016/17 (Performance Tracking Table – PTT) in the country.

Dr. Kaifala Marah lauded the relentless efforts of Dr. Samura M.W. Kamara, during whose tenure the Ministrydeveloped and articulated, for the first time ever, a comprehensive strategy to guide and re-invigorate the national approach to foreign policy and international cooperation in a rapidly changing global environment.

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Society -Local News

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(MFAIC Press Office, 5thJanuary, 2018). Five Foreign Envoys including the Head of Delegation of the European Union, Amb. Tom Vens; the Honourary Consul of the Arab Republic of Syria, Hussein Jawad; Charge D’ Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Nadali Heydari; Charge D’ Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Xinming; and the Honourary Consul of India, Harish Agnani; have paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Kaifala Marah at his Tower Hill office in Freetown.

According to the foreign envoys during their separate meetings with the Minister, their visit to the newly appointed Minister is to enhance and deepen the existing partnerships and bilateral relations between their respective countries and the Republic of Sierra Leone. They extended fraternal salutations and congratulatory messages from their Government and people of their respectively countries to the Government and people of Sierra Leone.

The foreign envoys underscored their Governments’ continuous assistance and support to Sierra Leone. Thecurrent electoral climate in the countrywas discussed within the perspectives of bilateral and multilateral relations, underlining the common interests in developing political, cultural and economic relations, as well as the interpersonal relations between the EU, the Arab Republic of Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran,the People’s Republic of China, India and Sierra Leone.

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SIERRA LEONE AND ISRAEL ADVANCE DIPLOMATIC TIES IN SEOUL

The Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Republic of Korea, His Excellency Ambassador Chaim Choshen today 4th January 2018 paid a courtesy call on Sierra Leone's Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, His Excellency Ambassador Omrie Michael Golley, at the Sierra Leone Mission in Seoul, the South Korean Capital. 

Ambassador Choshen, who was appointed as Ambassador of Israel to South Korea in August 2016, expressed his appreciation for being warmly received by his Sierra Leonean host and counterpart, and stated that his Government was very keen to expand its relations with Africa, citing the examples of Official Visits in recent months by the Israeli Prime Minister Mr Benjamin Netanyahu to various countries in Africa.

Recounting the recent Official Visit of His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma to Israel, Ambassador Omrie Golley stated that the recent visit of President Koroma underscored the importance that his Government was attaching to expanding Sierra Leone's ties with Israel, particularly in the economic sphere.

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Politics

It will not be business as usual – Bio assures diaspora

He was passionate, confident and assuring as he addressed hundreds of Sierra Leoneans at the prestigious Royal Regency Hall in London on Saturday 9th December 2017 with a very simple message that as the next President it will not be business as usual.

For a man who has a solid track record as a disciplinarian, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio continues to attract many voters who feel the country needs a strong and disciplined leadership.

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