The Institute for Democratic Action and Development (IDAD) with funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Liberia, has launched its access to justice project titled: “Strengthening Access to Justice and enhancing community responses during COVID-19 and related Pandemics.”
The project seeks to benefit fifty (50) traditional leaders, through intensive training in the area of customary laws, inheritance law, Community forest management law, Community Land rights law, constitution, legislation, precedence, and court procedures, among others.
At the launch which also commenced the training of the local leaders, traditional chiefs at the event expressed their delight and appreciation to IDAD and Partners for organizing such an important event intended to sharpen their knowledge on access to justice and strengthening the rule of law in Nimba County.
Making remarks, the Chief Technical Advisor of the Rule of Law programme of UNDP thanked the chiefs for responding positively to the project and urged them to make use of the relevant knowledge that will guide them in making decisions to positively affect their people.
Rowland Cole further stated that the access to justice project is intended to help speed up the delivery of justice at the district, town, and county levels, and will help to improve the procedures that are used by traditional leaders to dispense justice.
Traditional leaders, who often use customary laws to control society, sometimes institute harsh punishment for some actions considered crimes. For instance, trials by ordeal and torture are used by traditional leaders to cause a suspect to confess acts that go contrary to laws in the traditional settings.
Mr. Cole said the Access to Justice Project is very important in addressing some of the many challenges the chiefs undergo in dispensing quality justice for residents in Nimba County.
Also speaking, Representative Larry P. Yanquoi of District # 8, Nimba County, lauded IDAD and UNDP for the project and said it will strengthen the capacities of the chiefs so that quality decisions can be made during the adjudication of cases.
Representative Yanquo who is also the House’s Committee Chair on Good Governance, expressed delight that the project is being implemented in Nimba County, but further recommended that a similar project should be implemented in the rest of the other counties.
The Nimba County Lawmaker said the project will greatly improve the understanding of chiefs in making quality decisions that are reflective of the Constitution, customary laws, statutes, legislations, and court precedence.
For his part, the Superintendent of Nimba County, Nelson Korqoui challenged the traditional chiefs to dispense justice without fear or favor, and they should do all within the framework of the law to make quality decisions.
Mr. Korquoi indicated that the Access to Justice Project will increase the knowledge of chiefs and serve as guiding pillars for the adjudication of justice in Nimba County.
He urged the Chiefs to be fair, transparent, accountable, and open in the discharge of their responsibilities and should not allow any form of interference.
The Project Manager, Miss Janice V. Jones, also said the project is intended to ensure a more inclusive and accountable justice system that is effective, transparent, and gender-responsive at the National and County Levels, and it is meant to strengthen access to justice as well as enhance community responses to COVID-19 and related pandemics.
Ms. Jones further indicated that the project will ensure that the fifty (50) traditional leaders understand the constitution and statutes that include customary law, court precedence, and the role of the specialized Court E, including SGBV and due process.
During the Project, a training of trainers’ (TOT) courses for community, religious leaders, women and youth groups will also be offered in contact tracing, sanitation, and other essential health practices. They will be conducted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other pandemics.
According to the project Manager, IDAD has procured the Professional and Legal Services of some of the brightest and well-acclaimed Legal Luminaries who will provide the Legal Education to these Traditional Leaders through presentations and lectures.
The event took place at the Administrative Hall in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, and it gathered Representatives from Government, INGOs, local authorities and civil society organizations in Liberia.
The Access to Justice Program will further provide a golden opportunity for the Chiefs and Elders to adapt the best approaches and practices geared toward protecting human rights, people’s dignity and worth, as Liberia strives to become a better place for all.