On 28 June, the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) Chairman, Charles Gyude Bryant, commissioned eleven circuit court judges and six specialized court judges. The judges will serve in criminal and specialized courts in Montserrado County and in circuit and specialized courts in eight other counties.
The commissioning of the new judges is a major step forward for the NTGL in extending the rule of law throughout Liberia. Prior to the commissioning of the judges, there had been only 11 circuit court judges in the country to fill 21 posts, of whom 7 are either over the constitutional retirement age or in poor health, and are due to be retired at the end of this current court term. There are other nominated circuit court judges who have already been confirmed by the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), who are due to be commissioned within the next few weeks, whereupon there should be appointed circuit court judges for virtually every county in the country.
Speaking during the commissioning ceremony, Chairman Bryant urged the newly commissioned judges to be dedicated and to eschew corruption. The judges, in response, promised to justify the confidence placed in them by the Liberian people to improve the image and reputation of the judiciary. The Chairman also announced that those judges who are due to be retired would be retired with dignity, and he thanked them for their years of committed service.
The commissioning ceremony brought together officials of UNMIL led by Steinar B. Bjornsson, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Operations and the Rule of Law, NTGL Cabinet Ministers, National Transitional Legislative Assembly members, the Chief Justice, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and other judges. Members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the international community based in Liberia also witnessed the ceremony.
The newly commissioned judges had been recommended following a vetting process carried out by the Special Judicial Committee established by the Liberian National Bar Association, (on which UNMIL's Legal and Judicial System Support Division had been granted observer status). The list of nominations had then been reviewed by the Chief Justice, and confirmation hearings had subsequently taken place before judiciary subcommittee of the NTLA before the final consideration by the NTLA in Plenary. The newly commissioned judges will take office when they are formally inducted/seated by the Supreme Court between 5 July and 6 August, thus enabling all these judges to take up their assigned posts in time for the opening of the August term of court on 8 August.
Since the start of the Mission, the Legal and Judicial System Support Division has been working with national and international partners to develop a strategy to help strengthen, reform and support the justice sector so that it can play a key role in the effort to maintain peace and security in post-conflict Liberia. The Division continues to play a proactive role and is actively engaged in institutional and capacity building through training, advising and monitoring activities and programmes.