Sierra Leone

Training for justices of the peace helps rebuild Sierra Leone courts

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Justices of the Peace and their clerks and bailiffs are receiving intensive training this month for duty in rural locations during the critical post-conflict period in Sierra Leone.
The Office of the Chief Justice developed the programme with the UNDP Governance unit, in cooperation with the Sierra Leone Law School and the Institute of Adult Education of Fourah Bay College and the Ministry of Justice.

Magistrate courts resumed work in the northern region in November for the first time in five years. In Kailahun, in the eastern region bordering Liberia where the war started in 1991, the courts faced frequent disruptions.

Training for the 87 court officers covers principles of justice and rule of law, procedures, limits and description of jurisdiction, human rights and related topics.

The programme gives special emphasis to historical problems of justice for women and children, international principles and standards of human rights, and issues related to the truth and reconciliation process and the special court for war crimes.

Vice-President and former Attorney General Solomon Berewa, spoke frankly about the perils of corruption, saying that the old practice of delaying cases until the court staff received bonuses from interested parties must end. He called on the participants to be the "face of justice" in a new era, following the traumatic experiences of the war.

"The presence of the institutions of justice and the fair dispensation of justice, particularly for disputes arising from resettlement and reintegration of communities, is crucial for the consolidation of the peace," said UNDP Resident Representative Alan Doss, who also serves as Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General.

Under a new system, two Justices of the Peace sitting together will serve the function of a Magistrate in order to reduce a backlog on the judiciary's docket and give plaintiffs a chance to be heard. The large number of prisoners on remand has alarmed judicial authorities and international human rights observers alike, and the new Justices of the Peace are expected to reduce the time between arrest and arraignment.

For further information please contact Sylvia Fletcher,sylvia.fletcher@undp.org, UNDP Sierra Leone, or Cassandra Waldon,cassandra.waldon@undp.org, UNDP Communications Office.