Sierra Leone Chief Justice orders courts to reopen for politically sensitive criminal trials

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 May 2020:

Last Friday, President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone delivered an address to the nation, in response to a week of violence and youth unrest in various parts of the country, which many – including the main opposition APC believe to have been sparked by economic and social factors.

But president Bio disagrees. In his broadcast to the country, he accused the opposition APC of inciting and sponsoring much of the violence witnessed last week in Lunsar, Falaba and Tombo, in which properties were destroyed, many people wounded and lives lost.

“My Government has been closely following events of the last few weeks. The security sector has closely analysed the prime movers, financiers, causes, nature, and patterns of violent acts. Our responses are therefore well-informed. As Commander-in-Chief, I have ordered the intelligence and security forces to use all available resources, and take all measures necessary within the laws of this country to deal promptly, decisively, and robustly with all acts of violence against the state.

“Anybody who incites, plans, supports, undertakes, or is involved in any manner of violence in this country will be dealt with harshly. We will use all instruments of state power and resources permissible under the laws of this country to deal firmly and decisively with these violent terrorist attacks against the state of Sierra Leone,” president Bio warns.

So how does the president intend solving this wave of rising violence and political unrest?

“I have also ordered urgent reforms within the security sector. The objective is to make their leadership more decisive, more effective in crime prevention and deterrence, and to maintain peace and stability in the face of extreme acts of terrorist violence against the state.

“I have called for more citizen engagement so that communities are more intimately involved in preventing crime and the causes of crime. I want to personally encourage civil society organisations to expand their scope of work to capture these dynamics in their daily work with communities.

“I have also ordered urgent reforms within the correctional system to provide for safe and secure custody in line with international best practices while developing a reintegration component focused on skills training and entrepreneurship.”

President Bio also announced that he will instruct the country’s Chief Justice Edwards to reopen the courts, so that trials can take place for those awaiting to be charged by the police, as well as for cases involving politically sensitive detainees such as Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Retired Major Palo Conteh, former mayor of Freetown – Herbert George Williams, and many others.

“I am aware that the courts are closed because of COVID-19. But given the prevailing circumstances, I will appeal to the Chief Justice to consider appropriate measures to adjudicate the cases that emerge from this widespread insecurity. Equally, given the destruction to the Pademba road Correctional Centre and the burning down of police stations in parts of the Country in addition to over- crowding in the Correctional Centres and police cells, there is a need to think about decentralizing court hearings,” said the president.

Yesterday, the Chief Justice responded to the president’s call for some of the courts to be opened.  But there are fears that very high profiled, politically sensitive cases may be transferred to the president’s political heartland of Bo and Kenema, which many say could prejudice the outcome of those trials.

There are concerns also that president Bio may himself have prejudiced some of those trials after making statements in his broadcast to the nation – which though presented as facts, could now be difficult to prove in court.

This is what the Chief Justice said:

8 Comments

  1. Senesie Boima says—“ Where were Mr Ibrahim Sesay, Young4na, and Sahr Matturi when the then APC govt due to loop-holes in the APC constitution, disgracefully kicked out an elected vice president who served that office from 2007-2015 and the Sierra LEONE JUSTICE SYSTEM DULY ENDORSED IT BUT FINALLY OVERTURNED AT THE ECOWAS COURT AT ABUJA, NIGERIA.”

    Mr. Boima, unlike those of you who have given up your capacity to think for yourself for political reasons, it may interest you to know that i consider EBK as one of the worst corrupt former presidents in our nation’s contemporary history. By all indications, his determination to hang on to power by first attempting to extend his tenure (More time, after you, na you, talking points) coupled by him singlehandedly appointing Samura Kamara as his puppet candidate, are some of the reasons your POAPA demigods are terrorizing our nation today.

    To the POAPAs, whatever EBK did, they must do so a billion times. That is why we are witnessing the lynching of opposition members today and the bastardization of our constitution. What many of you extremists fail to realize is that, condoning and supporting polarizing policies that are taking place in our nation will never benefit anyone, but derail the development of our nation. For those die-hard APC supporters who were beating the drums of suppression when EBK was in charge, most of them are at the receiving end today. So be aware Mr. Boima, your turn might just be coming down the road.

  2. Where were Mr Ibrahim Sesay, Young4na, and Sahr Matturi when the then APC govt due to loop-holes in the APC constitution, disgracefully kicked out an elected vice president who served that office from 2007-2015 and the Sierra LEONE JUSTICE SYSTEM DULY ENDORSED IT BUT FINALLY OVERTURNED AT THE ECOWAS COURT AT ABUJA, NIGERIA.

    But when 10 contestants of the SLPP party contesting to represent their respective constituencies in the 2018 General and Presidential elections as runners-up, had legitimate concerns/evidence to raise against that election in their respective constituencies, were forwarded to the justice system of Sierra Leone and were successful to have their cases heard, they oin their appeal at the court of law. Based on the electoral laws established by the APC party led legislative and signed into law by president EB Koroma that in a election held any of the contestants with legitimate evidence defended there claims/evidence by the justice system of Sierra Leone can replace the seating members of parliament.

    In the current state of emergency and pandemic of an unseen enemy globally killing people and due to the wisdom of the Chief Justice, based on medical advice, decided to shut down the justice system to help curtail the infection within the justice system. But with the volatile situation in the country, including the riotous criminal conduct of the public, based on medical advice do we not expect the executive branch led by the office of the Attorney General and Minister of JUSTICE TO LIAISE WITHE THE CHIEF JUSTICE IN FINDING A NEUTRAL/COMMON GROUND TO GET THE COURTS RUNNING. SLPP OPPONENTS ARE BLACKMAILING IT THAT THE EXECUTIVE IS CONTROLLING THE JUDIARY. Did EB Koroma as president execute emergency powers during the Ebola epidermic in Sierra Leone?

  3. The Country is in a state of Emergency, hence the Attorney General or the Chief Justice cannot summon court reopening without presidential approval. It was a laudable gesture by Mr President for the sake of peace and equanimity to bring some normalisation in the country. I am sure politicians and non-politicians alike will begin to have their day in courts all over the country. My only consternation is the level of security and health protocol that will be put in place during this difficult period in trying to curtail this menace of Covid19.

  4. Only in Sierra Leone the judiciary dances to the tune of the executive. The executive commanded the judiciary to give orders for the beating of Honourable members of Parliament in the Well, they did. The executive commanded the judiciary to order the removal of 10 duly elected members of Parliament and to replace them with strangers that were never voted in, they did. The executive commanded the judiciary not to look into any of the numerous cases filed in court by the opposition, they did. Etc, etc.

    Now Sylvia Blyden was arbitrarily arrested without telling her or the public a single reason for her arrest. Rather, police are now looking out for evidence to forward, using a portrait of the former president, Ernest Bai Koroma in the possession of Sylvia as evidence. The biggest folly of the millennium! She is presently being held in hostile conditions without charges pressed.

    Today, the Human Right Commission has become non existent. No Sierra Leonean institution is still functioning. Citizens are suffering structural violence, psychological violence, systemic violence resulting to physical violence amidst the economic brouhaha in the country. Very very Sad situations for citizens!

  5. Thanks to our Chief Justice for giving the opportunity for the newly accused to face justice for crime against the state. I also hope President Bio will start the refurbishment of the special Court which the APC destroyed during their 11 years in power. Possibly it will be needed after the government white paper from the just concluded Commission Of Inquiry is released.

  6. It’s a welcoming news that the judiciary will now open to hear sensitive political cases. However, it’s crystal clear that the judiciary is being run by the executive branch. Our current chief justice is a mere puppet who simply take orders from the presidency. It all makes sense now why one of the earlier actions taken by president Bio was to push the former chief Justice Abdulai charm after smearing his character as being corrupt. With his hand picked and puppet chief justice in place, he was guaranteed to have his way into the justice system. This explains why none of the opposition political cases against the government 2 years on are yet to be heard or consider. A precedent in our nation.

  7. I am not surprised with the way President Bio and his Bio SLPP are now ruling the country and neglecting the rule of law and our institutions these days. President Bio and his Bio SLPP are now confronted with serious isolation from the international community in my view. Since the international community called off its meeting with President Bio a few days ago, the President with his Bio SLPP seem to be angry and tormented with democracy, I reckon.

    Here is the logic; When any government is being isolated by the international community, they result in crackdowns, dictatorship, Bastardisation of the constitution, violence, lies, unlawful incarceration etc out of share desperation. But, by doing so, brings the risk of being transferred to the International Court of Justice in Den Haag one day. Such acts of bypassing our judiciary and parliament will continue till the international community and our gallant opposition help put an end to it, I am afraid. God bless our gallant opposition and the International community.

  8. Finally,the Hon.Chief justice of Sierra Leone Desmond Babatunde Edwards,has ordered the courts to resume to hold pending court cases,that were put on hold due to the COVID 19. According to the communiqué released to the general public, the cases that were pending will now go before the courts to be heard . The recent violence which I condemned, and I think I speak for all peace loving Sierra Leoneans, that is uncalled for. We are told the accused persons will finally have their day in court. I don’t want to sound cynical, my only wish this decision would have been made earlier without waiting for the instructions to come from the president.

    Our system of government stipulates the judiciary arm part of government is supposed to be independent of both the executive, legislative branch of government. Since the decision to open the courts was made on the instructions of the president and given the statement made by the president, am I right to suggest the president might have unwittingly prejudice the outcome of trials. I think there is too much concentration of power in the hands of one individual. The work of the judiciary is to interpret the laws of the land and protect the ordinary man and woman against the excess of government.

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