Waiting for justice in Sierra Leone – change must come

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 February 2019:

The family of gruesomely murdered former president of the Pharmaceutical Board Association –  Mr Justin Patrick Johnson are still waiting for justice to be done, after seven years paralysis of the country’s justice system.

Too often one hears the phrase – ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, but how much more can citizens endure, when the state fails to dispense justice in a timely manner in accordance with the law.

In Sierra Leone today, there are thousands unfinished criminal and civil cases that are languishing in the judiciary, for at least ten years or more. This cannot be right, nor can one say that the justice system is working in Sierra Leone. Change has to some – and soon.

Take the case of the pharmacist – Mr Justin Patrick Johnson, who was brutally murdered in November 2012, allegedly by eight people. Those eight people too deserve the right to justice.

It cannot be right – nor fair and humane, that the justice system should keep them locked up in prison cells for seven years without determining their fate. Whether guilty or not, they too deserve prompt justice.

In a hearing of the matter last year, Justice Sam Margai said the persistent absenteeism of jurors has hindered the progress of the trial in the High Court. For six years, the Courts had failed to move the trial forward. A bench warrant issued for Tejan George, a juror who consistently failed to attend Court, was not  executed as the Police were unable to track George or arrest him.

“The Court cannot go beyond having less than ten jurors. We have already reduced the number from twelve to eleven, and eleven to ten,” Justice Margai stated last year. According to the Judge, “The absence of jurors… is a perversion of justice.”

And of course, the family of the murdered pharmacist Justin Patrick Johnson will today take little comfort from last Tuesday’s hearing, which does not bring justice or closure much closer, as their agony continues.

The pain of one citizen in Sierra Leone must be the pain of all citizens, especially those in authority.

According to Awoko News report, at last Tuesday’s hearing of the murdered pharmacist Justin Patrick Johnson, the Police witness – Isata Bah, testified before Justice Sam Margai, that the first and second accused made confessional statements during the course of their investigation.

The witness said that during preliminary investigation, the fourth accused, John Turay, confessed in their statements to the Police. Alakeh Olive Johnson, Oma Eustace Cole, Edward J. Moijeh, John Turay, Abdul R. Jalloh, Tommy Joseph, Alie Conteh and Chernor Bah, were arrested and charged with murder, larceny and arson on 17 December 2012.

The eight accused have been in prison since their arrest in 2012. The accused were granted Le350 million bail, but they were unable to fulfil the bail conditions.

On the morning of 8th November 2012, pharmacist Justin Patrick Johnson’s half-naked, burned body was found at his residence in Wilberforce. According to the State, the accused attacked and beat Johnson to death and later set his house on fire.

The defence lawyer told the Court that the defence will rely on the statements of the accused to the Police. Lawyer F.B. Conteh made the submission after the prosecution closed its case.

The Prosecution during the trial have brought forward four witnesses to testify on the matter. The matter was adjourned to 5th March 2019.

The families of the deceased and the 8 accused are the real victims of this case. And so too are the people of Sierra Leone..

Sierra Leone now has a new president in power and a new Chief Justice. Hopefully together they can work to bring hope and a renewed sense of justice in the country.

The justice system in Sierra Leone is broken and in dire need of change. And that change, cannot come much sooner for thousands of people waiting for justice.

3 Comments

  1. This piece is a brilliant piece that highlights the lack of a functioning justice system. My worry is that if the trend of the justice system is like this, then I am afraid many cases will bear no credibility whatsoever. The length of time it takes will mean that credible witnesses will ultimately forget the facts of the case, or relocate to other parts of the world where they cannot be traced or at worst case scenario – they are dead. I really think that it is time the State consider ways of how to speed up cases so that justice is seen to be done and not just done.

  2. What a brilliant piece. The writer has said it all – and no further comments, apart from the bail conditions. Le350 million is too high … and can be seen as an obstruction of justice as well. The present state of justice in Sierra Leone is disgusting from all angles.

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