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THE RIGHT TO ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS PDF Print E-mail
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Written by BANKOLE CLIFFORD EKUNDAYO MORGAN, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE.   
Friday, 10 March 2017 10:55

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely the thoughts of the author)

The right to access to justice is one of the fundamental human rights which must be enjoyed by all without any discrimination. It is an established fact that access to justice is a germane component of the rule of law. Access to justice as a fundamental human right can be rendered meaningless if it is not promoted, protected, respected, supported and enforced by government.

I totally and entirely subscribed to the point advanced by the Danish Institute for Human Rights that access to justice can be conceived as both a means and an end to justice. It is a means as it concerns the efficient method of enabling users of justice system to benefit from the end product of justice. Likewise, it can be conceived as an end, in the protection of an individual’s right to justice through ease of access when the need arises.

The lack of access to justice and or the unfair dispensation of justice in any state will ultimately undermine the tenets of good governance, democracy, rule of law and human rights.

WHEN A STATE REFUSES TO PERFORM ITS OBLIGATION…

In line with international human rights principle, member states to human rights treaties have the obligation to‘respect, protect, and fulfil’ provisions of that human rights treaties/instruments they have signed. When a state refuses to perform its obligation to ‘respect, protect and fulfil’ human rights, it may condescend in violating the rights of its citizen. Essentially, by law and practice the application of these minimum core obligations is incumbent upon every state party.

 

 

PRE-TRIAL AND TRIAL STAGES IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Normally,in the criminal justice system pre-trial stage is where investigation is conducted in other to gather credible evidence that will link the suspect (if it is a police investigation) and accused (if it is a preliminary investigation at the Magistrate court), with the alleged crime committed. In other words, the investigation is a way of establishing a fact that a crime has been committed, and the direction of the investigation should be “identifying party/parties to the crime/offence committed”. trial stage is where available evidence is presented to the courts. If the evidence is not sufficient enough to convict the accused, he/she will be acquitted and discharged. But if the evidence before the court is quite sufficient enough to link the accused with the alleged crime committed, the accused will be convicted. Essentially, during court proceedings, if an accused is guilty of committing an offence, he would be convicted and/or fine, but if he is not, by law he would be acquitted and discharged.

POST-CONVICTION STAGE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Post-conviction stage in the criminal justice system is very essential, and it involves sentencing. In sentencing generally, the defendant is brought before the court for the imposition of a penalty. When an accused and or defendant are convicted in a criminal prosecution, the event that follows the verdict is called sentencing. Sentence can be seen as the penalty ordered against the convicted criminal by the court. Normally, the primary goals of sentencing convicted criminals are punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

Generally, the object of criminal law is punishment, and all of the serious crimes or offences committed by offenders or criminals have the penalty of serving prison sentences. Also, most of the offences or crimes committed by offenders or criminals with the exception of the most serious have the option of fines.In criminal proceedings, sentences are an essential aspect of the criminal law. It is implied, if the offender cannot meet the financial demand of the outcome of the criminal proceedings, that is to pay fine, the result is incarceration. One major challenge I have observed with regards the laws of Sierra Leone is that most criminal laws are seriously out-dated. Most of these out-dated laws are based on British colonial laws that have long been repealed in Britain. For instance, Sierra Leone still applies laws like: the Offence against the Persons Act, 1861, the Public Order Act, 1965 and host of others. The need for these laws to be repealed and replace with laws that can match-up with global trend and human rights based approach cannot be over emphasised.

“ARREST, DETENTION, CHARGE, PROMPTLY, WITHOUT UNDUE DELAY…”

Another challenge I had personally noticedin the criminal justice system is the use of terminologies which have not been clearly defined by my estimation and whose applications have been very much problematic. Words such as ‘ arrest’ ‘detention’, ‘charge’, ‘promptly’, ‘without undue delay’, or ‘adequate time and facilities’, these words are inevitably broadly framed, and this means that there is scope for legitimate disagreement as to precisely what they mean. Due to the fact that there is no statutory definition of those words, any of them can be interpreted differently by the court based on the context of the case. However, there are widely recognized international human rights documents, which proffer standard as to how persons held in custody should be treated. The ineffective application of these human rights documents to which Sierra Leone is a signatory to, has brought to day light the problems faced by suspect at the pre-trial stage of criminal proceedings in Sierra Leone.

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

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Business News

Four illegal fishing cases found in Sierra Leone in four days

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, April 20, 2017/ -- Four illegal fishing cases have been found during a joint surveillance mission conducted by Greenpeace (www.Greenpeace.org/Africa/en) and Sierra Leone fishery authorities. Two Chinese vessels and one Korean vessel have been arrested for infringements of Sierra Leone fishing legislation, including possessing or using illegal fishing nets on board, no visible marking and a lack of required paperwork, including log books and authorisation for unloading catch. Fishing authorities ordered the vessels to return to Freetown port for further investigation. A fourth vessel, owned by an Italian company, was found with four kilograms of shark fins on board. Though not illegal under Sierra Leonean laws, this is a clear violation of European Union (EU) fishing rules. This boat’s case will be taken further with relevant EU authorities.

In addition, more than 70 bags of shark carcasses were found on one of the Chinese vessels.

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Media News

44 Journalists in Beijing for China Development Studies and Media Exchange

The 4th session of the China Africa Press Center (CAPC) Program hosted by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) was officially launched on Wednesday 1st March 2017 in Beijing, China. This year’s event is running simultaneously with the China South Asia Center 2017 program. Both programs brought together forty-four journalists from Africa and South Asia.

The program you will give journalists the opportunity to cover major domestic and international events in China such as the upcoming Two Sessions, i.e, the 5th Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) and the 5th Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese

People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) (similar to Parliamentary sessions in many countries) in March, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May and the 9th BRICS Summit in Autumn this year.

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Commentary

A NEW DAWN FOR JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN SIERRA LEONE, PARLIAMENT APPROVES MELRON NICOL-WILSON AS NEW OMBUDSMAN

The Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone has overwhelmingly approved the appointment of Mr Melron Nicol-Wilson as new Ombudsman, on Tuesday April 11, 2017. This follows him being named by H.E President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as the replacement to Justice Edmond Cowan - a long-standing legal icon, who now chairs the Sierra Leone Constitutional Review Committee.

A man whose action speaks louder than words, Mr Nicol-Wilson has been appointed as new Ombudsman for Sierra Leone, a position reserved for high-profile people, who are well-respected and with unblemished character. Mr Nicol-Wilson has the typical pedigree of an Ombudsman, best known both in Sierra Leone and internationally as a champion for justice and human rights.  

The Parliament’s decision to approve Mr Nicol-Wilson was anticipated, as the high-profile human rights lawyer emerged unscathed from an exchange of views with Members of Parliament.

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View Point

ELECTION IS A TESTIMONY TO PEOPLE’S SOVEREIGNTY

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely the thoughts of the author)

Election in any democratic setting, include the enjoyment of those rights that will elicit the full participation of individuals in determining the political life of his/her country. An election is a decision making process through which eligible citizens(those who have reached the age of majority, 18 years and above and with sound mind) freely choose their leaders through the ballot box to hold public offices for a specified term.

Generally, people vote with the expectation that the office holders would represent their communitiesand or countries best interest.  Elections are viewed as a central feature of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. Essentially, election is a testimony to peoples’ sovereignty and that ought to be respected and the process must be credible, otherwise there will be challenge with regards the acceptance of the result.

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News - Press Release

PARLIAMENT DEFERS DEBATE ON THE FINANCE ACT 2017
The Parliament of Sierra Leone has on Thursday 20th April 2017 unanimously voted for the deferment of debate on the Bill entitled “The Finance Act 2017”, pending a pre-legislative briefing and that it should be piloted by the substantive Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Momodu Kargbo.
Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Minority Leader of the House who moved the motion explained the importance of the Finance Bill that it provides for the sources of revenue for Government in respect of taxation. She furthered that the pre-legislative hearing will clearly explain the reductions, additions, and significant changes that have been included in the Finance Act of 2017 to Members of Parliament, who will better articulate issues connected thereto during the course of the debate.
The Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament, SBB Dumbuya said that “judging from the significance of the Bill, it should be preceded by a pre-legislative briefing” as per the dictates of parliamentary practices and procedures.
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Society -Local News

LAB tours operation and court in Waterloo

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles and other staff of the Freetown Office have paid an on the spot visit to the Legal Aid Board Office in Waterloo where they interacted with clients. There were twenty-two clients with women accounting for the majority. 

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles spoke to some of the clients about their complaints majority of which were maintenance cases. She also touched on the quality of service provided by the staff. She assured that they will received the same quality of service asclients in the Freetown Office and other parts of the country where the scheme has got an office.  ‘You have to be patient with us because we do have enough staff to service you all at the same time but we will continue to do our best with the resources at our disposal,’ she assured them. 

The Defence Counsel, Lawyer Tholley and Paralegals Arnold Dixon and GibrilJallohbriefed the Ms. Carlton-Hanciles and team on the volume of cases received per day. Ms. Carlton-Hanciles assured that steps are being taken to improve the office with furniture, computers, fan and air conditioners. ‘There is need to improve the working environment for you and our clients as the numbers accessing the scheme continue to increase,’ she said. 

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Development

PRESS RELEASE: Rural Renewable Energy Project Conducts Installation Training

FREETOWN, 19 April 2017: UNOPS Sierra Leone is hosting a training for selected installation companies, in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy, the President’s Recovery Priorities (PRP) programme and United Kingdom Government’s Department for International Development (DFID – also known as ‘UK Aid’).

The theoretical aspect of the training runs from 18th to 20thApril at the Golden Tulip Hotel, followed by 14 days of on-the-job sessionsin Petifu and Conakry Dee communities, in Port Loko District.ASACO, the supplier of the solar equipment, is providing the training facilitators and installation tools.

Participants are mainly Sierra Leonean engineers from Barefoot Women Solar Engineers Association (BWSEA),Frontier Business Solutions (FBS) and APTECH Africa Limited. Training contents include, photovoltaic (PV) system basics, types of solar systems, arrays and connections, project safety and guidance on using the installation checklists.

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Politics

SAM SUMANA TRAVELS TO GHANA ON "EMERGENCY TRAVEL CERTIFICATE"
Former elected Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana left Freetown International Airport, Lungi late afternoon Wednesday April 19, 2017 onboard Kenya Airways on an "Emergency Travel Certificate",  en route to Abuja, Nigeria on or about April 23/24, 2017 for the hearing of his petition filed on October 24, 2016 in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, "seeking an enforcement of his fundamental Human Rights arising from his unconstitutional removal from office, and for further orders contained in the application."
 
"This matter has been set down for hearing by the Court for April 26, 2017."
 
According to a spokesman for the Sam Sumana family Matthias Bendu who was with Sam Sumana at the airport until the aircraft was airborne because of advanced information reaching the family that there would be some problem awaiting Sam Sumana at the airport, Matthias Bendu told this Writer on the cellphone from the airport that Sam Sumana "was detained by Immigration Officers at the airport for more than thirty minutes  after the aircraft  landed, and it was due to the intervention of the Inspector General of Police Francis Munu who told the immigration Officers that Sam Sumana had not committed any crime and must be allowed to travel".
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