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.
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.
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.
In Sierra Leone, the notion of corporate social responsibility has always been associated with the private sector. No wonder some people see the active involvement of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) in corporate social activities as strange, and many have opined that a tax collecting body should not be engaged in corporate social responsibility activities.
However, the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on corporate image is immense, even for tax collecting bodies. The perception that tax collectors are monsters vigorously bent on collecting people's earnings with no care for the environment or the vulnerable in the community they operate is evolving. Indeed, many revenue authorities in Africa are today socially responsible.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) in an article in its website argues that "the nature of Revenue Collectors' mandate makes them the hill of the nation such that whatever they do is mirrored and echoed by many".
Press freedom has come under severe attack in West Africa as security agencies, particularly the police, appear to be on rampage against journalists and media workers. In a space of 38 days (January 5-February 12, 2017), 30 media workers have been arrested, detained and/or assaulted by security forces, prompting fears that the gains that have been made in recent years on press freedom and freedom of expression could be eroded.
The 30 victims, made up of 15 journalists and 15 media technicians, were arrested, detained and/or assaulted in 10 separate incidents in four countries namely Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Togo. Nigeria recorded six incidents, Cote d’Ivoire recorded two incidents while Guinea and Togo recorded an incident each.
In Nigeria, seven journalists were arrested and detained during the period. In Cote d’Ivoire, six journalists were arrested and detained in a single incident while one journalist each was affected in Guinea and Togo, bringing the total number of journalists affected to 15. In respect of the other media workers, nine staff of a newspaper printing firm were arrested in single incident. In Cote d’Ivoire, six technicians working with the state-owned television station were also arrested in a single incident.
Dr. David Tam-Baryoh: A New Broom in Sierra Leone Politics
Dr. David Tam-Baryoh is a household name in Sierra Leone, mostly because of his“Good Governance” popular radio programme called monologue. In fact the programme has become sopopular that most people prefer to call the presenter “Mr. Monologue”. Recently Mr. Monologue said in two or three of his programmes that he would be going intopolitics. It looked like a joke the first time he said it. But after saying it over threeor four times it is no longer a joke.
So Dr. David Tam-Baryoh is going into politics in 2018. Those who are very closeto him will tell you that this is a fact. The Doctor has made up his mind. Afterdiscussing and editing serious national issues on newspaper pages and on the airwaves for almost twenty five years, hehas decided that he cannot achieve much for the people behind the microphone and the pen. He now wants toengage into something that will make a direct impact on the lives of Sierra Leoneans.
And the Doctor thinks politics is the best way to do this, if we look at politics as“the authoritative allocation of scarce resources within a nation state.” He wants tobe part of the allocation of Sierra Leone’s scarce resources.
Precious Minerals, Public Trust and Government’s Openness
By late 2001, the Anti Corruption Commission arrested then Sierra Leone's transport and communications minister, together with his wife, “for involvement in illegal diamond mining” in Kenema district. Large quantum of illicit diamonds had been found in their possession, according to a BBC report at the time.
With some diamonds said to have been smuggled out of the country by the minister, the incident happened at a time when the rebel war was raging and the key perpetrators- the RUF were also seriously involved in illicit mining and smuggling. The minister was later jailed in 2003 for two years for illegal possession of diamonds.
Amongst other factors, Sierra Leone’s civil war was fuelled mainly by diamond, specifically “conflict diamonds”- those diamonds that originated from territories controlled by rebel forces (UN definition).
The Legal Aid Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution on Tuesday, 7 March 2017 resolved a long standing dispute in respect of a property on Newcastle Street, in Kissy, Freetown between one Mr. Solomon Samba Mansaray and his seventy-seven year old elder sister Madam Marian Kamara who is in the country on holiday from the United States of America.
The two who had not been on speaking terms were reconciled. Both promised to work together in the interest of peace in the family. In this vein, Madam Marian Kamara agreed to cancel a U$ 400 debt owed by Mr. Mansaray.
While the tension between the two had been lingering several years,Mr. Mansaray decided to report the matter to the Board in Freetown when he got information that Madam Marian Kamara was planning to sell theproperty. The owner of the property who is the sister of both parties had died over a decade ago without leaving a will.
As the Legal Aid Board prepares to provide legal assistance to indigents and children engaged in election related violence, it has successfully secured the discharge of a twenty-five old from Wilberforce in the West of Freetown charged with violence.
The Legal Aid Defence Counsel Hadiru Daboh secured the discharge after drawing the court’s attention to the failure of the complainant to attend court sittings for seven consecutive adjournments. What’s more, the complainant has not furnished the court with any reasons for his absence. Magistrate I.S. Bangura agreed with the Defence Counsel and discharged the matter. He noted that discharge would not stop the prosecution from reinstating the matter in future.
The accused, Alpha Kanuwho plied his trade as driver and apprentice at the Wilberforce lorry park got involved in a fight with his boss Michael Aruna in February 2017. He was arrested and taken to the Congo Cross Police station following a complaint by his boss. According to Alpha Kanu, his injuries were ignored by the police even though they were more serious. He spent fifteen days at the Congo police station before the matter was charged to court.
U.S. Africa Command Launches a 33-Nation Maritime Exercise: Sierra Leone Maritime “Full Speed Ahead”
During March 23-31, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) issponsoring “Obangame Express”, an in-port Command Post exerciseand at-sea maritime exercise designed to enhance maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.The exercise includes 33 partner nations, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
The exercise is designed to improve cooperation andinformation sharing, and to refine tactics, techniques and procedures among participating nations.
The “Obangame Express”exercise will be based on realistic modern-day scenarios such as piracy, illegal fishing and hijacking. During the exercise,Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) will be challenged to recognize illicit acts and share trackinginformation with other MOCs throughout the region.
The winner of the Pride of Australia Award, Ansumana Usman Koroma popularly known as AUK has called on all Sierra Leoneans within and outside Sierra Leone to support and fully participate in both the ongoing voter registration that has started March 20 to end April 19 2017 and the forthcoming nationwide civil registration process slated April 24 to June 11 2017.
AUK who is a Political and Policy Analyst working in Australia said the mass registration of every citizen is a very important process in the development agenda of the country. He therefore appealed to all Sierra Leoneans to put politics aside and understand that the process would help government consolidate citizens’ data and enhance effective service delivery and improve monitoring of government programmes and policies.
He stressed that the national civil registration authority is created to promote a greater sense of nationalism and common identity.