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THE RIGHT TO ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS PDF Print E-mail
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

26th IPRA Conference in Sierra Leone Ends on a High Note

The International Peace Research Association (IPRA) successfully held its 26th General Conference on ‘Agenda for Peace and Development: Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Transformation, and the Conflict, Disaster Risk and Sustainable Development Debate’ in collaboration with the 10TH Dealing With Disasters Series, Northumbria University (UK)and Sakarya University (Turkey) and  the University of  Sierra Leone at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone from November 27 to 1st December 2016.

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The Parliament of Sierra Leone on Monday 04th December 2017 debated and ratified two additional agreements aimed at improving and expanding Ports facilities in Sierra Leone to be at par with international best practices.

Presenting both Agreements prior to ratification, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Balogun Koroma said that the additional Agreements are geared towards addressing some of the concerns raised by MPs, in respect of expanding our Ports facilities to accommodate larger vessels, and the issuance of license with the view of combating money laundering, contra-band goods, and attracting more funds for Government.

Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Minority Leader of the House, also supported the ratification of the two Agreements, saying if our Ports are not developed, we would not be able to attract huge vessels; thus the need for the continuous improvement of our Ports facilities.

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Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson, former Lecturer Fourah Bay College, former Director of Information Ministry of Information and Communications, Former Director Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA), Former Chairman Independent Media Commission (IMC) and stringer French News Agency  etc. is on vacation and Mr. Cyril Juxon Smith Director Information and Communications House of Parliament, former Acting Director General Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and former UNESCO Media Consultant  is in the United States of America to attend the funeral of his father.

Speaking at the Ambassador’s residence on 4821 Colorado Avenue, Washington DC  Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson said “Thank  you Amr. Stevens for accommodating us in the middle of your tight schedule, and also to discuss with us in a homely spirit.

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As the national or general elections loom in Sierra Leone and, as a true citizen, I solemnly pray and hope with all hopes that Sierra Leoneans of the voting age will consider carefully who they would vote for, come March 2018. The divisive and immature nature of politics as it exists in Sierra Leone has, to a greater extent, contributed to the country lagging behind nearly all other countries in terms of progressive development. My readers should be mindful of the fact that certain countries in Africa would rather develop retrogressively than progressively, a situation wherein governments embark on ego-boosting programs that aren’t beneficial to the average citizen.

A government which expends its energy for the benefit of the people is a progressive government and that is what Sierra Leoneans want at this time after being in the doldrums for ages. It is therefore absolutely necessary for fellow citizens to refrain from casting their valued votes in favor of candidates because of tribal or regional affiliations but on how genuine and capable that candidate is, otherwise stagnation in progress is bound to follow.

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View Point

THE LIBYAN/NORTH AFRICAN “MODERN SLAVE TRADE” SAGAS

Your Excellency Sir,

I write this piece with extreme emotive disdain, in reflection on the “Libyan/North African Modern Slave Trade” horrendous saga - enjoining it with the “Mediterranean Genocide.”  Let me commence by lending my voice to that of countless Africans, who have risen in gross condemnation of this barbaric and heinous “subhuman” trade and phenomenon across the deserts and seas. Those inhumane treatments have lately been also condemned by the UN system, the AU, the ECOWAS and the EU, (alongside several international human right actors); after these ruthless human trafficking syndicates and desperate refuge seeking adventures were graphically brought to the glare of the entire world by the international press.

It is extremely appalling and unimaginable that some of our fellow Africans and Arabs could morally degenerate to such an extent in the 20th and 21st centuries, as to treating their fellowmen in such gruesome, despicable and horrific manner, as inflicting terrible physical tortures, only comparable to that of the “Nazi concentration camps” in the 20th century, infamously referred to as “the holocaust.” Sadly though, this trade that has just been recently trumpeted, has been going on for over half a century right at the fringes of the so-called “civilized and free world,” and under the watchful eyes and impassivity of our continental and global organizations and actors. As such, I could rightfully refer to these dastardly trades as the “neo-colonial slave trade.” What absurdity and aberration!!   

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News - Press Release

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In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Programme, Commissioner Babatunde Pratt says Sierra Leone has come a long way in building our democratic process. This he says has however not been an easy task as we are still faced with the horrors of our past. Regional divide, violence, political intolerance among others he says have marred our political space and if not nip on the bud will affect the growth and political stability of the country.

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Fatmata Binta Jalloh Annie Walsh Memorial Secondary School has won this years’ Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Inter-Secondary School debate on the topic ‘respect for human rights as a pre-requisite for a politically tolerant and peaceful 2018 elections’.  
The debate which was held at the Sierra Leone Library Board with five Secondary Schools participating is part of series of activities undertaken by HRCSL in commemorating the International Human Rights Day Celebration on December 10th, 2017. Fatmata Binta Jalloh of the Annie Walsh Memorial School came first by defeating Amos Claudius Gordon from the Prince of Wales who came second, Abubakar Marrah from Saint Edwards Secondary School came third and Kelfala Kamara of the Government Model Secondary School came fourth and Evelyn T. Ahorney from the Saint Joseph’s Secondary School coming fifth.
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On November 21,2017 the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA), through Catholic Relief Services (CRS), commissioned 151 school structures to support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST)in promotingquality learning environments within five vulnerable chiefdoms of Koinadugu District, northern Sierra Leone.

The commissioning ceremony was attended by the Honorable Minister of Education, Dr. Minkailu Bah,other senior MEST officials, and 6 Paramount Chiefs and Regents from the “All Pikin for Learn” intervention area.

The program ‘All Pikin for Learn,’funded by USDA’s McGovern-Dole (MGD) International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program since 2008, is a food assistance and education program that seeks to improve the enrollment, attendance and literacy,along with health and dietary practices, of primary school-aged children.

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President Koroma outlines his government achievements in closing address to Parliament

President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Supreme Head of State and Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Fountain Head of Unity, Honour, Freedom and Justice at Parliament Building, Tower Hill, Freetown

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