Liberia: Judges Want Armed Security

Judge Ousman Feika

Judges across the country have issued a plea for state security protections on grounds that lives are under threat as a result of the nature of their job. 

The judges’ plea, which was communicated via Judge Ousman Feika,  during the opening of the May 2022 term of Criminal Courts; A, B, C, D, and E, for Montserrado County, calls for the provision of 24-hour armed security protection to each judge. 

The rationale, according to Judge Feika, who is the assigned judge of Criminal Court ‘D’, is due to fear of reprisals, not only from families of convicts, but also from the people they jailed — especially after being freed. 

Judges Feika and other judges who preside over the country's criminal courts adjudicate the worst cases of violence including rape, murder, domestic abuse and more. 

Criminal Court ‘D’, which Judge Feika heads, is solely responsible to handle armed robbery and other armed-related cases. 

“It is no secret that the current security situation in our nation is very fragile, and armed robbery and other dangerous criminal activities are on the increase,” Judge Feika noted while pleading for protection in the presence of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor.  “There is a serious concern among judges resulting from callous and life-threatening attacks on their personal lives, families, and homes.” 

He added: “While we do not know the motive behind the attacks on judges, it is now imperative that judges be provided armed security guards to protect judges at all times.  Now we do not feel safe and do not know what will happen if they seek revenge.”

Currently, only the five justices of the Supreme Court are provided with armed security protection, with judges of circuit courts being left without security detail, which is now prompting the judges to recommend for their protection.

It is not clear whether Judge Feika and his colleagues took into consideration the numerous challenges confronting the Liberia National Police, regarding the lack of resources to provide security to the country, with threats and security incidents continuing to increase.

However, Judge Feika argued that the nature of their job requires judges to have state security protection --- “looking at the very serious role judges play in our society.” 

He added that judges and their families are so vulnerable to attacks from unscrupulous individuals in the society and yet there is no state security protection for judges and their families. 

“This needs to stop. It is, therefore, our expectation that the relevant authorities will take the appreciated steps to initiate or re-initiate programs for the protection of judges and their families across the country,” the Criminal Court ‘D’ judge said. 

Judge Feika’s concern for judges’ security comes just a year after an arson attack on the home of Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe by some unknown individuals. 

Up to the present, the police have not revealed a motive for the attack at Justice Nagbe's home, but the investigation has continued for over a year now, without any closure. 

Meanwhile, there are mixed reactions among legal practitioners on the plea made by Judge Feika for armed security protection for judges. 

Some of the legal practitioners, who asked for anonymity, said that in the past, judges were not interested in being provided with armed security protection. 

“Because those judges were interested in providing fair and impartial and transparent justice to all with no exceptions. They were never interested in soliciting bribes to change their decision. Their concerns were for justice to be dispensed to everyone as provided in our 1986 Constitution,”  lawyers added. “If your judgment is transparent and free of corruption, nobody will go after you. You do not need any armed security protection when your judgment is supported by the law.”