Criminal Court ‘A’ Judge Roosevelt Willie said last Monday that in order to avoid Liberia returning to war, it needs to make human security and the rule of law one of its pillars.
Judge Willie suggested that this required a strong and independent judiciary that is free of interference, whether political or otherwise.
Judge Willie sounded the call when he delivered the charge during the official opening of Criminal Courts, A, B, C, D and E, at the Temple of Justice.
“We need a Judiciary where judges, lawyers’ bailiffs, clerks and jurors are above reproach and a judiciary where the right of each party litigant is respected; a judiciary where bailiffs will not take returns inconsistent with what obtains at service of precepts,” the Criminal Court Judge said.
He added, “We need a judiciary where lawyers will not engage in manipulation to turn verdict in their favor, where judges and lawyers will not baffle or unnecessarily delay cases for either pecuniary or other interest and allow pre-trial detainees to languish behind bar for months or years.”
“Liberia needs a judiciary where rulings and judgments by judges are based on the facts and law controlling,” Judge Willie added.
Making reference to the 2006 report of the International Crisis Group (ICG) regarding the Liberian justice system, Judge Willie advised his colleagues that “Our adjuration for this term is further strengthened by a report made in April 2006, and submitted by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which stated that that the Liberia justice system was one of the root causes of the 14 years violent conflict.”
The report also named corruption, interference and lack of competent judges as some of the reasons behind the civil war.
“In view of the failure of the system, according to the report, the rights of a citizen were violated and there was no impartial judgment for redress,” he said, quoting the report.
Accordingly, the judge recalled, “majority of the people took the law into their own hands, which ultimately resulted into the 14 years of violent civil conflict.”
The report made several recommendations which, among other things, included employment of competent personnel, increment in incentives, financial autonomy of the judiciary, training opportunities for judges and other staffs, refurbishment of courts’ infrastructure, enactment of new laws and amendment of others as well as independence of the judiciary.
He was quick to point out that “with the reform being initiated by this Supreme Court bench, we should never again allow ourselves to be indicted by any local or international body for acts incompatible with our ethics.”
“As a critical element of the judiciary, we should discharge our functions with utmost respect for the security of the human person, which is mutually consistent with peace and security of the state,” he noted.
“We should and must have the tenacity to adjudicate justice without fear or favor. This steadfastness should similarly apply to the disputes between and among private citizens and institutions,” he concluded.