One of Liberia’s renowned human rights lawyers, Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, was frank and forthright in his address to Trial Judges at their Seventh National Conference last Friday.
Being a lawyer himself dealing with judges daily, Cllr. Gongloe asserted that “too much bribery has reduced Liberian judges and magistrates to mere commodities who can be bought by the highest bidder.”
Our Judicial Correspondent, Abednego Davis, quoted Cllr. Gongloe as having said that reports of judges and magistrates taking bribes to rule in favor of party litigants have eroded public confidence in the courts to deliver fair and transparent justice.
If there is anything for President George Manneh Weah to consider in leading a successful government that will build public confidence, then, he needs to pay keen attention to the judicial system, to ensure that the rampant corruption therein is reduced and hopefully eliminated.
The success of any responsible government depends on the justice system because that is where taxpayers, foreign investors, and ordinary citizens seek redress to gain the contentment they need to continue their contributions to maintaining peace, stability, and security in the Republic.
In the ethical theory of egalitarianism (social equality, equal opportunity), justice serves as the tool that unites the poor and the rich, the privileged and underprivileged, and in all circumstances where equity is necessary.
The consequences of injustice in Liberia cannot be overemphasized. We recall the underdevelopment of our country characterized by years of civil strife, attributed to nothing else but injustice and the abject poverty it nurtures. One of the sources of this vice is BRIBERY, which diverts the conscience of the judge from doing the RIGHT thing to embracing without conscience the wrong thing.
Counselor Gongloe’s assertion that corruption has perverted our justice system is not new. The 2016 United States Department of States’ Human Rights Report on Liberia stated: “Corruption persisted in the legal system. Some judges accepted bribes to award damages in civil cases. Judges sometimes solicited bribes to try cases, release detainees from prison, or find defendants not guilty in criminal cases.
“Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested defendants pay bribes to secure favorable decisions from judges, prosecutors, and jurors. Corrections officers sometimes demanded payment to escort detainees to trial,” the Report said.
The corruption in our justice system needs to be treated with emergency, as sustenance of the peace and democracy in this country depends on fair and transparent justice.
Even God, whom most of us serve, is the God of Justice. The Holy Bible notes that to do justice and judgment are more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3). And Micah admonishes (warns) us that God requires of us “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:8).
It was justice and rule of law that gave successful leadership to Hammurabi, the Babylonian king, for nearly 42 years (1792 to 1749 B.C.). His code of law brought stability and peace, and every Babylonian walked in adherence with them.
In his State of the Nation Address a week and a half ago, President Weah did not make any statement about the Judiciary, something that sparked reactions from some lawyers.
However, it is not late for the President to act. We urge that he seriously considers the concerns raised by Cllr. Gongloe and the many reports of corruption in the Judiciary, to ensure that credible people are appointed judges and their activities effectively monitored.
Lawyers, too, should be monitored to be professional in their pleadings and representation of their clients, as reports about them bribing judges are commonplace and contribute to the corrupt practices pervading Liberia’s judicial system.
To maintain our peace and to enable every Liberian to have a sense of ownership of this country, Mr. President, we need a transparent justice system. We plead with you, urge you to attach seriousness to cleaning up Liberia’s JUSTICE SYSTEM.
You can now understand, Mr. President, the public outcry against your choice of Cllr. Charles Gibson as Justice Minister—a lawyer who without conscience and totally lacking a sense of justice, cheated his client of a huge sum of money that led to the Supreme Court’s suspension of his license.
We appealed to him in our Monday Editorial to spare you the embarrassment of cancelling his nomination by himself respectfully declining the nomination. Failing that, we called on the Senate not to confirm him.