Over the past three months Liberia has witnessed rampant killings in almost every part of the country. There is no legal or ethical backing for killing or treating anyone inhumanely under our laws but, in recent months, the wave of killing has increased and reached alarming proportions. As it appears, impunity is the chief culprit responsible for driving such actions.
A judicial reporter assigned to the Temple of Justice has told this paper that in April alone there were 16 cases of murder in the Criminal Courts. Women have been the victims of most of the killings, especially in the rural areas.
Reports emerged in April and May that a man killed his wife and two children in Rivercess County for reasons yet to be known while in Bong and Nimba counties, other women died reportedly at the hands of their husbands following severe beating.
Over the weekend n Zorzor, Lofa County, tension ran high over the gruesome murder of a female student. A team of Liberia National Police officers had to be dispatched there to calm down the tension.
Other victims of latest killings include journalist Tyron Brown, who was buried a week ago, and a motorcyclist shot dead by an LNP officer, Roosevelt Demey. In Monrovia, a girl was reported to have instigated the killing of her boyfriend for another man.
Why is there such an increase in killing in the country? The intent of those perpetrating the crime cannot be determined offhand; nevertheless, there is one thing to which we can safely attribute these uncivilized acts — that is, to impunity and a weak and corrupt justice system.
The Daily Observer and other local dailies have, on several occasions, reported Chief Justice, Francis S. Korkpor warning judges and in some instances suspending some for receiving bribes to overturn justice in favor of the highest bidder.
In fact, in February of 2017 the Supreme Court suspended three judges for committing judicial malpractice including breach of attorney-client privilege and degrading the dignity and integrity of the Judiciary, after each was accused of corruption (US State Department Human Rights Report, 2017).
Also in reference to US State Department’s report, it can be recalled that in September of 2017, our Judicial Correspondent, Abednego Davis reported the Judicial Inquiry Committee launching a massive corruption investigation of judges and court officers after a criminal court bailiff publicly confessed to colluding with judges to solicit bribes in exchange for predetermined outcomes.
Bribery in the justice system is building adverse public perception about respect for the rule of law. A growing number of persons nowadays will prefer taking the law into their own hands since they have a seemingly ingrained impression that going to court is needless because parties may resort to bribing a judge to overturn justice.
Furthermore, we note with concern that because pretrial detainees are kept so long in prison without trial, there is always a strong inclination on the part of the detainees to break jail. The problems besetting our justice system cannot ensure justice, and because justice cannot be attained on a just, fair and equitable basis, people readily resort to violence which means taking the law into their hands.
The Holy Bible, which many Liberians including judges hold dear, predicts consequences for injustice. It says, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil (Ecclesiastes 8:11).”
The wave of killing in the country has the propensity to further diminish the country’s already stained human rights record. For the past few years, U.S. State Department reports have unfailingly indicted Liberia’s justice system for corruption.
And official corruption, as we are well aware, tends to undermine the stability and legitimacy of the state. Accordingly, government has to exert every effort to ensure that corruption is minimized in or eliminated from the justice system.
Instability in Liberia, including our long years of war, has been caused primarily by injustice, impunity, corruption and marginalization as our history can recall.
In order to preserve and maintain the peace we have, we urge government to consider increasing just and equitable and hitch-free access to justice.
Only by so doing, can we help build and restore public confidence in the rule of law.