Monrovia – Pre-trial detention is one of the major challenges facing the country’s Justice System, some judicial actors have opined.
These actors have squarely blamed magistrates for some of the causes of pre-trial detention.
Magistrates are heads of various magisterial courts and they are the first court of instance.
One of these judicial actors, Cllr. M. Wilkins Wright, hold liable magistrates for keeping defendants in pro-long detention for some of the cases that require just a 30-day detention but they will keep people in prison beyond those days.
“Magistrates are responsible for some of the pre-trial detention because they order your arrest keep you on the prisoner bench until late in the evening with the sole aim of just sending you to jail,” said Cllr. Wright made the above statement, when he once spoke during the opening of Court at the Temple of Justice while serving as Solicitor General.
In 2017 at the Gbarnga Conference of Judges, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Rule of Law Division put pre-trial detention up to 67 percent.
The UN Mission’s report further revealed that if nothing is done by the country’s justice actors to reduce the number, it could cause security risk to the country’s peace process.
“The rate of pre-trial detention in the country is alarming and if nothing is done to remedy the situation will create security risk that could jeopardize the country peace process,” said Waldimer Very, head of UNMIL Rule of Law Section.
In the face of the alarming wave of pre-trial detention at various prison facilities, Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean has announced plan to tackle it.
Making remarks during the opening of March 2018 Term of the Supreme Court for the first time as Dean, Justice Minister Dean announced that in additional to tackling pre-trial detention, his administration will as well work toward fast tracking cases.
“Your Honors, we will like to inform you that as Justice Minister, we are looking forward to tackling pre-trial detention and fast-tracking cases.”
The Justice Minister emphasized the need for Liberians to have access to justice.
Justice Minister Dean expressed his willingness in working with the Supreme Court Bench.
He at the same time lauded his colleagues in the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) for the concerns shown during his confirmation at the Senate.
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor who declared the 2018 March Term of Court officially opened, stated that the just-ended October 2017 Term was dogged with election-related cases.
According to the Chief Justice, the high court heard and decided a total of 26 cases 13 of which were election-related cases, two of which were remanded to NEC to conduct a recount.
He stated that for the March 2018 Term, there are 246 cases on active dockets before the court, while 14 of these cases are on a motion calendar.
He mandated all counselors, who have cases before the Court to make early request to have their cases assigned and be in readiness for the hearing of arguments.
Monday’s opening of the Supreme Court was attended by President George Weah.
This was the President’s first attendance since taking over the country on January 22, 2018.