Liberia: IREDD Monitoring Uncovers Prolonged Detentions of Accused Persons without Trial
Monrovia – A monitoring report from the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), Voinjama City, Lofa County, Zwedru City, Grand Gedeh County and parts of Montserrado County has documented a large number of pre-trial cases on their respective courts dockets some of which are dated as far back as 2008.
In the IREDD first in the series of monitoring reports on justice and security institutions’ performance accountability for the month of September 2019, in Montserrado County, Criminal Court A, there are 35 cases, 29 pre-trial detainees, and Criminal B accounts for 30 cases with 22 pre-trial detainees.
According to the report, at the 10th Judiciary Circuit Court in Lofa County, there are 50 cases pre-trial detainees while at the 7th Judicial Circuit, Grand Gedeh County, there are 10 civil cases and 12 criminal cases. The IREDD monitoring survey also commends the Monrovia City Court for its outstanding performance in the administration of justice expeditiously.
The IREDD’s monitoring report according to its executive Director Mr. Herald Aidoo focuses on issues that hinder effective and efficient administration of justice under the rule of law hopes that “these socio-economic justice issues” bordering on the violation of basic human rights as contained in its report, responsible government ministries and agencies, will take appropriate remedial actions in real-time; as justice delay is construed as justice denied.
“The peace and stability of any country is highly dependent on the effectiveness and efficiency of the speedy administration of justice and the respect for the rule of law; which relates to unhindered access to justice for all persons irrespective of status.
“With these unfolding human rights issues, IREDD is troubled with these prolong detentions of accused persons without trial, specifically, at some Magisterial and Circuit Courts. IREDD considers the continued delay to proceed with the speedy trial of accused persons in pre-trial detention as willful and gross violation of their basic human rights, access unhindered justice and freedom.
In May of 2019, the Acting Chair of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) Att. Bartholomew Colley said Liberia’s Justice System needed to be “overhauled” to address the many human rights issues in the country.
Att. Colley said: “The effort to reform the justice system particularly that which aimed at mitigating the overcrowding of prisons has failed; therefore, it needs to be revisited.”
Reverend Colley made the remarks during the program marking the 4th anniversary of Africa’s Pretrial Detention Day Program held at the Monrovia Central Prison.
At the event, 12 pretrial detainees at the Monrovia Central Prison were released from custody in commemoration of Africa Pretrial Detention Day.
The INCHR contributed to the process leading to their freedom.
“The INCHR, therefore, recommends that a pretrial detention task force comprising Lawyers from the Ministry of Justice, the INCHR and the Judiciary be constituted with the mandate to review pretrial detention case files of prisoners as was previously initiated in 2009 to address the overcrowding of prisons in Liberia,” Att. Colley said.
According to the Att. Colley, the INCHR call is in line with the objectives of the Luanda Guidelines of 2015 launched by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The Luanda Guidelines seek to improve the treatment of persons subject to arrest, police custody and pretrial detention in Africa.