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‘Election disputes can escalate into violence, war’

-Chief Justice

January 18, 2018 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

election

Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm, has noted that  if electoral matters are not handle well, they might result to quarrel  that would subsequently escalate into violence and even war.

Justice Charm was yesterday (Wednesday January, 17th, 2018) speaking at the Chief Justice Office, Sierra Leone’s  main Law Court Building on Siaka Steven Street, during the distribution of the compendium of the electoral laws to different justice sectors across the country.

He said the compendium distribution ceremony was significant and that it did not only mean to enhance the administration of justice, but also to promote collaboration and coordination.

The Chief Justice said according to section 120 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, the judiciary has a lot of mandate including to adjudicate matters in Sierra Leone, but noted that they cannot do it alone and that they needed the justice sector to fulfil that mandate successfully.

He said they needed counsels from the Law Officers Department to integrate mitigation at the High Court in criminal matters, needed private legal practitioners from the Sierra Leone Bar Association including those at the Legal Aid Board to initiate mitigation when it comes to civil matters including electoral petition, as well as needed the Sierra Leone Police Force to investigate and prosecute at the magistrate court.

He said they were distributing copies of the compendium of electoral laws, which the judiciary, with support from the United Nations Development Programme, developed to enhance their work.

He said when he assumed the office of the Chief Justice in December, 2016, himself and his colleagues embarked on reform initiatives and that the compendium was one of the initiatives which was targeted at enhancing expeditious trial of elections dispute because it makes available quickly reference materials for all in the course of trial, as it contains all relevant laws.

He said the compendium contains twelve laws including the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991, the Children and Young Persons Act Cap.44 of the laws of Sierra Leone, the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965, the Local Court Act of 2004, the Political Parties Act of 2002, the High Court Rules of 2007, the Chieftaincy Act of 2009, the Public Elections Act of 2012, among others.

The Chief Justice said with all laws available in one volume and available in all courts, no adjournment will be needed to refer to the laws one will rely on.

 He cited the expeditious manner at which the mayoral transfer registration matter was handled within 48 hours, adding that it was because they had the available laws at hand.

He called on all in the justice sector to make available copies of the compendium to their branches across the country, adding that the judiciary has gone further to train judges and magistrates on the management and trial of electoral disputes.

“Election matters are a specialised gathering of disputes that comes periodically at interval of five years and they are also special because the parties are always very emotional,” he said.

Lawyer Ishmael Philip Mammie, who represented the Bar Association, expressed that they were very grateful to the judiciary and UNDP for appointing judges and putting up the compendium that will enable them do their work effectively.

It could be recalled that in November, 2017, the Judiciary of Sierra Leone launched a compendium of electoral laws to enable judges preside over electoral malpractices before, during and after  the multitier elections slated for March, this year.

The National Electoral Commission had reported they were investigating over 1,000 people suspected to have engaged in malpractices during the registration process for the 2018 elections. The Commission pleaded with the judiciary to set up special electoral offences court with jurisdiction to try people involved in electoral malpractice.