July 17, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi from Kono
Investigations conducted by this medium has revealed that the High Court in the eastern district town of Kono has been permanently closed for the past two to three years despite over fifty inmates at the Kono Correctional Centre are awaiting trials for various offences.
Residents complained that most of the major cases were being transferred to either Kenema or Freetown for trials, thus creating more burden on victims to travel to those places to access justice.
They noted that most of the criminal matters like sexual abuse, ritual killing, and other felonious offices are supposed to be tried by the High Court in Kono.
Rebecca Yei Kamara is an employee of Oxfam IBIS. She said the city of Koidu and its environs were infested with criminal activities and that the judiciary was not playing active role in providing justice for the people.
She observed that most sexual offences victims are poor and could not have the opportunity to pursue cases, adding that government should do more to provide the necessary High Court officers so that matters can be speedily tried in that part of the country.
“We have got cases here; it could be sexual offences or community issues that have been taken to court. If those in the villages find out that the matter is not tried speedily, they will lose interest, thus creating room for injustice. For example, it has taken more than two to three years the High Court has not been sitting in Kono. We want the justice system to be reviewed so that speedy trials could be obtained in this community or the district as a whole,” she said, adding that there were more people in the correctional centre awaiting trial.
Another resident, Mohamed Conteh, said there were a lot of delays in the justice system of Kono, a development he said has encouraged criminals to carry out their activities freely.
“We are concerned about our safety and security. We are crying for justice. We want government to take the issue of Kono seriously. Only recently, a major incident occurred in which a twelve- year old girl was brutally killed by his own father and others. They started the matter here but we were told that it was again transferred to Freetown. This is no justice for the poor,” he said.
However, Public Relations Officer and Official Spokesperson for the Judiciary of Sierra Leone, Moses Lamin Kamara, admitted that they were quite aware that the High Court in Kono has been closed for some time now, noting that it was wrong for anybody to move a matter from the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, to another location.
“This is not acceptable and I am not aware of any matter from Kono that has been taken to either Kenema or Freetown .The Mohamed Kambariamba matter is a clear example,” he said.
He said the Judiciary of Sierra Leone, in collaboration with the Law Officers’ Department and with funds from the Department for International Development (DFID), through the Justice Recovery Project, was holding special sessions of the High Court in Makeni and Portloko that commenced on Monday, 10th July, 2017 and would end on Saturday, 29th July, 2017.
He disclosed that the Chief Justice, Abdulai Hamid Charm, has officially assigned two senior Justices of the Appeal Court to deal with three hundred matters that have been committed to the High Court for trial in the Northern Province.
“The leadership is self-assured that with these special sessions and with adequate funds from international partners, DFID and UNDP to be specific, and the Government of Sierra Leone, backlog cases at the Superior Court of judicature will be a thing of the past,” he said.
He said those Judges would for this period sit simultaneously with the resident High Court Judge in Makeni on matters committed to the High Court from Magistrate Courts in Kabala, Kamakwie, Magburaka, Mile 91 and Makeni, whilst the other Judge will be based in Port Loko to deal with all matters committed to the Port Loko High Court from Kambia, Lungi, Masiaka and Lunsar respectively.
“It is the expectation of the leadership that these Judges would be able to deal with and complete all matters that have so far been committed and for which indictments have been drafted and filed within the above timeframe, except otherwise,” he said.
He however stated that the Judiciary has numerous challenges but noted that the above action taken by the leadership was a clear manifestation that the institution was strongly committed to its mission statement which is: “Accessible, fair and expeditious justice for all in Sierra Leone.
“Similar ventures will be replicated in Kono and Moyamba shortly. The resident Judge in Kenema, who is also a senior Judge of the Court of Appeal, will sit in Kono whilst the resident Judge in Bo will sit in Moyamba. It is hoped that all interested parties will cooperate with the Judiciary to ensure fair and expeditious conclusion of these matters,” Kamara said.