Swedish Envoy Raises Eyebrow

-Says Equal Access To Justice Remains A Challenge For Liberia

By R Joyclyn Wea

Sweden ambassador to Liberia Ingrid Wetterqvist has asserted that equal access to justice for all Liberians remains a major challenge for the government and people of Liberia.

Swedish Envoy Ingrid Wetterqvist

Making the assertion at the opening of the Omega Magisterial Court in Paynesville city outside Monrovia, madam Wetterqvist indicated that this situation has led Swedish Government to invest in the institutional capacity of Liberia, by improving rule of law and equal access to justice in the country.

“Decentralizing access to justice and bringing justice closer to the people is key as such, the Justice and Security Trust Fund has succeeded in bringing justice closer to the people, by establishing four much needed magisterial courts; in Nimba, Bong, Lofa and here in Paynesville, Montserrado county, thereby training additional 60 persons (53 males, 7 female) college graduates as professional magistrates,” the Sweden ambassador asserted.

Madam Wetterqvist further lamented “this is impressive as it doubles the number of qualified magistrates nationwide from 60 to 120 and, if the training is used well, it will result in citizens increased confidence in the courts. This magisterial court has been supported through the justice and security trust fund.”

Sweden has since 2011 supported the fund implemented by UNDP with approximately 7 million US dollar.

Speaking on behalf of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh stressed the need for magistrate to issue writ of summon instead of writ of arrest, saying the primary function of the magisterial court is to make peace.

“You are the ambassador for the judiciary and we want to see this becoming an example to all our colleagues that you have dispensed justice in a fair and impassion way,” Justice Ja’neh cautions the new court administer.

He further bewailed “the law says you may issue a writ of arrest if there are two condition and you believe and satisfied that crime have been committed and two that the person complaint is likely to be the person who committed that crime the law says you may than order a warrant of arrest if the complaint is crime in nature, chapter 10, section 10.6 of the panel procedure law.

Additionally, chapter 10, section 10.12 of the criminal procedure law also says “even if the person who brought the complaint to you appear to make a case bordering on crime you may unmute or issuance of writ of arrest issue summon, which in my mind has a number of diligence because it gives you an opportunity to hear from the party clearly and in a way that also allow you to hear from the accused person and this is where I have my problem with the magistrate.”

He wonders why magistrate would also want to issue writ of arrest, especially in a country where complainant paint the story when they appear before the magistrate which is actually not the real story.

When this is done according to justice Ja’neh, it would avoid arresting people unnecessarily and sending them to jail saying “right now we have more than one thousand persons in prison and more than 70% of that number are people under pretrial detention; you can help the culprits to reduce that because if you were to listen to some of the people in there; you would come to realize that it is something that can be handled with jail sentence.”

Accordingly, Justice Ja’neh stated that in the struggle as a nation to improve judicial facility across the country, government and people of Sweden have been a very helpful partners, noting that they have contributed along with other partners in a very special way to the development not only of physical facility across the country, but human resource development as well.

The need for magistrate court across the country is huge, something which the Swedish Government has been helpful in that direction by constructing four magisterial facilities.

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