UNMIL Deputy Envoy Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu has stressed the importance of infrastructural improvements as “an essential component” in the reform and strengthening of the justice system in Liberia. Ms. Mensa-Bonsu was speaking at a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a prison facility, and the hand-over of a Police station and a Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) office in River Gee County.
Ms. Mensa-Bonsu attributed the success of the three projects in Fishtown to funding made available through the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) programme.
The UNMIL QIPs scheme, she pointed out, has prioritized rule of law infrastructure to accelerate progress in strengthening the justice system. The DSRSG revealed that the United Nations has been collaborating with the Liberian government to identify priority projects for construction or rehabilitation of new courthouses, police stations, prison facilities and immigration offices. In 2009, UNMIL QIPs funded the construction and rehabilitation of 39 such rule of law projects.
The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Rule of Law stated that the United Nations “recognizes that a strong justice system is an essential component in the peace building process, the re-establishment of the rule of law and the future sound development of Liberia” and cited examples of progress made, including the establishment of the Judicial Training Institute; the pilot court project at the Monrovia Central Prison to reduce the number of pre-trial detainees; creation of Criminal Court E and the Ministry of Justice Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) Crimes Unit to address the high rate of SGBV; and the development of strategic plans for the Judiciary, the Ministry of Justice, the Liberia National Police (LNP), Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation and BIN.
Despite this progress, the DSRSG noted that much remains to be done to ensure greater public trust and confidence in Liberia’s justice system and called upon national rule of law actors to play their part in the reform process, stating that: “Integrity and commitment from all those working within the justice system, coupled with a deep sense of responsibility and dedication, are qualities that will transform the institution and make the reform efforts yield the necessary benefits to the average citizen.”
Before departing River Gee County, Ms. Mensa-Bonsu met with national Rule of Law actors and the River Gee County Protection Core Group, including national and international NGOs involved in child protection and actions to address sexual and gender-based violence.