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Guilty before trial?

Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh says “Tagging certain offenses as un-bailable offenses” [which are] the emerging pattern in Liberia, tend to subject an accused to legislated imposed punishment long before trial and conviction.

Speaking recently at the opening of a week – long young political leadership school by NAYMOTE, Justice Ja’neh observed that unarguably, most of these persons awaiting trial for weeks or months are on account of un-bailable offenses which include armed robbery, sexual offenses and murder.

He warns that a justice system has the tendency to breed disgruntlement and disappointment especially among the largely affected poor and marginalized population towards the rule of law.

According to him, for the past two decades, Liberia’s system of administration of justice has not been able to satisfactorily address the shameful national malaise whereby the accused person is subjected to perennial long pretrial detention.

Justice Ja’neh says rule of law signifies that the law is interested within reason and with predictability, adding that it means that those in authority, the powerful and well – off people, face the law and don’t go scot – free when they offend the law of the land.

The Associate Justice argues that it is not “rule of law ” when the poor and marginalised languish in prison for years awaiting trial. He says he is compelled to reference the state of Liberia’s prisons, noting that every accused person according to the law of the land, guarantees not only the right to be presumed innocent, but the right also to be accorded speedy trial.

The Liberia Constitution by Article 20(a) mandates that justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay.But the Associate Justice finds that there is a good number of cases here where some pretrial detainees have languished in prison for years waiting to be accorded their day in court.

He says only by adhering to the rule of law will justice, peace, security and economic growth and prosperity of a nation be assured and preserved .He also calls on NAYMOTE and other civil and political organisations to initiate and develop a vigorous dialogue and working relationship with respective representatives in the Ministry of Justice, the Law Reform Commission, the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and others so that the initiative begins a sustained reform, perhaps rewriting and replacing many of Liberia’s antique and outdated laws.

He wants the rule of law and democracy to be strengthened here.Meanwhile, the US Embassy near Monrovia has urged participants to seek common ground and think about where they will be within a year.

By Sally Gaye –Edited by Winston W. Parley


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