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Pre-trial detention hampers justice

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Liberia’s Justice Minister and Attorney General Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, notes that issue of pre-trial detainees is a serious problem facing the justice system here.

Addressing a regular press briefing last week hosted by the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, he however assured steps are being taken to address the situation.

The MICAT press briefing is a regular conference that allows government ministries,agencies and commissions to update the public onperformance progress, and activities at various institutions.

Speaking on a wide-range of national security issues, the Attorney General says though problem of pre-trial detention exists, reforms are being made to remedy the problem.

He notes that some detainees are sent to prison by magistrates in different areas mostly on Friday where they are unable to pay bond fees.

The Attorney General says in such cases, the Ministry goes in and find out what took the detainees to prison, and to have them released base on their offenses.

“We are making laws that criminal charges are based on police investigations or investigation by the city solicitors, the county attorney, and the solicitor general’s office”, he explains.

Minister Dean discloses that the ministry is embarking on plea bargaining exercise, which he says is being used all over the world, explaining, “It is a provision where if officials find out what it will take for one to be prosecuted and the strength of the evidence they gather, where the evidence will be highly evaluated.”

“Our intent is to have a discipline population; it is not to destroy; if you having to serve some terms and get rehabilitated, we encourage this.”

The Minister continues there are other provisions of the criminal proceeding laws that are being worked on.“We hope that when it’s submitted to the legislature and passed, we will see some progress in reducing the huge backlog of criminal pre-detainees”, he concludes.

Speaking also, Solicitor General Cllr. DarkuMulbah,similarly alludes to the problem of pre-trial detainees, which he says is of public knowledge.

He says in order to address the problem, it is important to find out its root cause.“It is because of the law that we now have what we call pre-trial detainees today.

The Solicitor General cites the Rape Law for example, noting that whenever an offense is committed, it is not bailable, and one cannot find a bond to be out until the case is called, and that person will have to be in detention.

Cllr. Mulbahsays the next thing is that courts in Liberia are “guided by procedures and provision in the law that tells you that a bailable offense must only be tried by a jury, and the law says no court should [have] two jurors sitting at the same, instead, one.”

“We are trying to make sure that our judges have control over the courts in terms to get lawyers to not file all kinds of application before the court that eat up the courts’ time, in order for them to be more rigid on all parties that will appear before them so that hearing can be carried out more speedily.”
-Justice Minister Dean

By Lewis S. Teh –Editing by Jonathan Browne

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