State House, Freetown, Tuesday 11 June 2019 – A Sierra Leonean researcher, partnering with the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), has said his study on local courts will promote access to justice by documenting civil and land cases across the country.
Henry Musa Kpaka, who is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics, said the study originally geospatially mapped 241 local courts from 149 chiefdoms in the country, documented and digitised the number of all civil cases, including those over land reported between 2009 and 2018.
His presentation provided descriptive highlights of the trend in the incidence of civil and land cases filed at the local courts, accessibility and costs of using the courts and efficiency of the local courts.
Mr. Kpaka also said that access to justice, in the spirit of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16, meant the inclusion of access to ligation and other dispute resolution mechanism, the emphasis on making the court system work better for people and beyond people’s access to dispute resolution processes, and the capacity to participate meaningfully in the processes by which laws and legal procedures are made.
Chief Minister Prof. David Francis, who made a statement on behalf of President Julius Maada Bio, expressed delight at the initial findings of the study, noting that the presentation underlined the value of what they had been doing as a government with innovation and governance.
He emphasised that the President was committed to providing justice that was impartial, accessible and available for every Sierra Leonean.
“…one that is efficient and responsive to the justice needs of every citizen, one that is transparent, coherent, and robust, and one that is developed on the principle of ‘justice dialogue’ among Government, citizens, communities, justice delivery stakeholders, and our development partners,” he said.
The Chief Minister also disclosed that as a government, they believed that they could foster public trust and confidence by delivering accessible justice in terms of cost, time, locations, processes, and independence with an impartial justice system that would also be fair and transparent.
“We can also enhance the legal aid services sector through capacity building initiatives. By so doing, we can reduce exploitation, impunity, violations of the rights of citizens, and thus bolster the rule of law. That can only help us consolidate and deepen our democracy,” he added.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Priscilla Schwartz, said the presentation spoke to her vision to transform the justice system, especially in terms of how matters were dealt with under customary laws at local courts and in the magistrate courts with a view to recognising the role the informal dispute resolution mechanisms also play in communities.
She said her office looked forward to working with the researcher and the DSTI to use similar studies, tools, and platforms to digitise hers and every ministry, department, and agency in the government.
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