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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

JUDGE SIRLEAF WARNS MINISTRY OF JUSTICE THAT SHE WOULD BE FORCED TO RELEASE SUSPECTED ARMED ROBBERS IF…

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MONROVIA – The newly appointed Resident Judge of Criminal ‘Court D’, Mameita Sirleaf, has warned the Ministry of Justice that she would be forced to release suspected armed robbers if the cases were delayed.

Sirleaf, whose Court is responsible for armed robbery cases, says that suspected armed robbers could be let out of prisons in respect of the country’s criminal procedural law.

Sirleaf’s action would be in compliance with Chapter 18.2 of the law. The chapter provides that unless good cause is shown, a court shall dismiss a complaint against a defendant who is not indicted by the end of the next term succeeding after his arrest for any indictable offense or his appearance in court.

“We know that it may be bad to release people accused of a felonious crime, such as armed robbery, but it will be equally wrong and illegal to detain an innocent person in jail for a long period of time who has not been found guilty,” Sirleaf said. “This means that this court can dismiss a criminal case if they are not indicted on time.”

The judge’s position comes as the country’s jails are overcrowded with pretrial detainees, many of whose cases are hardly looked into during various court terms.

Pretrial detainees, according to estimates, account for 77% of inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison, the country’s most populated prison.

The US State Department has constantly flagged this situation in its Human Rights Report on Liberia, arguing that  in some cases, the length of pretrial detention exceeded the maximum length of sentence that could be imposed for the alleged crime.

According to experts, lengthy pretrial detention and prison overcrowding pose significant obstacles to accessing justice in Liberia.

The prolonged delay in resolving cases keeps thousands of individuals incarcerated without trial, exacerbating the risk of increased criminality and recidivism among pretrial detainees, undermining fundamental human rights, and significantly eroding public trust in the justice system, experts say.

The Criminal ‘Court D’ noted that her court would release any individuals accused of armed robbery if the  Ministry of Justice failed to provide evidence for two subsequent terms of the court.

“Prolonged detention without a trial is a violation of those rights, if anyone should infringe on the constitutional rights of any of our citizens, know that they too have the right to come to court for redress,” the judge said.

“They are entitled to a speedy trial under our judicial system. I am now facing the reality of the challenges faced by prosecutors to expeditiously indict and prosecute pre-trial detainees in the absence of adequate financial support.”

Sirleaf added that many accused are languishing behind bars, contrary to the spirit and intent of the Constitution, which guarantees speedy justice.

According to Sirleaf, as a judge, she has the duty to respect the rights of those who have been “detained as pretrial detainees.

According to her, prolonged detention means the rights of the person in jail are being abused.

“We note therefore, that the intent of the author of our constitution is that the government will provide resources to ensure that criminal cases are timely tried to protect the rights of the accused in pre-trial detention and the rights and security of those out of jail,” the arm robbery court judge reminded her audience.

Sirleaf made the disclosure yesterday as she took on her new role as a judge during the opening of the May 2023 Criminal Courts A, B, C, D, and E in Monrovia. Source: Liberian Observer

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