NO JUSTICE IN SIERRA LEONE

 

By Wilfred Kabs-Kanu

When it comes to prosecuting people who undermine their political and economic interests , you will never find them wanting. They will twist every legal dictum and derive a charge under whatever name to build a case against the unfortunate ones.  And once charged, the victims are almost always certain of being found guilty . But when it involves the protection of the laws of the country and dispensing justice for the common man, they are always wanting. Only those with an exaggerated perception of this government ever expected it to prosecute the alleged killers of journalist Harry Yansaneh.  This breed of men and women ruling our country today provide the worst case scenerio of a government that has no interest in justice.

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As a newspaper, we make bold to conjecture that the government’s case against Mr. Omrie Golley is just another example of bringing the sword against an innocent citizen the government just wants to get out of the way. As a nation, we have supped full of trumped-up charges against innocent citizens by governments .Many Sierra Leoneans have said that the government is  just lying on Golley , but as an outspoken , fearless and  independent paper , we are holding our views on this and waiting to hear what the charges of subversion against Golley are going to be. We will not jump the gun .

However , as a newspaper set up to defend the interests of justice and human rights in Sierra Leone, we can say that we hope  the government will dispense justice with fairness and  legality  in this Golley case.  There is what is known in law as THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE. An accused is innocent until he is proved guilty by a competent court of legal jurisdiction. Golley may have been a Spokesman of the much-despiced RUF,  but since he is not being held because of his ties with that rebel group, his past must in no way serve as a basis to judge his innocence or guilt in this matter. The government must ensure that every element of whatever  crime he will be charged with ( if at all ) is  proved beyond a reasonable doubt by a clear and convincing evidence.  Sierra Leoneans may hate what the RUF  did to this country,  but if any citizen is wrongfully prosecuted  ( Links with RUF  notwithstanding ) , no judicious-minded person  in the nation will  support the government on such a violation of the constitutional and human rights of that citizen.

But then who trusts the government’s judicial machinery to provide justice for the ordinary man in the street ? Nobody believes that justice can be fairly rendered in today’s Sierra Leone.  People believe that the government manipulates the law to satisfy its whims and caprices. The Paul Kamara case was a mere flash in the frying pan. And the government has just compounded its problems with credibility where the rule of law is concerned  when the Attorney General’s Office announced that it will not charge Fatmata Hassan , her children and other accused for beating Harry Yansaneh to death.

Whatever goaded the government to take such a shameful and cruel decision,  this is one action  that will resonate beyond the borders of Sierra Leone.  First of all, at a time when many  other West African nations are taking strides to promote justice and the Rule of Law, Sierra Leone will be seen as  setting  yet another disgraceful precedent as the one country where nothing–Not even the law– works.  And this will not improve our ability to get foreign assistance to rebuild our country. Pledges of assistance are different from the actual act of really disbursing the promised funds. We are already internationally famous for being politically  undemocratic and unserious over matters of promoting human rights. Some of the worst violations of human rights ever in this world happened  in Sierra Leone.  You will not find any country where combatants of war amputated the limbs of innocent people . We have not even recovered from this appalling stigma, and look at what our government has done again ? A poor, innocent man is beaten to death just because his aggressor thinks she has power. And we are going to let her go free ?

The  international community might just as well conclude that we are not committed to the promotion of the rule of law , despite all that Britain , the U.S.  and other stakeholders have done to improve our judiciary.  Whether they will continue to put their money in a country where the leaders are not serious about justice is purely their own business. But it will take foolish international donor agencies and friendly countries to continue supporting a government that has no respect for the lives of its citizens.

Now , people are beginning to see what is creating the Charles Margais and Hinga Normans in our already contentious society.  There is too much duplicity in the dispensation of justice. Probably, that is the case Margai wants to prove by planning to provide legal representation for Golley.

The government must be careful with this kind of impunity. They are provoking people to take the law into their own hands. If citizens realize that the government will not provide justice when a powerful mamber of society harms or kills their relatives , they will take the law into their own hands to pursue revenge. We are also beginning to see the unwitting creation of a lawless society in our country. When a Fatmata Hassan and her kids beat up a poor man , kick and trample him and leave him lying hopelessly hurt, bleeding and dying and they are set free, even after the man dies, the  Tree of the culture of impunity is being nourished in the country .

More Fatmata Hassans are going to emerge , who will think that because of their excessive power, they can kill anybody and go free . AND CONVERSELY, an aggrieved and angry populace will arise who will decide that when their relatives get killed, the legal system is not the way to go to get justice. They will be their own  jury and executioner and indeed when this happens, it will be utter chaos in the country.

Should this be the price that our nation must pay for voting for a worthless and impotent government that does not care for justice ?

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