UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR SAYS Access to Justice for All is Critical to achieving Sierra Leone’s Development Priorities

UN Resident Coordinator, Dr Banatunde Ahonsi with Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards

UN Resident Coordinator (RC) in Sierra Leone Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi has said at a courtesy call on the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, His Lordship Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards that the issue of justice is very critical in achieving the Government of Sierra Leone’s development priorities.

Speaking in the Chambers of the Chief Justice, Law Court Building Monday, the Resident Coordinator emphasized that without justice, there will be no peace, and without peace, there will be no development.

The RC expressed his desire, on behalf of the UN Country Team (UNCT) to deepen the longstanding relationship between the Judiciary and the UN system. He said that the goal of the UNCT is to support the government and people of Sierra Leone to accelerate recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and to speed up progress towards the sustainable development goals.

The RC presenting copies of the SERP and Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (2020-2023) to the CJ

Dr. Ahonsi saluted the Government including the judiciary on progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He spoke about Goal 16 of the SDGs stating that this is critical to promoting sustainable peace and development. He appreciated efforts being made by the judiciary in pursuing reforms on access to justice for all including women, young people and persons living with disabilities. “The judiciary has to be the main driver of access to justice for all; otherwise, it would be difficult to achieve an inclusive and harmonious society that leaves no one behind”, the RC said.

Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi and Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards

He also discussed issues around the decongestion of prisons and the moratorium on the death penalty, while lauding the progress being made in protecting the human rights of women and girls. He also expressed the UNCT’s commitment to supporting the Judiciary in ensuring that more women and girls and other vulnerable groups have access to justice.

Responding, Chief Justice (CJ) Edwards said it was a pleasure meeting with the RC and maintained that the Judiciary has also had a good working relationship with the UN in Sierra Leone including receiving support from UNDP, UN Women and UNFPA.

He confirmed to the RC that since the moratorium on the death penalty was issued, no execution has been carried out in the country.

Addressing the issue of prison decongestion, the CJ said, “forty-five prisoners were released on ‘Habeas Corpus’ proceedings during the Judicial week, September 2019.” The prisoners, His Lordship Edwards said, were kept behind bars for several years without trial and it was wrong and against the principles of natural justice.

He also informed the RC that seven new High Court Justices have just been appointed, three promoted to Court of Appeals and eleven Magistrates have also been appointed.

The RC presented to the CJ copies of the United Nations COVID-19 Socio-Economic Response Plan for Sierra Leone and the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (2020-2023). Afterwards, he was taken on a tour of the Sexual Offences Model Court by the CJ.